CHICAGO HEIGHTS, 9:23 Films' experimental adaptation of Winesburg, Ohio, screened in competition in October at the 2009 Pusan International Film Festival. TIME has recognized Pusan as "Asia's most important cinematic event."  The festival has an annual attendance of 200,000 and screens a high concentration of world and international premieres.  CHICAGO HEIGHTS was shown in the competitive FLASH FORWARD section, an eclectic collection of 11 features by filmmakers from non-Asian countries.

In 1919, Hart Crane said of Sherwood Anderson’s Winesburg, Ohio: “America should read this book on her knees.  It is an important chapter in the Bible of her consciousness.” Anderson's novel remains an American classic, yet has proved resistant to adaptation as a mainstream feature. That resistance continues in CHICAGO HEIGHTS, directed by Canadian DANIEL NEARING and produced by Korean SANGHOON LEE. The black and white film takes the century-old rural stories and tells them with a predominantly African American cast in contemporary south Chicago, celebrating the universal power of the source while playing on its anachronisms. ANDRE TRUSS brings a quiet-spoken, deeply nuanced persona to the role of Nathan Walker, supported by powerful performances from KEISHA DYSON (Elizabeth Walker), GERROLD JOHNSON (Curtis Hartman) and BENNY STEWART (Eli Reefy), who also serves as the whiskey-voiced narrator for the film. The narrative is at turns as seemingly simple and guileless as Anderson and as hermetic as Egoyan, alternately human and abstract, carried from sequence to sequence on spirited, stark gospel songs rooted in Anderson’s text.  

Here’s the complete Cast / Crew list and Trailer.

Here’s the “making of” video -- The Road to Chicago Heights.

Here are the Production Notes and righ resolution Production Stills in The Book of Chicago Heights.pdf (23 mb).


Director, Co-Writer and Co-Producer DANIEL NEARING was born in Medicine Hat, Alberta, Canada.  He holds an MA in English from the University of Toronto, where he studied under Northrop Frye, one of the most influential literary theorists of the 20th Century. He also holds a a BA from the University of Calgary, an MFA in Film from York University, and was a resident at the Canadian Film Centre in 1997. He currently lives in Chicago, Illinois. He has done a range of documentary and dramatic work for television, including the CBC, TSN, TMN, The Discovery Channel and Bravo, with subjects ranging from juvenile homicide to the National Hockey League.  CHICAGO HEIGHTS is his first festival feature.

Producer Sanghoon Lee was born in Seoul, Korea. He studied philosophy at Sogang University and conducted his graduate studies at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where he expanded his career as an independent filmmaker, a producer, cinematographer and editor. He produced the feature documentary EDIT, which was screened at the Museum of Modern Art in New York (2004), as well as SECOND MOON (2007), which premiered at Pusan and played to sold-out audiences at the Gene Siskel Cinema in Chicago.

Co-Producer Seth McClellan was born in Chicago Heights, Illinois.  He also handled casting and unit production management for the film.  His feature documentary about Dr. Martin Luther King and the Chicago Freedom Movement premiered in 2009 on PBS in Chicago and played at 14 film festivals across the US and Canada.  King in Chicago also screened at universities, including the American University in D.C., Howard University School of Law, and Northwestern University.  As an actor, he has appeared in many commercials and independent films. He's created other narrative and documentary projects and also runs his own mini-production company, Thorn Creek Productions.

Keisha Dyson was born in Chicago, Illinois, and in addition to serving as Co-Producer, script consultant and marketing lead during production, she oversaw music contacts and plays the role of Elizabeth Walker beautifully.  She is putting the finishing touches on her MFA in Independent Film and Digital Imaging at Governors State University while working as a freelance television producer for PBS and other networks.  She has appeared in many theatrical productions, including Having Our Say, The Wiz, and A Christmas Carol.  Chicago Heights is her film debut as an actress. 

Associate Producer Mercedes Kane was born in Chicago and graduated from Eastern Illinois University in 2001 where her field of study was broadcast journalism. She has worked as a news producer and reporter at WEIU-TV. Mercedes is currently finalizing her MFA in Independent Film and Digital Imaging.  She recently functioned as producer, writer, director and editor of 9724, her first short film, and of Hearts of Hope, a feature documentary about infant heart surgery. She also served as 1st Assistant Director during the production of Chicago Heights.