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Film Series: Exit Zero

Public event
20:00, Monday 6 Jun 2016 (1 hour 35 minutes)
Directed by Christine Walley and Chris Boebel
Presented by Michelle Stefano

When the steel mills began closing on Chicago's Southeast Side, residents could feel the American Dream slipping away. Decades later, the loss of the steel industry has left permanent scars. The documentary film, Exit Zero: An Industrial Family Story, is named for the highway exit number for Chicago’s old steel mill neighbourhoods and captures the feeling of a region passed over. In poignant and sometimes humorous terms, the film tracks the stories of multiple generations of a single family, as they build lives in a community once dependent on the mills, deal with the fallout caused by the mills’ collapse, and face the environmental devastation that remains. Interweaving home movies, archival footage, verite sequences, and a first person narrative, the film offers an intimate look at one family's experience with growing inequality in the United States and the uncertain future faced by working people. Its story reflects some of the most crucial issues facing the contemporary United States: the widening gap between rich and poor, the collapse of the American Dream for many formerly “middle class” communities, and the toxic legacy of the industrial past. 

The Exit Zero Project ( includes the documentary film by Chris Boebel and Christine Walley, as well as an Exit Zero book by Walley, and an in-progress online archive and storytelling site about deindustrialization being made in collaboration with the all-volunteer Southeast Chicago Historical Museum.

The Film Series is sponsored by the Department of American Studies of the University of Maryland and the Association of Critical Heritage Studies United States Chapter

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