‘Smile’ Documentary Depicts a Microcosm of Chicago’s War-Torn Neighborhoods

“Ya’ll see us as fucked up over here. Violence, guns… and it’s the kids that are doing it. Got more guns than the police”, yells a woman through the second-story window of a south side apartment building. Still in production, Smile is an independent documentary about the rough reality of poverty, crime and violence in some of Chicago’s most dangerous communities. The film follows the Newton family through the pain and struggle of losing one of their own, Logene Newton, who died of a gunshot wound in 2007. Representing a microcosm of Chicago’s crime epidemic, the family has battled gun violence, murder, and incarceration long before the problem hit national news.

In addition to the Newton family, Smile features vignettes of neighbors and friends from Washington Park and Englewood, where the film has been in production for the past five months. “It was shocking,” says Director Marquis Daisy, “everyone had these powerful stories of how they knew someone who was shot or murdered in the previous two or three months. We’d speak to one person and I would leave thinking, ‘wow, that was the saddest thing that I’ve ever heard,’ and we’d literally walk down the street and get an equally graphic story from [someone else].”

Before filming began, Daisy had visited Chicago only once for a business trip, staying in a luxury hotel downtown. The Washington Park and Englewood neighborhoods seemed, to him, to be an entire world away. “As we began shooting for this film, I was completely caught off guard by the stark contrast,” He says, “The south side of Chicago is the complete antithesis of the safer, more affluent neighborhoods of its downtown areas.” Still, Daisy said his presence was well-received, “Because I am a young black male and, quite frankly, look like them, people were very open to sharing their stories with me.” In fact, many of the people he interviewed were eager and willing to open up, “especially when it seems like no one else cares that these young, black men and women are literally killing each other.”

No stranger to violence and poverty, Daisy says his deep connection with this film comes from his own experiences growing up in Harlem, NY. “My mother raised four children alone off of food-stamps and odd jobs,” he says, “There were nights when we didn’t know where our next meal would come from.” He also recalls the tragic moment at age thirteen when he found out his best friend, Gregory Wright, had been shot and killed after his picture was printed across the front page of the New York Post. “Smile is my way of telling the story of people like Gregory, who are otherwise forgotten,” says Daisy, “It is my life’s work and I’m humbled to be able to create dialogue for social change.”

Up to this point, Smile has been completely funded by Daisy and co-producer Arnez Newton through their own savings. The two recently created a campaign on the popular crowdsourcing site, Indiegogo. They hope to raise close to $25,000 to fund the completion of the film and set up screenings around the country.

For more information about the film, visit http://www.smilethedocumentary.com.