The CHICAGO SUN-TIMES says "HOGTOWN is the most original film made in Chicago about Chicago to date." This beautiful, challenging independent film is set in 1919 Chicago against the backdrop of the race riots of that year and its message in 2015 is that the more things change, the more they stay the same. The story follows an investigation into the disappearance of a millionaire theatre owner during a snowstorm. HOGTOWN is a murder mystery that celebrates the most American of American cities while exploring the intimate lives of many of its people. This period piece is much more a period-less piece, shot in black and white in the often undisguised contemporary city. The film involves a multi-racial, multilingual ensemble cast of more than 70 characters, and a full symphony orchestra score. HOGTOWN evolves directly from the ensemble process of the making our previous feature, Chicago Heights, which was named to Roger Ebert's last list of Best Art Films.

  • Daniel Nearing
  • Herman Wilkins
  • Diandra Lyle
  • McKenzie Chinn
  • Dianne Bischoff
  • Rachel Rozycki
  • Sanghoon Lee
  • Jason Knade
  • Herman Wilkins
  • Daniel Nearing
  • Project Type:
  • Runtime:
    1 hour 35 minutes
  • Completion Date:
    February 5, 2015
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Country of Filming:
    United States
  • Language:
  • Shooting Format:
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
    Black & White and Color
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
  • Gene Siskel Film Center
    Chicago, IL
    February 20, 2015
    US Premiere
    The best film made in Chicago, 2015 - Chicago Reader
  • Charlotte Black Film Festival
    Charlotte, NC
    April 10, 2015
  • 30th Black International Cinema Berlin
    Berlin, Germany
    May 6, 2015
    Winner: Best Film in Fine Arts Discipline
  • European Film Market
    Berlin, Germany
    February 9, 2015
    European Premiere
  • St Louis Black Film Festival
    St Louis, MO
    October 3, 2015
  • International Black Film Festival
    Nashville, TN
    October 2, 2015
    In Feature Competition
    Winner: Best Feature Film (Judge: Moira Kelly, Sundance Institute)
  • The International Festival of World Cinema Milan
    Milan, Italy
    November 6, 2015
  • The Los Angeles Black Film Festival
    Los Angeles, CA
    November 7, 2015
    in Competition
    Winner: Best Picture
  • The Big House Los Angeles Entertainment Festival
    Los Angeles, CA
    November 14, 2015
    Playoff Competition among 300 films in seven regional festivals
    IFP Champion - Winner of Best Picture
  • Critical Edge Film Festival
    Boulder, CO
    Screening date TBD
  • African Diaspora International Film Festival
    Washington, DC
    August 19, 2016
    DC premiere
  • Festival International des Films de la Diaspora Africaine
    Paris, France
    September 9, 2016
    French premiere
  • African Diaspora International Film Festival - NYC
    New York City
    United States
    November 25, 2016
    New York premiere
Distribution Information
  • ArtMattan Productions
    Country: United States
    Rights: All Rights
Director Biography - Daniel Nearing

Daniel Nearing
Writer-Director, 9/23 Films - Chicago

DANIEL NEARING studied for his MA in modern and contemporary Literature at the University of Toronto, received an MFA in Film from York University, and was a Producer Resident at the Canadian Film Centre. He is a 2015 Fellow of the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation.

Nearing recently completed HOGTOWN, the second film in a trilogy of multiethnic, ensemble period features shot in black and white and "ecstatic color." The film looks at the emergence of a multicultural America through the prism of Chicago. The Chicago Sun-Times calls it "the most original film made in Chicago about Chicago to date." The Chicago Reader has named HOGTOWN the best feature film made in Chicago for 2015.

The first film in the trilogy, CHICAGO HEIGHTS, is an adaptation of Sherwood Anderson's Winesburg, Ohio. The film, a "period-less" observation on exurban and small town life, played at festivals around the world and Roger Ebert named it to his list of the Best Art Films of 2010.

Nearing has worked as producer, director, writer and editor for numerous films on several networks. His documentary subjects have ranged from juvenile homicide (CBC) to the longest bridge in the world over ice-forming waters (Discovery) to Russians playing in the National Hockey League (The Sports Network) and a look at the stagecraft of some of the world's finest writers (Bravo). He moved from documentaries to dramatic projects and founded 9:23 Films in 2008.

Nearing is currently in development on four feature projects: an adaptation of Theodore Dreiser's 1900 landmark novel, SISTER CARRIE; EMERALD LAKE, a road movie set in the Canadian Rockies; PETIT MONDE, a film set in 1909 Paris; and THE PEERLESS FILM MANUFACTURING COMPANY, an ensemble feature about the birth of the American film industry set in 1907 Chicago.

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Director Statement

HOGTOWN explores new cinematic techniques while observing a century’s worth of inter-racial struggle and the birth of a new multicultural America.

NARRATION: The film employs text as narration in an unusual fashion, allowing the underlying sound to assert its presence. The text narration is shared with the characters themselves. Some of the character-delivered narration is direct address; some is spoken under the breath or in plainly spoken thought. Some is in the first person; some is in the third person: the characters are simultaneously inside the moment and observing themselves from the distance of memory.

PORTRAIT FRAMES. A number of our principals and peripheral characters stop in mid-scene to pose for their portraits. There is a limit of one portrait per person, and it is set for posterity.

EPIPHANIES: Scene structure typically entails a moment when we encounter a break between expectation and outcome at the plot level. Hogtown’s plot is largely illusory. The film’s primary aim from scene to scene is to arrive at individualized epiphanies, or still points in the characters' turning worlds.

TRANSITIONAL SEQUENCES: These short sequences are often landscapes or montages of unknown persons. Each transitional sequence has a focus -- e.g. poverty, immigration, imprisonment, beauty -- and in their aggregate they help to compose a wider sense of HOGTOWN, the world of the story.

BLACK AND WHITE WITH “ECSTATIC” COLOR. Our frames are ruled by mood, dominated by black tones enriched through Cinegamma filtering, perspectives influenced by careful and limited approaches to lighting, altered emotionally through canted and otherwise unusual angles. The people of HOGTOWN dwell in a perpetually dark place. There are fleeting moments, though, that seem to call for color. They draw us insistently, albeit briefly, out of the darkness and into the experience of some variation of beauty.

ABSENT EXPOSITION: This movie is both murder mystery and love story but it lacks much of the fabric of exposition we expect in mainstream films and will consequently disappoint some expectations. The murder mystery plot is for all intents a backdrop for the escalating epiphanies, and when details are missing, we've often let them stay missing rather than draw them in to serve or assert an illusory plot. We want it to keep an audience engaged at the plot level, but also to subtly betray the meaninglessness of a plot orientation, if that makes sense.

PERIOD-LESS PIECE: The film is set in 1919 but makes no attempt to hide contemporary buildings and some contemporary objects. Our position on this is that a period piece says as much about the time in which it is composed as the time in which it is set, and that most of the issues experienced in America in 1919 resonate through today. We’re sticking with that explanation, but to be completely honest, necessity is the mother of invention here. We have made the film with virtually no budget, and therefore could not afford to produce a full-fledged period piece.