“Even though we live in terror town, we deserve respect.”

Those words were spoken by Lysistrata, played by Teyonah Parris, in Spike Lee’s 2015 film Chi-Raq. And despite the sentiment of the quotation, few felt like Lee’s joint paid the Windy City the respect it so rightly deserved. From the offensive title to the inaccurate portrayal of life in Chicago’s Southside neighborhood, and even to the satirical manner in which the movie was presented, it seemed as though the film got lambasted from top to bottom by critics and audiences alike.

This all begs the question then: Is a good film about the true tales of struggles of those in Southside an impossible feat?


Maybe not, says independent filmmaker Paul John Piencak. The Southside native will be releasing a film about the city in 2017 that many believe will provide a more authentic portrayal of the city. 

The film, School For Gods, explores the life of a gang leader from the Southside who finds himself in the midst of a struggle between the love of his life, police corruption, and the throes of gang life. Piencak, of Midnight Cinema Film Company, started a GoFundMe account for this film, School for Gods, in 2014. Though he did not reach his goal initially, he continued to work towards completing the film, which he has produced, written, directed and edited and almost entirely on independently raised funds.

Paul John held a premiere preview party that I had the pleasure to attend at the Virgin Hotel Chicago. Many of the movie’s actors were present, and the energy and excitement they had for the film was palpable. There was such an abundance of love for this project that many of the people involved seemed to share. This film is very much an independent film, and it’s clear that both Paul John and many of those a part of the production have poured their heart and soul into its creation. Most of the actors all seemed to have bonded over the experience given their reaction to Paul John’s shout outs during his speech at the premiere party.

He seemed proud yet generous when addressing the crowd at the party, thanking everyone involved profusely and making sure they all understood the work the group put in to creating this film. When I asked him about it, he made sure I knew that it took two years to finish, incorporating over 100 independent actors and filmed in over 100 locations (mostly in Chicago). The flick drops early in 2017 and if you want to catch it when it comes out, give Paul John and Midnight Cinemas a follow on any of their social media pages.

Paul John / Instagram – @thepauljohn



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