Two young boys, best friends Malik and Eric, discover the joys and hardships of growing up in the sprawling Cabrini-Green public housing complex in 1992 Chicago in the latest film from director Minhal Baig (Hala, TIFF ’19).



We Grown Now

Minhal Baig

Constructed over several decades beginning in the late 1940s, Chicago’s Cabrini-Green public housing complex embodied contemporary thought on housing and urban development. By 1992, however, the community — and the world — had changed significantly. That’s captured in the latest film from director Minhal Baig (Hala, TIFF ’19).

Along with his mother Dolores (Jurnee Smollett) and grandmother Anita (S. Epatha Merkerson), 12-year-old Malik (Blake Cameron James) has lived in this community all his life. The same is true for his best friend Eric (Gian Knight Ramirez) and together the boys know every nook, stairway, and rooftop — all of these a playing field for their (sometimes forbidden) adventures. But change is intruding on their childhood idyll. Drugs and crime are seeping into the neighbourhood and, when a sudden tragic event further shakes the families, the children’s future becomes uncertain. As Dolores weighs a new job that would take them to the unfamiliar suburbs, Malik and Eric struggle with accepting that they may have to say goodbye to each other.

Anchored by astonishing performances from young newcomers James and Ramirez, We Grown Now serves as a rich and textured portrait of the friendships we often neglect to acknowledge when we talk about what a community is. Baig spent significant time with former residents of the now-demolished Cabrini-Green homes, gathering their stories and garnering support for the telling of them. The result is a lyrical and poignant tale of boyhood innocence, social change, and the fight to hold on to optimism.


Official Selection, 2023 Toronto International Film Festival

Content advisory: accident trauma, frightening scenes, bullying


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