Te’Hila Robinson, right, and an actress pose in Maywood council chambers during an April 3 filming of a scene from “Uncovered,” Robinson’s movie based on her struggles with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Before the shoot, she had to convince some board members that the film would not depict the village in a negative light. | Facebook
Tuesday, April 5, 2016 || By Michael Romain
When Maywood resident and filmmaker Te’Hila Robinson approached the village’s trustee board about shooting a scene in her first movie, entitled “Uncovered,” in council chambers at 125 S. 5th Ave., some board members grew hesitant.
The film, Robinson said, is about her personal struggles with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD — an illness more commonly associated with returning soldiers than civilians. Robinson said she battled with the disorder for a long time after she was molested by a relative at six years old. The movie, which Robinson noted in a statement is her “first screenwriting endeavor,” is based on that life tragedy and her struggle to overcome it.
Robinson, who graduated from Proviso East High School before going on to study at Columbia College Chicago, said she wanted to film a courtroom scene from the movie inside the chambers. Before she could do so, however, she needed the board’s approval.
It would appear, on the surface, to be a simple request. But for some board members, her pitch triggered memories of trauma of an altogether different sort — the trauma that the village has experienced when it comes to its image.
“How is it that this film enhances the image of Maywood? I am greatly concerned with the image of Maywood and so the subject that you talked about is something that happens everywhere, so I’m really concerned that we don’t give Maywood anymore of a black eye than it might already have,” said Trustee Michael Rogers at the March 23 meeting where Robinson’s proposal was discussed.
“I admire you for wanting to share your story […] but I do concur with my colleague,” said Trustee Isiah Brandon. “During past experiences, people have come into the village and wanted to showcase Maywood. In one particular incident, [another] movie showcased the village in a horrible light.”
Brandon was referencing a roughly 40-minute documentary that can be seen on YouTube called “Only the Strong Survive,” which was filmed in 2013. The video, which has so far garnered nearly 50,000 hits, explores the village’s criminal underbelly.
It was produced by Maywood native Atwill Williams and Stevina Hampton. Both Williams and Hampton attended Columbia College Chicago, according to Williams’s Facebook and Hampton’s LinkedIn profiles.
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Maywood Mayor Edwenna Perkins during a scene from the documentary video “Only the Strong Survive,” which was shot in 2013 and generated considerable backlash among many residents for what they perceived to be its negative portrayal. | Screenshot
During the filming, they interviewed Maywood police officers, local anti-violence activists, Maywood native and NBA basketball player Shannon Brown and Mayor Edwenna Perkins. They also interviewed young men who appeared to be gang members and drug dealers.
Those interviews, taken together, represent a diverse array of perspectives on the village — which some people in the film refer to as “Murderwoods.”
One interviewee, a 21-year-old man called “K.D.,” said he moved to Maywood, because the homes are nicer “than out West.”
“But then when you moved here what did you end up finding out?” asks the interviewer.
“It’s h—s out here and good money to be got,” says the man, who is covered in tattoos and smoking, his face blurred. “Hating n—s. I also smoke good money. Few other b—s a n—a ain’t done tapped into yet and a few other money sources that ain’t been tapped.”
“Growing up in Maywood was fantastic,” says Perkins in one clip. “That’s why we’re considered a family here in the community.”
When the film was uploaded to YouTube, it generated immediate backlash from some residents and natives, who denounced it for its negative portrayal of the village. And Perkins has often noted that, had she known what the outcome of the film would be, she would have never consented to be interviewed.
“We’re not doing [the film] to glorify ‘the hood,’” wrote Atwill in a YouTube comment dated two years ago. “We’re doing it so that it could spark conversations in people that will maybe turn into action.”
“The occurrence doesn’t even happen in Maywood,” said Robinson, in defense of her own film before the board. “We’re asking to use this as a court scene, because this person actually was arrested and brought to justice. So, we’re bringing light to that in the movie. It’s a court scene where judgement is being handed down and that’s all we want to do is shoot a scene where we have a judge and this person being accountable for what they did.
“Rest assured, our purpose is not bring a dark shadow or cloud over Maywood,” she said. “I’m very proud to be a Maywood resident … the premise of it is to bring light to the fact that [PTSD] is often a taboo conversation, specifically in African American communities.”
After the board’s unanimous approval, Robinson filmed the scene on April 3. VFP
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