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Available April 21, 2021 7:00 AM UTC
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The Road Up follows four participants in Cara, a Chicago job-training program, as they struggle to find the path from rock bottom to stable employment. Throughout, they are guided, goaded, and challenged by their impassioned mentor, Mr. Jesse, whose own complicated past compels him to help others find hope in the face of poverty, addiction, homelessness, and trauma. 

Taken together, their stories create a powerful mosaic of the struggles that millions of Americans face every day in a precarious and unforgiving economy—the daunting and often interconnected challenges that prevent so many from joining the economic mainstream. Because when everything behind you is wreckage, and everything in front is an obstacle, how do you find the road up? (APRIL 21-22)

Director’s Statement: Greg Jacobs, Jon Siskel

We finished shooting The Road Up well before the onset of Covid-19. Even then, a staggering number of American workers were trapped in a kind of economic purgatory, unable to get—or keep—a job that could help them escape poverty. Now that the pandemic has left millions more unemployed, exposing the precariousness of the workforce and magnifying existing racial inequities, the film feels even timelier than it did when we started it. 

By capturing the emotion and complexity of our characters’ struggles, we hope The Road Up will spur audiences to question their assumptions about the population Cara serves and what can and should be done to help them. In many ways, we have come to see this film as the third installment of a kind of accidental trilogy, an ongoing story we didn’t even realize we were telling. 

While our previous documentary features—Louder Than a Bomb and No Small Matter—seem to have little in common with this one in terms of style and subject matter, they all deal in one form or another with innovative ways to address urgent issues of poverty, inequality of opportunity, and isolation. And yet the theme that truly connects them is about as old as it gets: the transformative power of connection, community, and love.

Selected Filmography: Louder Than a Bomb (AIFF 2011), No Small Matter, The Road Up 

Food Pairing Suggestion:

I'll pair this with a steak & zucchini fries from Omar's and a glass of pinot noir from Irvine & Roberts Vineyards. - Andrew Gay, Programmer

  • Year
  • Runtime
    93 minutes
  • Language
  • Country
    United States
  • Premiere
  • Director
    Greg Jacobs & Jon Siskel
  • Producer
    Rachel Pikelny
  • Executive Producer
    Mark Carroll, Tom Owens
  • Co-Producer
    Amy Ostrander
  • Cast
    Jesse Teverbaugh, Kristen Robinson, Clarence Goodwin, Alisa Cadette, Tamala Lavallais
  • Cinematographer
    Stephan Mazurek
  • Editor
    John Farbrother
  • Music
    Joshua Abrams