Halsted Street USA (1995)

About the Film

Nowhere in America does a stretch of pavement slice through a more vibrant and diverse cross-section of humanity than Chicago's Halsted Street. Along its length one can view a dozen nationalities, a thousand lifestyles -- the American melting pot at full boil. But who are the people who make up the stew? This riveting, kaleidoscopic "road movie" traces this unique thoroughfare nearly 400 miles, from its origin in the cornfields of southern Illinois to its terminus in the city's boisterous heart. Along the way the film presents a fascinating and profoundly American cultural mosaic with Halsted Street as the thread that links a multitude of seemingly disparate communities.

The film journeys northward from the heartland of rural Illinois to the mostly African-American and impoverished south side of Chicago; from Bridgeport, home to five generations of an Irish family named Daley, to Pilsen, hub of Chicago's Hispanic community; from the colorful chaos of the Maxwell Street Market to the high-rise ghettos of the Cabrini Green public housing project; and from the yuppie boutiques and blues clubs of Lincoln Park to Lakeview, where Halsted is the backbone of Chicago's gay community. A varied and colorful cast of characters guides viewers along the route: kids in a rural town, a Latino street-muralist in Pilsen, a junk scavenger in Cabrini Green, revelers at the gay pride parade. Their impressions and anecdotes bring into focus vital issues that simmer up from the asphalt of main streets all across the country: tolerance and racism, immigration, class disparity, ethnic and cultural identity.

Narrated by Studs Terkel, Halsted Street, USA is a thought-provoking crash-course in American cultural geography that will enhance a variety of courses in American studies and history, popular culture, sociology, and ethnic studies and multiculturalism. It was produced by David E. Simpson.

More About This Film


  • Nat'l Social Science Assn. honoree.Council on Foundations Film and Video Festival honoree.


For licensing, film rights and permissions, contact David Simpson, the distributor, or Folkstreams.