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  • Writer's pictureTeam Acacia

U.S. Premiere of "We Grown Now" to Open 59th Chicago International Film Festival

Minhal Baig’s Exploration of Joys and Hardships of Two Boys Growing Up in 1990s Cabrini-Green Launches Festival October 11, 2023

Chicago, Illinois (August 30, 2023) – The 59th Chicago International Film Festival is set to open Wednesday, October 11, 2023 at the Music Box Theatre with the U.S. Premiere of WE GROWN NOW, the story of two young boys discovering the joys and hardships of growing up in Cabrini-Green in 1992 Chicago, starring Jurnee Smollett and S. Epatha Merkerson, and written and directed by Chicago native Minhal Baig (HALA, BOJACK HORSEMAN). The film, presented by Stage 6 Films in association with Participant, is a Symbolic Exchange and Participant production.

The heartfelt story follows two 10-year-olds, Malik and Eric, as they revel in the freedoms of boyhood and the joys of friendship. The projects are their playground, and every stairway, roof, and stretch of blacktop is just another place for adventure. But when violence comes to their neighborhood, their safe haven is fractured, and Malik’s mother Dolores (Jurnee Smollett) must decide whether to stay or move away.

Written and directed with care and affection by Minhal Baig (HALA, ChicagoIFF ‘19), WE GROWN NOW is a lyrical coming-of-age fable deeply rooted in and based on the real-life experiences of Chicago’s Black community. With captivating performances by Smollett, Lil Rel Howery, young actors Blake Cameron James and Gian Knight Ramirez, and S. Epatha Merkerson as Malik’s wise and witty grandmother, the film is a love letter to growing up and the places we call home.

The Opening Night festivities kick off at 5 p.m. with a free-to-attend block party spanning the 3700 block of Southport Avenue, featuring live music, outdoor film screenings, retail kiosks, and food vendors, with the screening beginning at 7 p.m.

WE GROWN NOW is produced by Joe Pirro and Minhal Baig. Executive Producers for Participant; Jeff Skoll and Anikah McLaren, for Symbolic Exchange; James Schamus, and Carrie Holt de Lama and Jurnee Smollett.

The Chicago International Film Festival runs October 11 - 22, 2023 with film screenings and programs presented at venues across the city including AMC NEWCITY 14, the Music Box Theatre, the Gene Siskel Film Center, the Chicago History Museum, the Hamilton Park Cultural Center in Englewood, Harrison Park in Pilsen, La Follette Park in Austin, the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts at the University of Chicago, and the Museum of Contemporary Art. The full slate of films for the 59th edition of North America’s longest-running competitive film festival will be announced September 18, 2023. Tickets for Opening Night go on sale September 5, 2023, with tickets to the rest of the Festival’s presentations going on sale September 22, 2023. Cinema/Chicago members’ pre-sale tickets go on sale September 19, 2023; memberships now available at

For more information, visit the Festival’s website at

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