In “The Road Up”, a Chicago-based documentary, Jesse “Mr Jesse” Teverbaugh is part teacher, part preacher and part drill sergeant as he guides a class of mostly middle aged job seekers through a training course. The course is part of the Cara program designed to raise self-esteem and hone skills that will improve their readiness for employment.
Based in the South Loop, Cara focuses on individuals who have been out of the workforce due to domestic violence, incarceration, homelessness or other factors that challenge their readiness to work.
The film, produced by Rachel Pikelny and co-producer Amy Ostrander, follows the progress of four individuals who reveal their fears and aspirations as they work through the month-long boot camp called Transformations that offers the possibility of a new beginning.
Many of us with little insight into the actual depths of despair some people face, understand that employment is an important part of battling crime and poverty. But perhaps we do not fully appreciate the struggles many individuals face due to their limited world view, personal stresses, inability to cope, poor self-image, lack of peer or family support and other psychological and sociological issues that inhibit their chance of success. It’s not just a matter of saying here’s a job- do it.
“The Road Up” shows us what a handful of people are experiencing and how this particular social service program is attempting to triage a few of the wounds before sending their participants back into the battle.
Mr. Jesse explains to his class that this is not going to solve all of their problems or send them happily off into the sunset. Rather, he attempts to convey what is expected of them, that life and work are full of challenges that you have to be willing to face. He emphasizes that they are not a captive of their past.
Directed by Jon Siskel and Greg Jacobs; and edited by John Farbrother, the film features a lovely sound track and is punctuated by some pretty gritty stills plus a b-roll presumably inspired by Photography Director Stephan Mazurek.
The storyline is well crafted with a touching, somewhat surprising finale.
“The Road Up” can be seen at The Siskel Film Center, 164 N. State St., Chicago Oct. 8-14, 2021. Running time is 93 minutes. To learn about other screenings or information visit TheRoadUpFilm.