The Hills

Ines Sommer

The Hills doc film

About The Hills

When the steel mills on Chicago’s Southeast Side closed decades ago, they left behind toxic sites that look harmless to the naked eye. Deriving its name from a deserted 67-acre hill made up of slag that Republic Steel/LTV dumped there during the 1950s–80s, The Hills is a place-based documentary where contaminated land, water, and wildlife play a leading role alongside the voices of community members.

Easily mistaken for gravel, slag is a byproduct of steelmaking and contains arsenic, chromium, lead, and other toxins. Recently declared a superfund site by the EPA, the abandoned property has long attracted heavy recreational use and toxins from the slag continue to leak into the adjacent Indian Creek.

Providing a rich habitat for fish, beavers, and birds, Indian Creek links Wolf Lake, a major recreational fishing area, to the Calumet River which in turn connects to Lake Michigan, Chicago’s source of drinking water.

The Hills uses this singular site as starting point to consider the area’s industrial history, labor, and current environmental justice struggles.

Neighborhood: Film Screenings on Southeast Side + Downtown

Art Type: Documentary Film

Grant Amount: $35,000


Media Gallery

Click on each image to enlarge and to see the photo caption.

Ines Sommer
Ines Sommer

About the Artist(s)

Ines Sommer is an award-winning filmmaker, film programmer, media arts advocate, and educator, whose work spans from character-driven documentaries and essay films to experimental shorts. Often employing a lyrical and observational lens, her films explore stories about humans and nature, rural life, grassroots democracy, history and politics. Ines holds an MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and is full-time faculty in Northwestern University’s Department of Radio/TV/Film.

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