On Saturday afternoon, Sept. 23, a new, short independent film called "Lakeshore Drive" premiered at Chicago's venerable 400 Theater, 6746 N. Sheridan Rd., in the city's Rogers Park neighborhood. Directed by 33-year old Peter Bowse -- who lives just a few blocks north of the 400 -- the film, described as "neo-noir" in a press release, tells the tale of a transsexual woman named Kim, her travails living the life of a Chicago escort, and her ride one night with Roger, who picks her up in his ride-sharing Uber-like car for a ride along the city's most famous road.
Just about everything in the movie takes place in that car. Shot in atmospheric black (and grey)-and-white, the work is filled with tight close-ups and set to haunting keyboard chords.
It's all a bit claustrophobic, and effective. Which seems to be part of the director's aim.
"Really what I would like to express is the horror of abuse of power," said Bowse in a post-screening conversation sitting in the theater's outside courtyard along North Sheridan Road. "There are just so many people who don't have value in society, according to people in power," said Bowse. "They're pushed around and treated like they're expendable. I'm hoping that the film puts you in the mindset of someone in that position -- somebody for whom there's no upward mobility, they're just stuck, they occupy the lowest rung of the ladder in society."
Bowse is a graduate of Columbia College Chicago, where he studied screenwriting. His first professional film was 2015's "Concrete Jungle."
Married, he is currently employed by Blue Cross Blue Shield, where he works in the Medicaid department, handling "Medicaid materials that go out to members," he said.
Chicago native Lila Star, of the city's Albany Park area, plays the transgender character Kim in the film. Star said after the screening that she identified with her character in several ways. "I connected with the fact that the character wore sunglasses even at night, because she was hiding something," said Star. "I was never comfortable in my own skin, so I would wear sunglasses even at night."
Star, a "show girl, ... performance artist, ... and all-around performer," said her age was "24 forever." Explaining, she continued, " I don't feel like I started living until I transitioned, so I say 24. I transitioned at 24."
Star's performance captures the fragility and sensuality of her character.
Dan Sullivan is a 54-year old father and café owner who lives in Rogers Park and just happened to see a notice about the screening on Facebook. In a conversation following the screening, Sullivan gave his thoughts about the movie.
"I thought within a very short amount of time," he said, " it conveyed a strong sense of hopelessness in the face of an oppressor."
In addition to Lila Star as Kim, the film's cast includes Frank Ondorf as a policeman who's also a pimp, and Darren Smith as Roger, the ride-sharing car's driver.
Ondorf is cold as steel as the cop, and Smith captures his character's fear, bluster and compassion in correct measures.
Following the premiere of "Lakeshore Drive," the director Peter Bowse hopes to book the film for "screenings both in Illinois and around the country" at film festivals, etc. Eventually, the director would like to expand his short film into a feature-length picture. While a website and a poster for the film are currently in development, there is a related Facebook Page up, at facebook.com/lakeshoredrive2017.
"Lakeshore Drive" was produced by FCHC Productions. In addition to directing, Peter Bowse co-wrote the script with Tyler Edens. Justin Bowse composed the film's haunting music. As director of photography, Alexander Lakin is responsible for the film's excellent black-and-white visuals.
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