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The road up

A film by

greg jacobs &

jon siskel

Greg Jacobs and Jon Siskel are the co-founders of Chicago-based Siskel/Jacobs Productions. Most recently, Greg and Jon co-directed (with Danny Alpert) No Small Matter, the first feature documentary to explore the power and potential impact of early childhood education. Completed in late 2018, No Small Matter has already begun moving the needle on the issue at a national scale, through over 1200 screenings and an ambitious impact campaign. The film currently has a perfect 100% rating on

Prior to No Small Matter, Greg and Jon produced and directed the documentary feature Louder Than a Bomb, which follows four Chicago-area high school poetry teams as they prepare to compete in the world’s largest youth slam. The winner of 17 festival prizes (including the Audience Award and a Special Jury Award at the 2010 Chicago International Film Festival), Louder Than a Bomb was hailed as “one of the 10 best documentaries of 2011” by Roger Ebert, and received a perfect 100% rating on In January of 2012, Louder Than a Bomb had its world television premiere on the Oprah Winfrey Network, as an official selection of the “OWN Documentary Club”. The film was also selected for the U.S. State Department’s 2011 American Documentary Showcase, and received the 2011 Humanitas Prize for documentaries.


For the predominantly low-income, black and brown population Cara serves, the challenges are so varied and hard to overcome that the formula more traditional job training programs follow—acquire some skills, find a job, and everything else will fall into place—simply doesn’t work. Getting a job can be hard enough, but for many, keeping one is even harder. Perversely, it’s often easier to return to the familiar chaos of life in the streets, or succumb to the ever-present beast of addiction, than to make the transition to the constraints and responsibilities of the workplace. That’s why Cara’s model is so timely and compelling. It essentially flips the script on the traditional formula, making the case that the first step on the road up isn’t finding employment, it’s finding a glimmer of hope, or a hint of connection. What some dismiss as “soft skills,” Cara calls “harder skills”: conflict resolution, impulse control, even the ability to express love and accept it in return. To Cara, these are the essential skills that give their students the resilience they need to persist, and ultimately to thrive. By explicitly and emphatically stressing the “love” in “tough love,” Cara’s model pointedly critiques how we approach the entire issue of job training in America, essentially asking the question, “what if we’ve had it wrong all along?”

The Road Up - Official Theatrical Trailer
Play Video

the road up

presented by the Chicago International Film Festival

The Road Up follows four participants in Cara, a Chicago job-training program, as they struggle to find the path from rock bottom to stable employment. Throughout, they are guided, goaded, and challenged by their impassioned mentor, Mr. Jesse, whose own complicated past compels him to help others find hope in the face of poverty, addiction, homelessness, and trauma. Taken together, their stories create a powerful mosaic of the struggles that millions of Americans face every day in a precarious and unforgiving economy—the daunting and often interconnected challenges that prevent so many from joining the economic mainstream. Because when everything behind you is wreckage, and everything in front is an obstacle, how do you find the road up?


Friday, September 2 - 7:30 pm

Saturday, September 3 - 9:00 pm

Harold Washington Park

5200 S. Hyde Park Blvd.


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To learn more about the film, visit The Road Up website. 

Fore more information about the Chicago International Film Festival, visit

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See more of Siskel/Jacobs Productions work at