The protests of late 2014 over police brutality were nothing compared with the fiery Chicago race riots of 1919. Writer-director Daniel Nearing makes those the backdrop for his new movie, a murder mystery that tracks an African American sleuth (persuasively played by Herman Wilkins) investigating a white theater magnate’s disappearance. Known for his idiosyncratic, highly literary style, Nearing shakes up Hogtown’s ingredients—cinematographer Sanghoon Lee’s shadowy noir faces, composer Paul Bhasin’s moody symphonic score, onscreen flashes of poetic text—inside a cinematic snow globe. Made for just $10,000, Hogtown suffers from a murky-in-places narrative and gimmicky collages. But the immersive Chicago dreamscape Nearing more than makes amends.

Hogtown runs February 20 to 26 at the Gene Siskel Film Center.