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Gut Renovation

2012
Distributed by Outcast Films, 652 W. 163rd Street #45, New York, NY 10032 ; 800-343-5540
Producer n/a
Directed by Su Friedrich
DVD, color, 81 min.
General Adult
Architecture, Art, Documentaries, Legislation, Sociology, Urban Areas


Reviewed by Linda Frederiksen, Washington State University, Vancouver, WA

Recommended   
 
Date Entered: 11/14/2014

In 2005, the City Council of New York approved a rezoning proposal for the Greenpoint and Williamsburg neighborhoods of Brooklyn. On paper, the plan sounded good: old manufacturing and commercial buildings that were eyesores, illegal artist loft spaces, and “mostly vacant and derelict for years” would be replaced by hundreds of new, attractive, affordable residential housing units. Within five years, more than 170 buildings in an area 6 blocks wide and 17 blocks long were knocked down and replaced by high-rise and high-rent condominiums.

The unrelenting demolition of a distinctive urban neighborhood is documented by Friedrich, who acts as both its guide and off-camera narrator. From 1989 through 2005, the independent filmmaker and her room-mates lived and worked in their renovated Williamsburg loft space where her neighbors were small industrial and family-run businesses and other artists. After rezoning, the demand for building space forced hundreds out of the area – to be replaced by buildings with fancy names and residents with fancy dogs.

Combining archival photographs with personal video footage, Friedrich chronicles the rate and degree of fast-paced change. Gentrification is a story known in nearly every large U.S. urban area, but this time it is told from a more personal perspective. The filmmaker communicates her sadness and anger at the changes that occur around her, using both ambush and undercover interviews with real estate developers and buyers. Recommended.