Anthology Film Archives

HOME TRUTHS: FILMS ABOUT HOUSING RIGHTS, DISPLACEMENT, AND THE MEANING OF HOME

September 16 – October 31

One of the (many) issues that the COVID-19 pandemic has thrown into sharp (and dire) relief in recent months is that of housing rights. The availability and quality of housing, and the rights of lower-income tenants, has of course been an urgently important and highly contested feature of urban life across the world and throughout modern history. But the precariousness of the lives of millions upon millions of city dwellers has been revealed more starkly than ever by a global pandemic that has rendered the struggle to keep a roof over one’s head catastrophically widespread.

Given the basic existential nature of the human need for shelter – and the extent to which housing policy in many societies reflects, embodies, and perpetuates economic exploitation, structural racism, and the destructive toll of unchecked capitalism – it’s no surprise that filmmakers have explored the topic, both directly and indirectly, throughout the history of the medium. This online film series highlights a variety of films past and present that have dramatized the plight of those who wage a daily battle for safe and secure housing, that have unveiled the structural and economic forces that render that struggle so difficult, and that have chronicled the efforts of activists to make change. At their best, these films bring into relief the vital importance of “home” as a source of emotional and cultural meaning in people’s lives – as a necessity for both body and soul. They identify displacement as a force that robs people not only of the roof over their heads, but also – perhaps even more destructively – of their sense of their own identities, their individual and communal histories, and of their culture.

The series comprises a selection of films that Anthology will be presenting gradually, over the course of the coming weeks and months, as well as other relevant films that are already available online from other sources.

The full list of films is below; some of these works will not be made available until later in the summer or fall, while new films may be added as the series continues.

“Home Truths” is presented in association with Shelterforce. An independent, non-profit publication that began in 1975 as a “how-to” magazine for tenant activists, Shelterforce covers the worlds of community development, affordable housing, and neighborhood stabilization. For more info, visit https://shelterforce.org/.

 

ANTHOLOGY PRESENTS:

Streaming for free on Anthology’s Vimeo page, Sept 16-30!
Ken Loach
CATHY COME HOME 
1966, 77 min, 16mm-to-digital
“Jeremy Sandford’s drama about a young family’s slide into homelessness and poverty was a defining moment in 1960s television, demonstrating how far drama could influence the political agenda. The controversy generated by CATHY COME HOME led to public outrage at the state of housing in Britain, and gave a welcome boost to the (coincidental) launch of the homelessness charity Shelter a few days after the play was first broadcast, as part of the BBC’s ‘The Wednesday Play’ strand. The play follows young lovers Cathy and Reg from the optimism of their early married days through a spiral of misfortune that follows Reg’s work accident, leading to eviction and separation, and culminating, in what remains one of TV’s most memorable scenes, in a hysterical Cathy having her children forcibly taken away by Social Services. The success of CATHY established director Ken Loach as a politically committed filmmaker standing apart from the commercial mainstream, and demonstrated again his sensitivity to his usually working-class characters.” –Mark Duguid, BFI SCREENONLINE

Available on Anthology’s Vimeo-on-Demand page for a streaming rental fee of $6.
Nick Broomfield
WHO CARES
1971, 18 min, 16mm-to-digital
“This is a personal impression of what happened to the people of the Abercrombie district of Liverpool where they were transplanted en bloc to a monstrosity of suburban high-rise planning; it gains immeasurably from focusing on a particular community, but its message rings loud and far. The film offers no answer, merely raises questions; and its self-effacing technique – a collage of images and voices – recalls the eloquent, angry silence of the photographs in the Agee/Evans ‘Let Us Now Praise Famous Men.’ This film should be required viewing for the urban planners who promulgated this despair.” –David Wilson, SIGHT & SOUND
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Nick Broomfield
BEHIND THE RENT STRIKE
1974, 50 min, 16mm-to-digital
Made during his studies at the National Film School, Nick Broomfield’s first long-form work is a “brilliant documentary attempt to understand the 14 months’ rent strike by the people of Kirkby New Town, near Liverpool, which started just before Christmas in 1973. An analysis of the social conditions is preceded by an interview between the filmmaker and an extremely shrewd working-class housewife who debunks this and all other investigations by the media as just another form of bourgeois masturbation. This in itself makes a complacent viewing, which might normally act as an appeaser to liberal conscience, impossible.” –TIME OUT

Streaming for free, from Sept 16-Oct 6!
Chad Freidrichs
THE PRUITT-IGOE MYTH: AN URBAN HISTORY
2011, 83 min, digital
This film tells the story of the wholesale changes that took place in the American city in the decades after WWII, through the lens of the infamous Pruitt-Igoe housing development in St. Louis. Destroyed in a dramatic and highly-publicized implosion, Pruitt-Igoe has become a widespread symbol of failure among architects, politicians, and policy makers. THE PRUITT-IGOE MYTH explores the social, economic, and legislative issues that led to the decline of conventional public housing in America, and the city centers in which they resided, while tracing the personal and poignant narratives of several of the project’s residents.

“This devastating documentary, about the St. Louis high-rise public-housing development that went from Great Urban Hope to international disgrace, is an engulfing real-life horror story as well as a testimony to the dominance of the image in American public discourse. The pictures of the thirty-three Pruitt-Igoe buildings imploding during a planned demolition in 1972 have often been used to assert how government subsidies for the urban poor have failed. But the director, Chad Freidrichs, employs evocative archival footage and incisive firsthand reportage to brush away the clichéd and often prejudiced conventional wisdom that puts the blame for the project’s demise on its black residents. He lucidly and tenaciously chronicles how government and business reinforced de-facto segregation and did nothing to stop the collapse of the metropolitan job base, and shows that, once Pruitt-Igoe was up and running, there was little public money available to maintain it. Along with this exposé of hopeless botches and compromises, the movie contains surprising recollections of a brief paradise lost. The photographs of the brand-new Pruitt-Igoe buildings (they opened in 1954) sting with an electric poignancy; we learn that the residents viewed them as wondrous havens before they went horribly awry.” –Michael Sragow, NEW YORKER

Streaming for free, from Sept 23-Oct 6!
Henri Storck
HOUSES OF POVERTY / LES MAISONS DE LA MISÈRE

1936, 30 min, 35mm-to-digital. In French with English subtitles.
“HOUSES OF POVERTY is a film about housing in Belgium. […] Nothing in British or American films dealing with similar material approximates the understanding and sensibility which those who made this film brought to the task. For they have dramatized not only the horrors of slum filth, all the inhuman living conditions of a steel town street, but they have also revealed the people living there with a profound sense of their dignity and worth. We come very close to these people as the texture of their lives is woven from moments which the camera discovers: the call for the midwife and the funeral of the new-born child; the eviction of a family as the neighbors watch from their windows, unable to help.” –Paul Strand, THE AMERICAN FILMMAKER, 1939

Available beginning on Sept 23 (details TBA).
Richard Broadman
MISSION HILL AND THE MIRACLE OF BOSTON

1978, 60 min, 16mm-to-digital
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Richard Broadman
DOWN THE PROJECT: THE CRISIS OF PUBLIC HOUSING

1982, 60 min, 16mm-to-digital
Richard Broadman (1946-2000) was an uncompromising filmmaker who specialized in chronicling the American urban experience through oral history. His commitment to presenting the complexity of society’s problems from “the voices and tales of people not usually presented in the media” often left him outside standard documentary and political circles. As part of “Home Truths” we showcase two of his films, both of which explore issues surrounding “urban renewal,” displacement, and public housing, by looking closely at particular neighborhoods and projects.

MISSION HILL AND THE MIRACLE OF BOSTON tells the story of a tight-knit Irish neighborhood that was transformed between 1940 and 1980 when thousands of units of public housing were built and decayed there; nearby hospitals expanded, displacing people from their homes; and developers and speculators bought and sold property and built twenty-story apartment houses. Today this film remains unique in presenting one neighborhood's social history set against the larger forces that reshaped a major American city.

DOWN THE PROJECT: THE CRISIS OF PUBLIC HOUSING presents the story of two projects that housed working families, both white and black, in the 1940s. In later years, crippled by lower budgets and the needs of poorer populations, they came to be regarded as eyesores, as danger zones. How did these changes occur? How did public housing begin? Which forces lobbied for it and against it? How do the people living in this housing see it?

Streaming for free on Anthology’s Vimeo page, Sept 23-29!
Marci Reaven & Beni Matías
THE HEART OF LOISAIDA / EL CORAZÓN DE LOISAIDA

1979, 26 min, 16mm-to-digital. In Spanish with English subtitles. Courtesy of The Cinema Guild.
Pioneering Puerto Rican filmmaker Bienvenida “Beni” Matías has devoted herself to the topic of housing and tenants’ rights in several works, including her debut film (co-directed with Marci Reaven), THE HEART OF LOISAIDA, as well as the later HOUSING COURT (1985). THE HEART OF LOISAIDA depicts the efforts of Latino residents of New York’s Lower East Side to take over their buildings, which have been abandoned by their landlords. Organizing themselves into Tenants’ Associations, they undertake the renovation of their decaying tenements and provide their own services.
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William Sarokin & Beni Matías
HOUSING COURT

1985, 30 min, 16mm-to-digital. Courtesy of The Cinema Guild.
Made six years after THE HEART OF LOISAIDA, HOUSING COURT (made by Beni Matías in collaboration with William Sorokin) looks at the housing crisis from a different angle. Rather than focusing on the tenants’ own neighborhoods and buildings, it focuses on the operations of the Bronx Housing Court, where (at the time of filming) 125,000 disputes between tenants and landlords were mediated each year, including evictions, rent strikes, and housing code violations.

Virtual theatrical premiere engagement – September 25-October 8
Fredrik Gertten
PUSH

2019, 92 min, digital. In English, Spanish, Italian, German, and Korean with English subtitles. Distributed by Argot Pictures.
This new documentary by Swedish filmmaker and journalist Fredrik Gertten is a clear-eyed, profoundly alarming exposé of the global phenomenon of the commodification of housing, and a clarion call regarding the economic and social devastation this phenomenon has wreaked. PUSH conveys its story largely through the eyes of Leilani Farha, the UN Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing, whose mandate is to hold governments accountable if they don’t meet the human rights obligations in the UN Human Rights Charter. Chronicling Farha’s travels around the world as she tries to understand who’s being pushed out of cities and why, PUSH also incorporates the observations of Columbia University sociologist Saskia Sassen, who has studied the impact of globalization for 40 years and coined the term “global cities”; the Nobel prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz; and Italian journalist Roberto Saviano (author of Gomorra), all of whom share their deeply researched and razor-sharp analyses of the role of global finance in housing. PUSH sheds light on a new kind of faceless landlord, our increasingly unlivable cities, and an escalating crisis that has an effect on us all. As Farha asserts, “I believe there’s a huge difference between housing as a commodity and gold as a commodity. Gold is not a human right, housing is.”

“Fredrik Gertten’s rousing investigation into the global housing crisis plays like a real-world conspiracy thriller, with an inspiring hero at its heart.” –Demetrios Matheou, LITTLE WHITE LIES

“[Farha’s] quest shows audiences the process in which affordable housing becomes a token for hedge funds, investors, and criminal networks to drive up their profits while driving out ordinary citizens. Condos, homes, and apartments sit empty as neighborhoods become ghost towns owned by anonymous foreign buyers who never set a toe in their luxury homes.” –Pat Mullen, POV MAGAZINE

“The topic of the film is essential for today’s society, but also very complicated, and Gertten treats it with a human touch and streaks of humor. Instead of focusing only on the legal and economic aspects, he shows us how this crisis influences the people affected by it…. PUSH is an eye-opening, exciting, and very humane documentary.” –Vladan Petković, CINEUROPA

PUSH will be available here starting on Friday, September 25, for a streaming rental fee of $12.

Available on Anthology’s Vimeo-on-Demand page, for a streaming rental fee of $6 (beginning on Sept 30).
Frederick Wiseman
PUBLIC HOUSING

1997, 195 min, 16mm-to-digital
“This in-depth 1997 look at everyday life in Chicago’s Ida B. Wells housing project is one of Frederick Wiseman’s greatest documentaries to date. Few of the points in its epic analysis are obvious; though it gives the overall impression that public housing is like living in a concentration camp, the film favors exploration and understanding over finger-pointing and polemicizing. Wiseman presents a wide array of materials, and because you have to reflect on the film to realize how the various pieces of its design hang together, you’re liable to be thinking about it months afterward.” –Jonathan Rosenbaum, CHICAGO READER

Streaming for free on Anthology’s Vimeo page, Sept 30-Oct 27!
Peter Keiller
THE DILAPIDATED DWELLING

2000, 78 min, video
In this comparatively little-known work, Patrick Keiller – celebrated for the remarkable essay-film trilogy that comprises LONDON (1994), ROBINSON IN SPACE (1997), AND ROBINSON IN RUINS (2010) – deploys his highly distinctive melding of documentary techniques and quasi-fictional elements to examine the predicament of the house in advanced economies, the UK in particular. Keiller makes use of conventional nonfiction tools such as interviews with cultural commentators and urban theorists, archival footage, and statistics, while presenting the film as the musings of a fictional researcher (voiced by Tilda Swinton) newly returned to England after a 20-year sojourn in the Arctic. This unseen narrator finds that, though the UK is one of the most electronic of the advanced economies, its houses are the most dilapidated in western Europe. The film includes archive footage of Buckminster Fuller, Constant Nieuwenhuys, Archigram, and Walter Segal, and interviews with Martin Pawley, Saskia Sassen, Doreen Massey, Cedric Price, and others.

Co-presented by Third World Newsreel. Available for a streaming rental fee of $10 (beginning on Sept 30).
Shawn Batey
CHANGING FACE OF HARLEM

2014, 62 min, digital
Made over the course of ten years, CHANGING FACE OF HARLEM explores the drastic transformation of the historic neighborhood of Harlem, through the personal accounts of residents, business owners, politicians, and real estate developers. With communities of color across the nation facing similar struggles, the film is an urgent and deeply relevant exploration of the ways in which a neighborhood strives to maintain its cultural identity and achieve economic justice in the face of gentrification.

“In interviews filmed on the streets, in homes and offices, and at contentious board meetings, longtime residents share their struggles to find affordable housing; city developers talk about urban renewal; and small-business owners speak of preserving their culture. […] This insightful video raises important issues and questions relating to urban renewal, gentrification, and cultural preservation.” –Candance Smith, BOOKLIST ONLINE

Available for a streaming rental fee of $6 (beginning on Sept 30).
Andrea Luka Zimmerman
ESTATE, A REVERIE

2015, 83 min, digital
When it was built in the 1930s, the massive Haggerston Estate in East London was the model of public housing and what it could achieve. After decades of neglect, however, the whole area was condemned and with it the utopian dream it promised. Zimmerman, herself a resident for 17 years, chronicles the project’s passing and celebrates its inhabitants in this poetic documentary. Weaving together intimate resident portraits with historical re-enactments (performed by the residents themselves), landscape and architectural studies, and dramatized scenes, the film questions how stereotypes – based on class, gender, disability, even geography – are constructed. As Zimmerman notes, “the film is, inevitably therefore, about housing, and about the policies that lead us to live lives at the mercy of governmental and financial decisions. But, much more, I hope, it is about how we belong in the world and what structures of meaning exist to define personal and social lives. How can we express the fullest possibility of our being, creatively and collectively?”

“A deeply moving portrait of a community struggling to survive in a boarded-up London public housing project, long slated for demolition. Multilayered and profound, it masterfully immerses us in a dreamlike lost-world of misfits, outcasts, and survivors whom she films with love and aching tenderness.” –Joshua Oppenheimer (THE ACT OF KILLING)

Available for a streaming rental fee of $6 (beginning on Sept 30).
David Schalliol
THE AREA

2018, 93 min, digital
In the heart of the South Side of Chicago, an 85-acre area abutting a railyard means different things to different people. For more than 400 African American families, it is home. For Norfolk Southern railroad company, it is space to expand its train-to-truck intermodal depot. Directed by noted photographer David Schalliol, THE AREA begins in 2012, when Norfolk Southern has already bought out over half the area’s residents and is picking off the holdouts. Middle-aged homeowner Deborah Payne puts off her plans to move; instead, she digs in and becomes an ad hoc community organizer. As her neighbors jump ship and houses are pulled down, property values implode. Valiant and stubborn, Payne fights for fair-value buyouts and respect for those who remain. Filmed over the course of five years, THE AREA tells a complex story of economic revitalization, commercial interests, and community rights.

“As a PhD candidate in sociology at University of Chicago, Schalliol worked on a project to document demolitions; walking neighborhoods that were threatened by redevelopment, he got to know the residents. His research has fed not only THE AREA but also a 2014 book, “Isolated Building Studies”, and a blog, Sociolography, on which he ponders the tensions between urban growth and economic disparity, between might and blight. THE AREA shows him to be both a gifted architectural photographer and an empathetic portraitist.” –Andrea Gronvall, CHICAGO READER

Streaming for free on Anthology’s Vimeo page, Sept 30-Oct 27!
Ayo Akingbade
STREET 66

2018, 14 min, digital
A film whose historical richness and depth of feeling are belied by its brevity, STREET 66, by emerging British artist Ayo Akingbade, chronicles the life and work of Ghanaian housing activist Dora Boatemah and her influence on the regeneration of Angell Town Estate in Brixton, South London.

“STREET 66 resuscitates Boatemah’s work via stunningly edited sequences of archival footage and contemporary recollections from her neighbors, friends, and fellow organizers, revealing a rich legacy that has gone sorely under-recognized in recent years. Alternating between still images of a young (and very stylish) Boatemah, digital footage, and dreamy 16mm sequences that blur past and present, STREET 66 astutely points to the power of organizing and coalition-building in the face of legislative disenfranchisement. ‘You felt what she was saying was actually going to happen,’ recalls one friend of Boatemah’s, ‘and it did.’ Discussion of the unraveling of progress that occurred in the wake of the activist’s sudden death particularly sting in the context of such a thoughtfully constructed tribute.” –Dessane Lopez Cassell, HYPERALLERGIC

 

COMING LATER THIS FALL:

Christopher Harris
still/here

2000, 60 min, 16mm-to-digital
“‘still/here’ is a meditation on the vast landscape of ruins and vacant lots that constitute the north side of St. Louis, an area populated almost exclusively by working class and working poor African Americans. On a basic level, the film constructs a documentary record of the blight and decay of that part of the city. For the most part, ‘still/here’ is not an overt assessment of social injustices but the politics of class and race within American society are integral to the film. In ‘still/here,’ the ruins are emblematic of an unimaginable absence at the core of much of the African Diaspora’s experience in North America. From the countless Africans lost in the Middle Passage to the lost future generation of unborn descendant of those that perished during the voyage, to the loss of family and loved ones that were sold away during slavery, absence has been and continues to be a fundamental feature of the African-American experience.” –Christopher Harris

“Harris suffuses the blighted north side of Saint Louis with a powerful melancholy, lingering on rubble-strewn lots, decrepit buildings, and empty streets, while footsteps and a continually ringing phone on the sound track suggest lives interrupted by the devastation. Holes in a movie theater marquee are powerfully evocative, but even more impressive is the film’s sprawling, almost chaotic form: its calculated incompleteness truly matches the subject, and Harris’s long takes imply – not without a hint of anger – that the ruins of his hometown are eternal.” –Fred Camper, CHICAGO READER

WE TELL: FIFTY YEARS OF PARTICIPATORY COMMUNITY MEDIA:
TURF

In December, Anthology hosted the national traveling exhibition, “We Tell: Fifty Years of Participatory Community Media,” which chronicled the hidden histories of place-based documentaries that situate their collaborative practices in specific locales, communities, and needs for social and political change. One of the programs in “We Tell” – entitled “Turf” – showcased works that dig out the complexities and politics of gentrification, homelessness, housing, and the significance of urban spaces for democratic participation.

The projects span cities such as Braddock, Pennsylvania; Detroit; Houston; New Orleans; NYC; Philadelphia; San Francisco; and Seattle. The videos in “Turf” reveal that cities have transformed into battlegrounds between communities and those in power who would take land and space to expand economic and political power.

“We Tell” has been curated by Louis Massiah (Scribe Video Center) and Patricia R. Zimmermann (Ithaca College), with research and archival assistance from XFR Collective. Support for “We Tell: Fifty Years of Participatory Community Media” is provided by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, with additional support from Scribe Video Center.

 

AVAILABLE ONLINE FROM OTHER SOURCES:

Available for streaming rental ($3.50 per film) thanks to the invaluable online resource, www.cinemaaction.co.uk:
Cinema Action
NOT A PENNY ON THE RENTS
(1969, 22 min, 16mm-to-digital)
SQUATTERS
(1969/70, 17 min, 16mm-to-digital)
These two early films by the left-wing UK film collective Cinema Action focus squarely on the struggle for housing rights. Produced with the purpose of combatting the attempts of the GLC (Greater London Council) to raise council rents, NOT A PENNY ON THE RENTS documents tenants’ demonstrations and meetings; the burning of an effigy of Horace Cutler, the Tory leader of the GLC; and other actions relating to the tenants’ struggle. Made soon after, SQUATTERS was designed to support squatters in various London boroughs who were resisting eviction by private landlords and the GLC. These two works are available for a small streaming fee at this invaluable site, which also features numerous additional Cinema Action films as well as a wealth of information and resources relating to the collective.

Available for streaming rental ($5.95) from Documentary Educational Resources (DER):
Richard P. Rogers
NEIGHBORS: CONSERVATION IN A CHANGING COMMUNITY

1977, 28 min, 16mm-to-digital
When filmmaker Richard P. Rogers and producer Janet Mendelsohn were funded by the NEA to make a film about the growing interest in neighborhood conservation, they chose Boston’s South End – an ethnically and economically diverse community that, like many other American cities at the time, had found itself in the midst of the urban renewal process. The resulting film examines the challenges and opportunities of neighborhood revitalization through the stories of twelve South End residents. The older, working class population is juxtaposed with the more affluent newcomers who are attracted by the prime location and historic architecture as well as the ethnic mix of the neighborhood. While documenting the differences among these residents, the film also reveals their common goals – to make their neighborhood a better place to live. The film remains remarkably relevant today.

Streaming for free courtesy of the filmmakers:
Tony Heriza, Andrew Garrison, Lorna Rasmussen, and Barbara Tuss
WE WILL NOT BE MOVED

1980, 26 min, video
WE WILL NOT BE MOVED is a slide-tape production created by Community Media Productions (Dayton, Ohio) in 1980, with support from the Ohio Arts Council. It tells the story of gentrification from the point of view of those living in Over the Rhine, an urban neighborhood in Cincinnati, Ohio. The area, near downtown Cincinnati, was becoming attractive to urban pioneers and developers, but long time African American and Appalachian residents were determined not be pushed out.

Available for streaming rental ($12.99) from Manilatown Media:
Curtis Choy
THE FALL OF THE I-HOTEL

1983/2005, 59 min, 16mm-to-digital
After a decade of spirited resistance to the razing of Manilatown, the battle for housing in San Francisco ends in the brutal eviction of the elderly tenants of the International Hotel. THE FALL OF THE I-HOTEL serves as witness to the community’s fight to survive, and as a tribute to the dignity and strength of the Manongs. More than a document of the struggle to save the I-Hotel, Choy’s film provides an overview of Filipino American history. This is not just a story about old men in an old building, but of multiple tragedies: ethnic communities redeveloped out of existence, housing gobbled up by realtors, the shabby treatment of the elderly, and the betrayal of American ideals learned in the Philippines by its American pioneers.

Streaming for free courtesy of the filmmaker:
Erik Lewis
WHERE CAN I LIVE – A STORY OF GENTRIFICATION

1983, 33 min, video
WHERE CAN I LIVE tells the story of neighborhood activists who organized to stem the tide of gentrification that began transforming Park Slope, Brooklyn from a mixed working-class neighborhood with many single-room occupancy boarding houses to a middle and upper class enclave. The film, which was broadcast on WNET Channel/Thirteen and unfortunately is still very relevant in the new millennium, explores both the nitty-gritty organizing techniques of residents and the economics and philosophy of gentrification itself in wide-ranging interviews with developers, city planners, and organizers.

Available for streaming rental (for only 99 cents) from Appalshop:
Mimi Pickering
BUFFALO CREEK REVISITED

1984, 31 min, 16mm-to-digital
In 1972 a coal-waste dam owned by the Pittston Company collapsed at the head of a crowded hollow in southern West Virginia, triggering a devastating flood that killed 125 people and left 4,000 more homeless. Produced by the pioneering and invaluable Appalachian media center, Appalshop, Mimi Pickering’s 1975 documentary BUFFALO CREEK FLOOD: AN ACT OF MAN documented the immediate aftermath of the flood, and the Pittston company’s role in the disaster. Ten years later, Pickering returned to the subject for BUFFALO CREEK REVISITED, which reveals the second disaster on Buffalo Creek, in which the survivors’ efforts to return to their properties and rebuild the communities shattered by the flood are thwarted by government insensitivity and a century-old pattern of corporate control of the region’s land and resources. Through the statements of survivors, planners, politicians, psychologists, and community activists, the film explores the psychology of disaster, the emotional, psychological, and cultural toll of losing one’s home and community, and the paradox of a poor people living in a rich land.

Available on YouTube:
Sachiko Hamada & Scott Sinkler
INSIDE LIFE OUTSIDE

1988, 57 min, video
“A nearly hour-long video documentary by Sachiko Hamada and Scott Sinkler – alternately fascinating and depressing in its intimate details and unsentimental candor – chronicling two and a half years in the life of an impoverished extended family camped out in an impromptu shelter on an empty lot in lower Manhattan. One of the most potent documents of its kind.” –Jonathan Rosenbaum, CHICAGO READER

Available for streaming rental ($2.99) from California Newsreel:
Bill Kavanagh & Sylke Froechtenigt
BRICK BY BRICK: A CIVIL RIGHTS STORY

2008, 53 min, digital
BRICK BY BRICK uses the bitter struggle over equal housing rights in Yonkers, New York, during the 1980s to show the “massive resistance” the Civil Rights Movement confronted when it moved north. It offers an illuminating legal history of one of the most important cases in civil rights law, while also giving voice to the thoughts and viewpoints of Yonkers residents on both sides of the issue.

“BRICK BY BRICK, which recounts the monumental struggle between the federal government and Yonkers over segregation in the city’s neighborhoods and schools, is more than just a video flashback to an old news story from the woolly 1980s. It should be a sober warning about the present day. America – never mind Yonkers – still grapples with unsettled issues of poverty and race, and until that conundrum is resolved, it will keep reasserting itself in new and troubling ways. The film is a fascinating artifact, particularly for those too young or too new to Yonkers to remember its relatively recent role as the Birmingham of the Northeast. It lays out the city’s starkly devised gridwork of racial separation. It revisits the heated public meetings and demonstrations that erupted over plans to disperse poor residents from black neighborhoods into white ones. It shows the self-negating stubbornness that led the Yonkers City Council to endure crippling fines over its refusal to bend to a federal judge’s will and enact an affordable housing plan. The story is told through the recollections of three families whose quiet calm and good sense make the swirling madness around them seem all the more surreal. […] The story trickles down to a quiet end with lots of loose ends – the city’s east side becomes more diverse but doesn’t collapse; some white people have a change of heart, but not everybody; poverty in southwest Yonkers continues as usual.” –Lawrence Downes, NEW YORK TIMES

[This chapter in the history of Yonkers was also the basis for the HBO miniseries SHOW ME A HERO (2015, ca. 6 hours), created by David Simon & William F. Zorzi, and directed by Paul Haggis, which is available to HBO subscribers.]

Streaming for free on YouTube:
AMERICA DIVIDED: A HOUSE DIVIDED

2016, 45 min, digital
In this chapter of the five-part documentary series, AMERICA DIVIDED, Norman Lear explores the housing divide and affordability crisis in New York City. Tenants tell stories of what it’s like to live in a building owned by a landlord who is trying to attract higher-paying tenants; Nicole Hannah Jones of the New York Times Magazine discusses entrenched racial segregation and the racial wealth gap; and Lear (who is white) and LB Williams, a black actor/activist with the Fair Housing Justice Center, attempt to rent the same apartment in order to see if the Landlord discriminates based on race.

[streaming for free on YouTube]
Cornelius Swart & Spencer Wolf
NORTHEAST PASSAGE: THE INNER CITY AND THE AMERICAN DREAM

2002, 56 min, digital
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[streaming rental for $3.00]
Cornelius Swart
PRICED OUT

2017, 62 min, digital
“A longtime reporter, Swart’s film assembles a wealth of information about the history of gentrification in the Black neighborhoods of North and Northeast Portland. PRICED OUT is a follow-up to a documentary Swart co-produced in 2002, NORTHEAST PASSAGE, whose central figure, Nikki Williams, spoke in favor of gentrification; PRICED OUT juxtaposes Williams’ perspective with the recent developments that have turned several Portland neighborhoods into playgrounds for white newcomers. It’s as fascinating to watch as it is devastating to comprehend.” –Suzette Smith, PORTLAND MERCURY

Available for streaming rental ($3.39) from 42film:
Đức Ngô Ngọc
FAREWELL HALONG

2017, 98 min, digital
Fear and suspicion of impending resettlement spreads amongst the inhabitants of a floating village in the Ha Long Bay area of northern Vietnam. The cloud hanging over life in the midst of this idyll of lush green islands and sheer cliffs is due to a resettlement program, instigated back in 2014 in order to promote conservation and tourism. Many families have now lived in these floating villages for several generations. They live in wooden houses built on rafts and make ends meet through a combination of fish farming and services aimed at the local tourism industry. Awareness of the impending resettlement brings back memories, as the locals recall tales of poverty, community, strokes of fate, and ultimately the building of independent livelihoods. Despite the government’s promises of financial compensation and housing, these individuals view the prospect of a future on the mainland with both mistrust and sorrow.

Available for streaming rental ($4.99) from Passion River Films:
Vivian Vazquez Irizarry & Gretchen Hildebran
DECADE OF FIRE

2018, 75 min, digital
In the 1970s, the Bronx was on fire. Abandoned by city government, nearly a half-million people were displaced as their close-knit, multi-ethnic neighborhood burned, reducing the community to rubble. While insidious government policies caused the devastation, Black and Puerto Rican residents bore the blame. In this story of hope and resistance, Bronx-born Vivian Vazquez exposes the truth about the borough’s untold history and reveals how her embattled and maligned community chose to resist, remain, and rebuild.

“The well-paced, tightly constructed, often crushingly emotional documentary is stirring and compelling throughout, illuminating both a dark chapter of New York City history and an all-too-common example of the extent to which inner-city people can be unjustly victimized by those in power.” –Nick Rocco Scalia, FILM THREAT

Visit the film’s official site to see an extensive list of resources relating to housing justice organizations and housing reform.

Streaming for free courtesy of the filmmakers:
Compiled by William Fowler & Matthew Harle
LONDON AND LANDLORDS: AN UNFINISHED VIDEO HISTORY

2020, 80 min, digital
February 2020. After 26 years of presenting alternative and underground culture, the future of the Horse Hospital hangs in the balance. Its landlords have demanded a 333% increase in rent and the Horse Hospital has been given a deadline to negotiate with their proprietors, otherwise it faces eviction. This is not an isolated story. Property speculation and private development, aided by willing governments and councils, have fragmented London’s communities and forced the closure of spaces like the Horse Hospital for decades. Here, we contextualize the Horse Hospital’s current struggle in moving image history in an impressionistic, carefully compiled mix, drawing from a rich array of sources, including: broadcast television, community video, corporate video, and alternative film. The material dates as far back as the very early 1960s and runs virtually to the present day. It includes historic reenactments, situationist-style interventions and the recollections of Kenneth Williams.

[The Horse Hospital continues to fight for its existence; for more information about the organization click here.]

Streaming for free on PBS:
Sarah Burns & David McMahon
EAST LAKE MEADOWS: A PUBLIC HOUSING STORY

2020, 106 min, digital
In October 1970, the Atlanta Housing Authority opened a public housing community called East Lake Meadows. Over the next 25 years, many thousands of low-income Atlantans, mostly African-American, would call it home. Residents moved in for hundreds of different reasons and created strong bonds despite the many challenges they faced. But as public housing in America was abandoned and stigmatized, and a crack wave swept through the neighborhood, East Lake Meadows became nearly uninhabitable. In the mid-1990s, Atlanta bulldozed the housing project to make way for new mixed-income housing, as government and philanthropic funds poured into the area in an effort to create a thriving community. Through the stories of former residents, EAST LAKE MEADOWS: A PUBLIC HOUSING STORY raises critical questions about how we, as a nation, have created concentrated poverty and limited housing opportunity for African Americans, and what can be done to address it.

Plus, for Criterion Channel subscribers:

Francesco Rosi
HANDS OVER THE CITY

1963, 100 min, 35mm-to-digital
Rod Steiger is ferocious as a scheming land developer in Francesco Rosi’s HANDS OVER THE CITY, a blistering work of social realism and the winner of the 1963 Venice Film Festival Golden Lion. This expose of the politically driven real-estate speculation that has devastated Naples’s civilian landscape moves breathlessly from a cataclysmic building collapse to the backroom negotiations of civic leaders vying for power in a city council election, laying bare the inner workings of corruption with passion and outrage.

Pedro Costa
COLOSSAL YOUTH

2006, 156 min, digital
Many of the lost souls of Pedro Costa’s earlier films OSSOS and IN VANDA’S ROOM – which depict the lives of the residents of Fontainhas, a neighborhood on the outskirts of Lisbon – return in the spectral landscape of COLOSSAL YOUTH, which brings to Costa’s Fontainhas films a newly theatrical, tragic grandeur. This time, Costa focuses on Ventura, an elderly immigrant from Cape Verde living in a low-cost housing complex in Lisbon, who has been abandoned by his wife and spends his days visiting his neighbors, whom he considers his “children.” What results is a form of ghost story, a tale of derelict, dispossessed people living in the past and present at the same time, filmed by Costa with empathy and startling radiance.


Special thanks to Julia Steele Allen; Alice Apley (Documentary Educational Resources); Miriam Axel-Lute (Shelterforce); Nick Broomfield & Kyle Gibbon; Jim Browne (Argot Pictures); Caroline Cabading (Manilatown Heritage Foundation); Maeve Cavadini; Curtis Choy; Natacha Derycke (Fondation Henri Storck); William Fowler; Chad Freidrichs; Matthew Harle; Christopher Harris; Tony Heriza; Peter Kelly & Tom Sveen (Cinema Guild); Karen Konicek, Erica J. Hill & Christina Hunt (Zipporah Films); Ryan Krivoshey & Nick Newman (Grasshopper Film); Mat Levy (Passion River Films); Erik Lewis; Mark Macey (BBC); Louis Massiah (Scribe Video Center); Cornelius Moore (California Newsreel); Mimi Pickering; Charlotte Procter (LUX); Cornelius Swart; Moira Tierney; Roselly Torres (Third World Newsreel); Arianna Turci (Royal Film Archive of Belgium); and Patricia R. Zimmermann (Ithaca College).

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