Kelly Anderson and Allison Lirish Dean’s exploration of gentrification made its premiere at last year’s Brooklyn Film Festival, picking up an audience award. Since then, it has had a number of largely Brooklyn-focused community and grassroots screenings, as well as the Red Hook and Lund, Sweden’s International Architecture fests.
The film’s tagline, THE BATTLE FOR THE SOUL OF A CITY, signals both its personal and public focus, pointing out the wide-ranging social, cultural, and historical impact of gentrification on an area, and the passion the issue engenders from stakeholders on both sides of the debate. Anderson deliberately positions herself within this complex story of Brooklyn’s gentrification, both as an early gentrifier – moving to the borough in 1988 to take advantage of the cheaper rents – and as its victim – changes to her neighborhood pricing her out of her longtime home. As Anderson and her neighbors face the controversial redevelopment of the Fulton Mall – a consistently profitable shopping district with a cherished history that has long catered largely to the areas African American population – she profiles a number of the individuals whose livelihood and homes will be affected, while also candidly acknowledging the contradictory feelings she experiences about the proposed changes. Smartly, however, Anderson expands the scope of her film beyond the strictly personal – and beyond the specificity of Brooklyn – to consider the factors that come to play in gentrification in general, both historically and in the present: class, race, politics, economics, and, greed. The result is a film that intelligently confronts a phenomenon that is more and more common around the world, but one that many would rather not directly address.