I’ve watched a lot of films about gentrification over the past couple of years, and thought about how to approach it. I am currently working on a documentary style film about gentrification and public space in Olympia, WA. It seems that no one — not in Olympia, but in the entire country — really knows what to do about it, or how to approach it. Everyone has their “in a perfect world…” solution, but not everybody is on the same page about what that perfect world should look like. People have been especially mystified by gentrification since the dot.com boom era.
The most intriguing of these films I would say is a PBS POV documentary produced by Laura Poitras and Linda Bryan called “Flag Wars“. It’s an early 2000s film about a white gay community displacing black working class neighborhoods in Columbus, Ohio. The film is unique because the filmmakers were somehow able to show each angle of the story exactly how the angle might have portrayed itself. The real estate agents, for example, are shown at wine parties talking about how much money they’ll make fucking over a black single mom, etc.
There is also an interesting and pretty low-budget film by Andrea Meller called “156 Rivington” about the displacement of the white working class and the anarchist artist community in New York City, created in 2002.
Below I’ve linked the entire sequence of “Boom: The Sound of Eviction” created by Mark Liiv, Jeff Taylor, Francine Cavanaugh and Adams Wood in San Francisco, 2001. This film is done in very predictable documentary fashion, but this is helpful because there are no surprises. You’re not left questioning the status of the filmmaker’s objectives, if they have any, and whether the dialogue was scripted (like in Flag Wars.)