Tomorrow night, with My Brooklyn, Filmwax kicks off its documentary screening series Brooklyn Reconstructed, featuring seven films about development and gentrification that will be screened one a month through January at the Brooklyn Society for Ethical Culture in Park Slope. We spoke to Filmwax’s Adam Schartoff about development in Brooklyn, and why there are so many documentaries about our borough.
Why put on a series like this now?
The films are all movies that were made over many years, and documented a changing city in ways that the “media” has been unable to. In large part I think they were inspired by a wave of “development without representation.” In each case the filmmakers observed a government/business effort to push through zoning changes that brought massive revenue to developers in ways that denied any real input to those citizens most affected by the plans. Gentrification and development are nothing new. But what’s taken place in neighborhoods like Williamsburg and Downtown Brooklyn, to name just two, are the results of a very different phenomena. While being floated as normal change, in fact what we’ve seen in the past decade is not organic gentrification, but a remarkably calculated land grab designed by our mayor, the City Planning Committee and a few greedy developers. These folks are owning both sides of the argument. It’s rather impressive, really.
What’s at stake?
What’s at stake is that the same people we are electing into office are swiping away our neighborhoods and manipulating laws to do so. For example, a number of the films go into great details about the abuses of eminent domain. The good news is that while what’s happened in Williamsburg and Downtown is a fait accompli, there are still many other neighborhoods that are under scrutiny. If the residents of those neighborhoods get involved now, there’s much that can be done to protect their communities. By the way, the documentaries in this series are as personal as they are political. And though they are political, they are rarely polemical.
Who do you hope to reach?
Another unique dimension to the series is that I wanted to approach it as a cooperative effort. So I am inviting all the filmmakers, their films’ subjects, and various other activists, politicians, neighbors, and business owners to take part in the overall series, not just in their own film. By the way, I welcome any developers, planners or others who feel that the development that’s taken place is a good thing to join us.