Residue @ Slamdance

 

Gentrification. Let’s unpack that word. What it means. Or more precisely, what it means today. Today areas of large cities which have traditionally been where lower income earners have lived have all of a sudden become “hot” spots and higher income earners start buying property, condos start being built and soon enough property prices start going up. This means that the people who have always lived in the area cannot afford to live there anymore.

Why is this a bad thing? Some think it must be good if nice and higher value properties are built it is good. No, it actually means there are fewer places for lower income people to live. Lower income people tend to be people of colour, visible minorities or other people coming from the fringes of society. So gentrification also brings with it issues of class and race. Populations already living financially precarious lives are put in even riskier places.

Director/screenwriter Merawi Gerima has decided in his debut feature film to tackle this issue. Complex and layered a subject, it requires, to be done well, an intricate film.

Times have moved on in his childhood Washington, D.C. neighbourhood. Jay (Obinna Nwachukwu – first feature film) returns home and finds everything different. The neighbourhood itself has changed. Even the way people see him has changed.

This rings clear when he discovers his longtime friend Demetrius has disappeared. He attempts to try and find out where he is, but no one in the neighbourhood seems to trust Jay enough to give him the answers he is seeking. As a result, his frustration mounts and he no longer feels like this is “home”.

Things get even more frustrating for the young filmmaker after visiting his last childhood friend Dion in jail. He now is just angry and has no one to turn to.

While at times the film was a little too esoteric in its execution, there is plenty to like about director Gerima’s style and voice. He demonstrates himself to be a filmmaker not afraid to tackle difficult subjects as he can rely on his instincts as a storyteller and intelligence.

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