“The system is broken.”

We hear and read the above line all the time, in reference to malpractices and injustices within government and business, when it seems there is no real answer. The line is a falsehood. Stating that a method of control is broken suggests that it was perfect at some point. Who are the majority leaders of the world? Who mostly benefit from their decisions? Who are routinely put down and shut out? There IS an answer, and it’s not pleasant: The system IS perfect, and is working just the way it was designed to.

Not in My Neighbourhood, the globe-trotting documentary from filmmaker Kurt Oderson, follows three different cities, bonded together by the activists and citizens taking the answer to task, and changing the questions towards the powers that be. We visit Cape Town, Sao Paulo and Brooklyn, each facing destructive practices against long-time residents in the service of “renovation” and “progress” – or, gentrification.

The G word is one very familiar to New Orleanians, who know all too well the avenues for funneling riches that can come from devastation. Katrina was the opportunity to do what had been wanted for a long time, and to do it while wearing the mask of restoration and improvement. The storm forced many out. The “system” conveniently moved their names off the books. And now, we find ourselves turning into a theme park. Not in my Neighbourhood dwells not on the depressing aftermath of people losing homes or communities losing heritage, but instead stays with the ongoing struggle to keep the pressure on. To be the check and balance for what is supposed to work for everyone, not only for a few.

Engrossing and most impactful. We witness people, everyday people, occupy abandoned buildings to provide shelter for families and force government recognition in Brazil. In South Africa, folks show up to official conferences and demand straight responses. And, of course, Brooklynites are out and about, filming cops and being foot soldiers. The editing is seamless, the photography has a “captured in the moment” in your face feel, forcing one to look directly at immorality and state-sponsored terror – which is what denying affordable housing and property is.

Oderson differentiates the locations at first, clearly defining setting with titles and context, lulling us into an established sense of where the film is coming from. Same problems, different street signs. Eventually, everything blurs. Through stunning audio mixing and aesthetic weaponry, never overbearing or pretentious, places that are oceans apart become one. Utilizing cinematic confetti, Oderson finds a way to build a bridge to one environment, which is really more of a goal than anything; Justice.

Subtitled nearly to death (though the effort is appreciated), Not in my Neighbourhood showcases the vibrant heart of the people power, of Black Lives Matter, of Occupy Housing, of all movements to ensure basic rights are given back. There’s no room here for fashion statement protestors; everyone in this documentary is in it for life. We become emotionally invested in each activist and citizen highlighted. Well, by we, I mean those who are generally empathetic.

“Fix your heart.”

You know, in case you don’t identify with anyone in this movie at all.

RATING: 4 / 5

The documentary screens at The Broad this Friday, September 7th, courtesy of Patois New Orleans International Film Festival and Jane Place Neighborhood Sustainability Initiative. A discussion will follow the presentation.


Editor’s note:  If you enjoy Bill’s film reviews, be sure to check out some of his earlier work for Big Easy Magazine!

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