Winner of the Best First Feature award at the 2010 Locarno Film Festival, this documentary is very geographically specific. Discreetly hidden away in a tiny part of New York, between the new Citi Field baseball stadium and the Van Wyck overpass, lies a ramshackle collection of auto-body repair shops and other small businesses, staffed by an extraordinarily multicultural cast of characters. This engrossing documentary explores what happens when the march of "progress" comes knocking—a sentiment that audiences should find has universal echoes. The high niche value of this film paired with its engaging direction makes it a perfect candidate for sleeper success.
In the world of documentaries, subject matter remains paramount. Here, filmmakers Véréna Paravel and J.P. Sniadecki focus on a changing area of New York where a haphazard collection of repairs shops and small businesses find themselves on the agenda for civic upgrading.
The New York City authorities have targeted the area of Willets Point in Queens for development, complete with apartments, malls and parks. This commercial shantytown may soon be a memory, which is precisely the filmmaker's justification for capturing it all before it vanishes. Paravel and Sniadecki have created a revealing and affectionate portrait of the area that reflects, in their words, "the many roads the American Dream has taken," encapsulated neatly over these few acres.
In this strange community, wrecks, refuse and recycling form a thriving commerce. Cars are stripped, sorted and catalogued by brand and part, then resold to an endless parade of drive-thru customers. It's all very ecologically sound—recycling rather than discarding.
In among the mountains of metal we find such characters as Joe, the last original resident, who rages and rallies through the street like a lost King Lear, trying to contest his imminent eviction. Two lovers, Sara and Luis, struggle for food and safety through the winter while living in an abandoned van. Julia, the homeless queen of the junkyard, exalts in her beatific visions of daily life among the forgotten.
The reinvention of this neighborhood may be in the cause of progress for New York's urban landscape, but sometimes you can't help feeling that the planners and the bureaucrats should leave well-enough alone.
Contact: Véréna Paravel email@example.com, J.P. Sniadecki firstname.lastname@example.org
Directors/Screenwriters: Véréna Paravel and J.P. Sniadecki
Producer: J.P. Sniadecki
Running time: 80 min
Release date: March 10 NY