An uplifting, high energy doc about an independent parking lot in Charlottesville, Virginia, this film has what so many films reach towards and miss: character. The attendants of this small lot are the most endearing, fully-fledged human beings you'll likely find, and the context in which they became these fully-fledged humans is this lot. A "simple business" according to the owner of the place for the last 24 years, The Corner Parking Lot runs its till out of a spiral notebook, handles its entrants with a thin wooden gate and manages its fees by a clock reading attendant. These attendants, many of them students from the neighboring college ("Anthropology students work out well"), are solitary the majority of their workday (or work night), and while they're on duty they hold both lock and key to the "store." For reasons of practicality, the attendants show their attachment to the lot via feigned apathy: when a customer says, "I don't really have change" the attendant's response with hand extended is, "I don't really care," but when a customer drives through the pay station without stopping that same cavalier attendant chases after the car and kicks it in the street. With all this time on their hands, punctuated with occasional moments of authoritative crowd (or disaster) control, these attendants invest themselves in the business and, at the same time, in their own personal development. The Corner Parking Lot is the capitalist dream, and it looks a lot shabbier than you'd expect but boy is it magic. The Parking Lot Movie is undistributed and playing a week at Brooklyn's ReRun Theater beginning August 6th. Minus some college-appropriate language, the film could play to any audience and the comic sweetness mixed with upbeat pacing and uplifting message makes it a classic crowd pleaser.
In every city, with its pockets of idiosyncrasy, there's a mythic, rent-controlled apartment building, lorded over by a quirky senior citizen (typically a cat-wielding old lady). Gaining entrance into the building requires not a credit check but a personality test; less interested in financial reliability, this crazy landlady wants a house full of "characters." The Corner Parking Lot is like that mythic building but with cars. This makes it a treasure trove for director Meghan Eckman, who depicts the down-time tomfoolery of the attendants alongside their hardnosed protection of the workplace with a rather traditionalist documentary neutrality. Certainly we see a few flourishes (like the sweeping crane shot that bookends the film), but in sum the position Eckman takes is that of a detached observer and this gives her subjects all the room they need to shine; in this, she's a lot like the Lot's owner, who entrusts the attendants and finds that trust returned to him in spades.
Eckman doesn't venture outside of the Lot but once, to see an attendant at a corporate lot across the way, and this corporate attendant's job looks like a soulless grind...but it also looks a lot safer and easier than the work at the Corner Lot. While the attendants at the Corner Lot face pissing drunkards and douche bag frat boys--making the lot look like a microcosm for class war in America--they're also at liberty to be very expressive. When the place needs a temporary boundary they use cardboard, and because the attendants have time on their hands, they decorate. Their thin wooden gate is always festooned with words or phrases, the eccentricities of which are vast. Graduates of this almost-college of life have gone on to fill incredible and varied posts: Senior Librarian for the Metropolitan Museum, Chief of Science and Resource Management for the National Park Service of Georgia, the bass player for Yo La Tengo. When one of them says, "It's not just a parking lot, it's a battle for humanity," he's not overdramatizing. But as the best documentaries are so keen to show us, theory doesn't resemble practice, and it's in practice that our nation's strongest principals (like capitalism, which America has a great capacity to pollute) find their most useful and ideal expression.
Contact: Meghan Eckman, (434) 227-0517, email@example.com
Director/Producer: Meghan Eckman
Running time: 74 min
Release date: August 6 NY