Battle for Brooklyn (at the Roxie Jan 13 and 19 at 7 & 9pm)
Posed as neither a left nor a right issue (though George Will does drift into view at one improbable moment), Michael Galinsky’s powerful documentary does the exhaustive, long-haul work of charting the fight between residents and business owners in Brooklyn’s Prospect Heights as they oppose the condemnation of their property — oh-so-inconveniently in the way of the proposed Atlantic Yards, a mammoth Frank Gehry-designed development involving a basketball arena for the New Jersey Nets and more than a dozen skyscrapers. The scrappy residents and activists, led in part by graphic designer Daniel Goldstein, face seemingly unbeatable forces: developer Forest City Ratner, which looks to Eminent Domain to seize a community’s land, whether it likes it or not; a complicit and corrupt state and city government; and other members of a diverse, divided community who are clamoring for the jobs that Ratner’s PR machine promises.
Screening at the Maysles Center in Harlem and
Brooklyn Heights Cinema in December
”…The pundits who continue to say they don’t understand what the protesters behind Occupy Wall Street want should look at Battle for Brooklyn, the award-winning documentary about the Atlantic Yards that was released this summer. The film was released before the Wall Street protests began, but the story it tells is a strong summary of the crony capitalism that sparked the OWS movement.”
— Michael O’Keeffe, New York Daily News
Brooklyn, NY, November 21, 2011 – Battle for Brooklyn, co-directed by Suki Hawley and Michael Galinsky and produced by David Beilinson, is a documentary about the struggle of one man, Daniel Goldstein, and his community to save their homes from from being demolished to make way for a new basketball arena as part of the largest development plan in New York City history, currently under construction in downtown Brooklyn, NY.
This intimate, rigorous and infuriating investigation of the seven-year long fight between a small neighborhood in Brooklyn and one of the largest real estate developers in the country captures the cultural zeitgeist that has people revolting against big banks in the Occupy Wall Street movement.
Brooklyn filmmakers Hawley and Galinsky present an epic and universal tale of one man under pressure, and how far he will go to save his community and his home from private developers and their allies in government who want to build a basketball arena on top of it. Along the way, he loses a fiancée, falls in love again, gets married, and starts a family. Shot over the course of eight years and compiled from almost 500 hours of footage, Battle for Brooklyn is an intimate look at the very public and passionate fight waged by one Brooklyn community to save their neighborhood from destruction and exploitation by industry giants.
About a month ago we screened our film “Battle for Brooklyn” in Bellingham Washington. After the film I mentioned to people that they could support the film by writing reviews on the NY Times readers review section. At that point we had 12 powerfully positive reviews and a five star rating (based on 84 votes). A couple of days later I checked to see if anyone had written a review. There was a new review, but the site now said that the film had 29 ratings and a 1 star. Obviously something was wrong.
Battle for Brooklyn is back on the big screen at the Brooklyn Heights Cinema on Wednesday, Nov 9, at 7pm.
Brooklyn Heights Cinema is at 70 Henry Street.
Seattle’s Northwest Film Forum cinema, as part of its “Remaking the Metropolis” mini-festival, is screening Battle for Brooklyn nightly from October 7th to 13th.
> Seattle Times review:
Some wins, some losses in ‘Battle for Brooklyn’
(3 of 4 Stars)
"…Hawley and Galinsky, a longtime wife-and-husband documentary team, bring real suspense to the story, culled from many hundreds of hours of footage. Both opposing sides talk about "the soul of Brooklyn"; what’s also clear, from this movie, is a powerful sense of finding home."
> Seattle’s The Stranger review:
Battle for Brooklyn presents a complex struggle between those at the top, those in the middle, and those at the bottom. Those at the top (Jay-Z, developers, the mayor) want to transform a section of Brooklyn into a profit-making machine. Those in the middle (mostly white) do not want to be displaced by this development. And those at the bottom (mostly black) have been bought by those at the top to politically promote the displacement of those in the middle. The documentary is fair and engaging from beginning to end. “
The media times are changing. Early on in discussing “Occupy Wall Street,” the media echo chamber repeated the idea that the protesters didn’t have real demands, implying that they were therefore irrelevant. It was the wrong note to hit because the people weren’t buying it. For the most part the comments section on the NY Times (as an example) was fast and furious in expressing outrage at the articles’ tone. The people are no longer buying what the media is selling on this issue.
The thinking, up to now, has been that everything needs to be about organization, fund raising, and clear messaging. “The movement has failed,” the media declared, ignoring the fact the the movement had different goals. However, the message that is coming from the movement is that THE PEOPLE are fed up with these false structures.
I stayed up late last night looking at footage from the occupy wall street protest. For the most part it’s pretty mild stuff. There are very few truncheons swinging. Yet the tone of dismissal and power is overwhelming. There’s a palpable anger among the officers even as the protesters remain non-violent. What’s even more disturbing is that the white shirts (the supervisors) are responsible for the most egregious acts of violence in both the mace video and the one of the orange shirted café worker who is trying to figure out what’s going on.
For the most part the protests have gone un-reported (up until the violence of this weekend). Slowly the media started to pick up on some of the more violent police actions. In reference to uncut footage of a supervisor macing 3 calm women, a police spokesperson claimed that the footage was “doctored”. It’s uncut footage. The supervisor walks up and sprays mace in their faces and walks away. The footage is clear. I take particular offense at these charges because as filmmakers we take great pains to be even handed, yet we get accused of creating “propaganda”. When those who are inside the tent, and used to controlling the message, are confronted with a counter narrative they often get very angry.
Today I went down to a tent on the plaza of the Atlantic Center mall to see Jay Z make a “surprise” announcement that he will do 8 shows at the arena and that the team will be called the Brooklyn Nets. It was a total bread and circus moment. While there are hundreds of people protesting on Wall Street there were hundreds of press people at this press event dutifully reporting the dominant narrative that they were led to. When I pointed this out to press people they didn’t see the irony.
When I first arrived (at the wrong location) I saw Marty Markowitz talking to an ABC news reporter.
I offered Marty a copy of the film. He refused to take it and told me that it was propaganda. I explained that I made the film and asked if he had seen it. “No, but I have had plenty of people tell me that it’s propaganda.” I told him that I took offense at that notion as I had taken great pains to make it even handed. I asked him again if he was sure that he didn’t want a copy. He did not. I didn’t film this exchange because I had no ill intent. I sincerely wanted him to have a chance to view the film. I offered one to the reporter as I had filmed him at the ground breaking. He didn’t want one either. Then Marty yelled at me that they didn’t have to take one. (UPDATE: As I thought about this later I thought it was pretty hypocritical of Mr. Markowitz to accuse me of being a propagandist while organizing a propaganda event)
BATTLE FOR BROOKLYN just completed a successful run at the Laemmle Music Hall 3 in Los Angeles from August 19 to August 26.
Here is some of the Los Angeles press coverage:
One week after the Los Angeles City Council approved a new NFL stadium, Battle for Brooklyn opens in Los Angeles as a cautionary tale for Angelenos hearing the same overhyped pie-in-the-sky job and revenue promises we’ve seen broken here in Brooklyn.
LA Neighbors United founder Cary Brazeman makes the connection, The “Battle for Brooklyn” Is Our Fight, Too, along with former LA Daily News editor Ron Kaye, 'Battle For Brooklyn' — How Politicians and a Developer Trashed a Neighborhood for an Arena.