Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Emergent City (2024) Tribeca 2024

An exploration of the efforts to revitalize and gentrify the Industry City section of Brooklyn New York.

Observational look at the people trying to change a section of New York. Whether it's for the better or for the worse depends on your point of view. The film is a look at the people in the neighborhoods, the board rooms and the government offices. We watch as various events, big and small play out, while occasionally hearing interviews and news reports to help give things a context.

I had always thought it was impossible to make a dull film about New York City but EMERGENT CITY put me to sleep the first two times I watched the film.  I eventually made it through the film  but it took a great effort to do so.  There is something about the way that directors Kelly Anderson and Jay Arthur Sterrenberg have arranged the material that makes it less then compelling.

Part of the problem is that watching the film it isn't immediately clear what we are watching or why we are being shown. Yes they talk to us about Brooklyn, and Industry City, and they show us life in the borough, but at the same time it doesn't seem focused. What exactly am I watching and why? The best observational documentaries grab you from the start and pull you in. The work of Frederick Wiseman can be rambling at times but it's always pretty clear what we are seeing. EMERGENT CITY didn't seem to be focused at the start and so the images of life in Brooklyn just hung there unconnected to anything.

The other problem is that the film is weirdly too observational. Yes we are watching life and events play out, but there isn't an urgency. What makes certain scenes so important? We should be pulled into events and carried along. You can't make a documentary about the revitalization of a section of the city and come out of it wanting to know more about the two kids arguing on a front stoop that is one of the first images in the film. I wanted to know more about them and their lives and not about everything else

While far from bad,  there are some interesting discussions here, but none of it is really compelling, or more to the point the wrong things are compelling.

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