You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

My Brooklyn

Striking a fine balance between personal journal and political expose, Kelly Anderson's docu examines the unnatural causes of changes wrought in Brooklyn neighborhoods due to gentrification.

With: Jamel Shabazz, Rahsun Houston, Charles Barron, Craig Wilder, Purnima Kapur, Joe Chan, Alyssa Katz, Tom Angotti.

Striking a fine balance between personal journal and political expose, Kelly Anderson’s docu examines the unnatural causes of changes wrought in Brooklyn neighborhoods due to gentrification. Unsurprisingly, the film, like 2011’s “Battle for Brooklyn,” presents yet another example of how large corporations, working in collusion with city government, can legally destroy communities, riding roughshod over the rights of the middle- and lower-class inhabitants they dispossess. Filled with colorful, articulate neighborhood champions, this absorbing pic eschews militant outrage for a quietly devastating look at social commodification. Bowing Jan. 4 in Gotham, “My Brooklyn” should rock on cable.

Anderson begins her film by enumerating the various sections of Brooklyn in which she lived, attracted to their low rents and diverse communities, only to discover that, as a young, white, middle-class woman, she was part of the gentrifying wave that soon chased away the very people she had sought to join and sent property values soaring, chasing her out as well.

Anderson manages to personalize her docu just enough to place herself in the socioeconomic picture and show where she’s coming from, never thrusting herself as a subject into the narrative, but lending the docu an engagingly informal note. Her moves from Park Slope to Boerum Hill to Fort Greene, before these locales became “fashionable brands,” focus almost exclusively on shots of ethnically mixed neighbors and neighborhoods. She seems to grudgingly accept gentrification as an unfortunate, unscripted change.

But when the city unveils a plan to raze the colorful, cheap Fulton Mall (the third most successful shopping area in the entire city and a meeting place for blacks and Latinos from all boroughs) in favor of luxury housing towers, upscale office buildings and expensive franchise shops, Anderson resolves to find out, in her words, what Brooklyn is becoming and who is calling the shots.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg, in an excerpted TV appearance, makes no attempt to disguise the language that turns viable community space with affordable shopping into an outright commodity: “New York is in a fierce competitive worldwide competition. We must offer the best product and sell it forcefully.” In this global marketplace, people are perceived as mere consumers, the more affluent the better. Residents of loftier Brooklyn neighborhoods show disdain or condescension when speaking of the Fulton Mall, while longtime habitues are appalled by this wholesale eradication of their gathering place.

A dissident city council member speaks of the powerlessness of ordinary people to sway the will of real-estate giants in bed with politicos. Photog Jamel Shabazz (himself the subject of Charlie Ahearn’s recent docu) tells of the milieu where he grew up, his pictures offering wondrous snapshots of communal Brooklyn life. Anderson interviews social workers and shopkeepers in downtown Brooklyn, forced to relocate decades-old, one-of-a-kind businesses without compensation. A bookstore owner mourns the loss of a repository of African-American history, while record stores fold in an area where hip-hop first famously flourished.

Popular on Variety

My Brooklyn


Production: A New Day Films production. Produced by Allison Lirish Dean, Kelly Anderson. Co-producer, Lisa Willis. Directed by Kelly Anderson.

Crew: Camera (color, HD), Chris Dapkins, Quenell Jones, Laela Kilbourn, Edin Velez; editor, Kathryn Barnier; music, Benjamin Fries, Simon Beins; sound, Dapkins, Fivel Rothberg; re-recording mixers, Martin Czembor, Bill Seery. Reviewed on DVD, New York, Dec. 29, 2012. Running time: 77 MIN.

With: With: Jamel Shabazz, Rahsun Houston, Charles Barron, Craig Wilder, Purnima Kapur, Joe Chan, Alyssa Katz, Tom Angotti.

More Film

  • Julia Roberts Harriet Tubman

    Studio Exec Suggested Julia Roberts Play Harriet Tubman, 'Harriet' Screenwriter Says

    Multi-talented multi-hyphenate Cynthia Erivo plays Harriet Tubman in Kasi Lemmons’ biopic “Harriet.” But according to “Harriet’s” screenwriter, Gregory Allen Howard, Julia Roberts — yes, white woman Julia Roberts — was once suggested by a studio executive to play the role. In a Q&A for “Harriet” studio Focus Features as well as a piece for the [...]

  • Atlantics

    Variety Names 10 Directors to Watch for 2020

    Before film critics start summing up the present year at the movies with a deluge of Top 10 lists, Variety gazes into the medium’s future by announcing its annual 10 Directors to Watch — a lineup of filmmaking talents who’ve stood out on the recent festival circuit, or whose movies will soon be hitting screens [...]

  • Napa Valley Film Festival Winners: 'Lucky

    'Lucky Grandma' Wins Napa Valley Film Festival Narrative Feature Prize

    “Lucky Grandma,” “The Remix: Hip Hop in Fashion” and “The Nomads” were among the winners of the Napa Valley Film Festival, which ran Nov. 13-17 in various towns in the valley. The winner of the narrative feature was “Lucky Grandma,” presented by ZD Wines, which won a $10,000 cash prize, courtesy of Meadowood Napa Valley. [...]

  • Brad Pitt stars in “Ad Astra”.

    'Ad Astra' to Blast Off in China in December

    The Brad Pitt-starring sci-fi blockbuster “Ad Astra” will land in Chinese theaters on December 6, more than two months after its U.S. debut. Directed, co-written and produced by James Gray (“The Lost City of Z,” “Two Lovers”), the thriller also stars Tommy Lee Jones, Liv Tyler, Donald Sutherland and Ruth Negga. Pitt plays an astronaut [...]

  • Fred Wolf to Direct 'Love 40'

    Film News Roundup: Fred Wolf to Direct Tennis Rom-Com 'Love 40'

    In today’s film news roundup, Fred Wolf is directing a romantic comedy in New York; Leah Remini, Chinoye Chukwu, Marielle Heller and Lulu Wang receive honors; and the topless bar documentary “Red Dog” finds a home. ‘LOVE 40’ Bluewater Lane Productions has brought on Fred Wolf to co-write and direct the romantic comedy “Love 40,” [...]

  • Doppelgänger Red (Lupita Nyong'o) and Adelaide

    Lupita Nyong'o Follows Hollywood's Tradition of Two Roles in One Film

    Peter Sellers played three roles in Stanley Kubrick’s 1964 “Dr. Strangelove.” In December of that year, Variety reported that Columbia was mounting an Oscar campaign for lead actor, but was also considering three supporting-actor campaigns, for each of his characters. (They settled on one campaign, and Sellers’ nomination as lead actor was one of the [...]

  • 'Legion' TV show premiere

    Noah Hawley to Write and Direct Next 'Star Trek' Movie

    “Fargo” and “Legion” creator Noah Hawley has been tapped to write and direct the next installment of the “Star Trek” franchise, sources tell Variety. Though plot details are being kept under wraps, sources tell Variety the next “Star Trek” is expected to see Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Karl Urban and Zoe Saldana returning to man [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content