22 Mar We’re in the Home Stretch
After well over six years of shooting, and two solid years of editing, our latest film project, Battle of Brooklyn, is starting to become a movie. Over the next three months we hope to finish post production and premier it at a major film festival.
The film chronicles the efforts of community activists struggling to save their homes, and their community, in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, from a massive arena development project that involves enormous government subsidies. While our film deals with the larger social and political issues involved with the project including the abuse of eminent domain, and the lack of democratic process, it increasingly focuses on our main character Daniel Goldstein and his family. While fighting to save his home and stop the project, Daniel met fellow neighborhood activist Shabnam Merchant. As the fight went on, they got married, and had a child. On March 1st, 2010, the State of New York took the title of their home and intended to lease the land underneath it (as part of a 21 acre project) to the developer of the Atlantic Yards project.
On Thursday, March 11th, 2010, we filmed the ceremonial groundbreaking for the project, as well as the vocal protest that accompanied it. We hooked up with the New York Times Local neighborhood blog to get in our shooter in exchange for us cutting a short video of the event for them.
Usually groundbreaking ceremonies are opportunities for elected officials to line up and take credit for bringing a project to fruition. In this case, not a single elected official that represents any community within miles of the project showed up. The six Brooklyn politicians in the tent all have financial ties to the developer and represent neighborhoods that don’t intersect with the site and are unlikely to be directly affected by the negative impacts of the massive project. Inside the tent, while the crowds of press people and supporters of the project,ate lobster sliders and other fancy finger foods, hundreds of protesters took to the streets, struggling to get close enough to the tent to be heard. They were.
With six cameras rolling for most of the day, we captured a lot of powerful footage that will help us close our story with a bang. We recently showed a rough cut of the first half of the film to a crowd in Dallas. Afterwards we explained that we hadn’t set out to make an activist film. An audience member quickly disavowed us of the notion that we had succeeded in that goal. It’s true. There are so many things so egregiously wrong with this project and this process that no thoughtful documentarian could come to the conclusion that justice prevailed. Still, the film is as evenhanded as possible.
In the end, the heroes of our story lost their fight, and their home. However, like George Washington after the first Battle of Brooklyn, it is quite likely that they will win the war. It seems as if there is finally the political will to change the eminent domain laws in NY.
Support is still needed to help us complete the film. You can make a tax deductible donation through our fiscal sponsor MPI. You can also send a check to MPI – simply put BATTLE in the subject line and they will get us the money right away.
Moving Picture Institute
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New York, NY 10013