has made the most salient and personal film about Brooklyn’s
ever-changing face since Hal Ashby’s The Landlord
appeared in theaters some 43 years ago. GUT RENOVATION
is bound to polarize audiences. It’s a polemical
howl in the night, a desperately angry and sidesplittingly
funny look at one oh-so-mythologized neighborhood’s
transformation…[It’s] a film essay that is
of a piece with the work of heady French names like Godard
and Varda.” - Brandon
Harris, FILMMAKER MAGAZINE
NEW YORK TIMES
A Work in Progress, From the Inside Out 3/5/13
An alternate title for “Gut Renovation,” Su Friedrich’s cranky, sarcastic documentary polemic about the gentrification of a Brooklyn neighborhood, might be “The Rape of Williamsburg.”
Her nickname for the neighborhood is Condoburg.
To justify the demolition of much of the area, developers claimed that industry in Williamsburg was moribund. Not true, insists Ms. Friedrich, who interviewed many owners of small businesses on the eve of their evictions…..Where they are resigned and fatalistic, Ms. Friedrich is fighting mad. She is a provocateur…
The funniest scene involves the removal of a giant rock, which is too large and heavy to be carted away in one piece, a problem that takes weeks to solve.
The images of Williamsburg in the wake of a gold rush are not attractive. As pictured by Ms. Friedrich, who photographed the movie, it is a mostly ugly architectural mishmash executed without an overall vision, beyond the prospect for developers of making as much money as quickly as possible.
“Gutting Home: ‘Gut Renovation’ Takes on Gentrification in Williamsburg”
The word gentrification never appears in filmmaker Su Friedrich’s “Gut Renovation,” now playing at the Film Forum through Tuesday. But the word doesn’t have to be spoken — it’s there in every shot, every frame; a personal, ringside view of the remaking of Williamsburg.
This is not a balanced perspective on gentrification. And therein lies its strength, not in camerawork but in raw, emotional editing and storytelling.
In “Gut,” Friedrich’s affection for her neighborhood, its people, its food and its aesthetic, clashes violently with the forces of economics, in muted protests and unwelcome city inspections.
The basic narrative is broken up into little vignettes, focusing on a building, a business, a community meeting, a stubborn boulder that offers one of the lighter moments of the film when it refuses to be broken apart by construction workers. Until it is.
Early in the film Friedrich wonders aloud if she is a dinosaur watching the first snowflake. The difference is that this dinosaur had a camera. Unapologetically personal, “Gut Renovation” is a singular but incredibly meaningful perspective on a faceless, multifaceted phenomenon. But the documentary manages to give the impact of gentrification a face and ascribe to it a voice.
If you are a developer or a bureaucrat, this is not your film. This is Su Friedrich’s film, her outrage. Take it or leave it.
“Raw Anger Permeates a New Fim About Gentrification in Williamsburg, Brooklyn” 3/2013
She tells a tale of rampant demolition and new construction with a mixture of outrage, bewilderment, and sorrow that is leavened (fortunately) with some self-deprecating wit. This is by no means a balanced journalistic account, but rather a howl of disbelief. From the first frame to the last, Friedrich pounds away – like the pile drivers on the construction site across the street that made her life hell for months on end. All the considerable frustration and anxiety embodied in the insane New York real estate market find expression here.
Friedrich may be filled with righteous anger and deep sorrow, but she never loses her sense of humor. Particularly amusing are her tours of various open houses for cramped, cookie-cutter apartments selling for hundreds of thousands of dollars. She may be trying, but she just can’t pretend to be anything other than furious, and her barbed and bitter commentary invariably ruffles the people showing her around. You can see the alarm in their eyes: just who is this woman, anyway? She seems like she might be dangerous.
Maybe she is. Artists are supposed to be that way, after all.