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Gut RenovationGut Renovation

A film by Su Friedrich
81 minutes, color, USA, 2012

This film is available for rental at Public Screenings. Please send your inquiry to info@outcast-films.com.

A documentary of small changes evolves into an historical record of New York. The resulting film is a melancholy, essayistic requiem for a neighborhood and an entire way of life; it also provides a case study of the rapid gentrification of our cities.

In 1989, together with a group of female friends, Su Friedrich rented and renovated an old loft in Williamsburg, an unassuming working-class district of Brooklyn. In 2005 this former industrial zone was designated a residential area and the factories, manufacturers and artists' lofts were priced out by property speculators lured by tax breaks. Friedrich spent five years documenting with her camera the changes in the area between East River and the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway. She shows the demolition of industrial buildings and the construction of trendy new apartments for wealthy clients, watching old tenants leave and new inhabitants arrive. As she keeps meticulous record of developments, the extent and speed of the upheaval becomes clear. Her own tenancy agreement expires too and so her documentary images and trenchant commentary become the tools of her growing anger.

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what they're saying


GUT RENOVATION is an ideal accompaniment for any course that discusses the costs of gentrification and the impact of growing inequalities on the middle classes as well as the poor...As Friedrich documents the process of her own eviction, we learn more than any treatise could tell us about the political and economic underpinnings of gentrification and the emotional costs of displacement. - Ida Susser, Professor, Hunter College and CUNY Graduate Center

GUT RENOVATION provides a personal account of the demolition and the resulting physical, social, and economic changes in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Filmed over a five-year period, the film chronicles the rapid change of Williamsburg from a working-class industrial neighborhood to a neighborhood of residential condominiums catering to upper income households. Contrary to policymakers’ descriptions of the former neighborhood as moribund, the film highlights the displacement of businesses from the formerly vibrant industrial neighborhood. In doing so the filmmaker calls into question public policies that hastened real estate development in Williamsburg. This film is of interest to urban planners, policy makers, and urban designers involved in the shaping of the built environment. - Suzanne Lanyi Charles, Assistant Professor of Architecture, Northeastern University

GUT RENOVATION ignites and engages college audiences. Like Jane Jacobs, Friedrich surveys her neighborhood from her apartment window, except that in Friedrich's case, what she sees from her Williamsburg, Brooklyn window makes her "crazy angry." While watching the film, student audiences are torn. Young people recognize the injustices of gentrification, and want to better understand and address its specific causes, yet they also feel the pull of the hip condominium world that has pushed out artists and homegrown business. Friedrich's personal approach frames the problem with humor, outrage, and panic. Ultimately, students experience the facelessness of Friedrich's enemy. They leave wanting to know more. - Alison Isenberg, Professor of History and Co-Director of the Urban Studies Program at Princeton University; Past President, Society for American City and Regional Planning History

Even the “designer dogs” are not immune when Su Friedrich levels her gaze at the causes and effects of rapid gentrification of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, her longtime home. The result is a visceral and intensely personal encounter with the social, psychological, and physical impacts of neighborhood change. Acerbic, insightful, and moving, GUT RENOVATION is required viewing for everyone who cares about the future of cities. City planners, architects, urban designers, urban historians and sociologists will all find the film immensely provocative and rewarding. - Elihu Rubin, Assistant Professor of Urbanism at the Yale School of Architecture

This emotional, sardonic, sometimes funny, often sad story of Su Friedrich's experience in Williamsburg is a detailed accounting of how gentrification happens, building by building. The film captures much of what was great about Williamsburg and how much was lost in the hyper-gentrified "Condoburg" of the Bloomberg era.This detailed look at the nitty gritty of gentrification would be useful in any class about gentrification in the city, whether it be urban geography, history, sociology, or anthropology. I think this would be a particularly useful film for students in real estate as well. - Winifred Curran, Associate Professor Department of Geography DePaul University

GUT RENOVATION gives students the impetus to look at—and mark, research, explore, and fight for—their own environment. The film makes personal the larger forces of urban development, gentrification and demographic changes and, in doing so, not only shows the profound effects of these structural changes but also how people can intervene in them. - Julia Foulkes, Associate Professor, The New School

Su Friedrich's film is both a love letter to Williamsburg as it formerly was and an exercise in controlled anger about what it has become. She balances her personal emotions and her sharp documentarian eye on the head of a pin. Her portrait of the real estate crowd scarfing down hors d'oeuvres as they saunter around the openings of the latest buildings is particularly devastating. The questions she raises go to the heart of what we want our urban existence to be. - Joan Ockman, Distinguished Senior Fellow, University of Pennsylvania School of Design

"...told in all its absurdity by a victim of the very cycle of creative destruction she helped set into motion... [GUT RENOVATION] reveals the many complexities and contradictions in elite America's rediscovery of the urban...Friedrich is compelling as she chronicles the wholesale destruction of her community and home." - Thomas J. Campanella, Associate Professor, Cornell University, College of Architecture, Art and Planning

“Su Friedrich…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