Reviews - Specialty Releases


Film Review: The Pruitt-Igoe Myth

Deeply impressive and disturbing exposé of what went terribly wrong with one hopeful post-War American housing experience.

Jan 19, 2012

-By David Noh


filmjournal/photos/stylus/1305458-Pruitt_Igoe_Md.jpg

For movie details, please click here.

The Pruitt-Igoe Myth starts with footage of the explosive destruction of the titular housing project, designed by Minoru Yamasaki (who also did the very differently demolished World Trade Center), the first such in St. Louis. The reasons for this mass architectural detonation provide the basis for a compelling documentary, directed and co-written by Chad Freidrichs.

Opened in 1954, the project presented what seemed a beneficent antidote to the shoddy housing provided for lower-income African-Americans. Interviews with reminiscing original inhabitants have them calling it wonderful, a “poor man’s paradise.” But by the 1960s, the local housing authority, supposedly cash-strapped, cut back on maintenance, and things swiftly deteriorated into a miasma of open garbage, severe leaks, lack of heating, and other woes. This led to a 1969 rent strike, the first in the history of public housing, but which changed nothing. What once had been a safe environment for kids to play in devolved, as the amount of crime and violence which arose had certain inhabitants even ashamed to claim they came from Pruitt-Igoe.

Freidrich has done deeply impressive work to explore this still-nagging problem, using interviews and archival reconstructions. What emerges as a major factor here are the urban policies, which emphasized an environment of segregation that encouraged whites to flee the city, with the declining population (some 60% in St. Louis alone) contributing to revenue loss and widespread poverty. Archival footage reveals racist hatred being spewed by St. Louis natives wanting to live in exclusively white neighborhoods. The deeper psychological effects of the hell which Pruitt-Igoe became remain vivid with its residents, particularly one man who recalls seeing his brother killed in a hallway, with his mother desperately attempting to save his fast-ebbing life.

For all the horror they experienced, however, some former inhabitants still look wistfully at the overgrown, vacant lot where the project once stood, and their happy memories—of Christmas and communal dancing to Martha and the Vandellas on the radio—stand as a bittersweet testament to yet another destroyed American dream.


Film Review: The Pruitt-Igoe Myth

Deeply impressive and disturbing exposé of what went terribly wrong with one hopeful post-War American housing experience.

Jan 19, 2012

-By David Noh


filmjournal/photos/stylus/1305458-Pruitt_Igoe_Md.jpg

For movie details, please click here.

The Pruitt-Igoe Myth starts with footage of the explosive destruction of the titular housing project, designed by Minoru Yamasaki (who also did the very differently demolished World Trade Center), the first such in St. Louis. The reasons for this mass architectural detonation provide the basis for a compelling documentary, directed and co-written by Chad Freidrichs.

Opened in 1954, the project presented what seemed a beneficent antidote to the shoddy housing provided for lower-income African-Americans. Interviews with reminiscing original inhabitants have them calling it wonderful, a “poor man’s paradise.” But by the 1960s, the local housing authority, supposedly cash-strapped, cut back on maintenance, and things swiftly deteriorated into a miasma of open garbage, severe leaks, lack of heating, and other woes. This led to a 1969 rent strike, the first in the history of public housing, but which changed nothing. What once had been a safe environment for kids to play in devolved, as the amount of crime and violence which arose had certain inhabitants even ashamed to claim they came from Pruitt-Igoe.

Freidrich has done deeply impressive work to explore this still-nagging problem, using interviews and archival reconstructions. What emerges as a major factor here are the urban policies, which emphasized an environment of segregation that encouraged whites to flee the city, with the declining population (some 60% in St. Louis alone) contributing to revenue loss and widespread poverty. Archival footage reveals racist hatred being spewed by St. Louis natives wanting to live in exclusively white neighborhoods. The deeper psychological effects of the hell which Pruitt-Igoe became remain vivid with its residents, particularly one man who recalls seeing his brother killed in a hallway, with his mother desperately attempting to save his fast-ebbing life.

For all the horror they experienced, however, some former inhabitants still look wistfully at the overgrown, vacant lot where the project once stood, and their happy memories—of Christmas and communal dancing to Martha and the Vandellas on the radio—stand as a bittersweet testament to yet another destroyed American dream.
Post a Comment
Asterisk (*) is a required field.
* Author: 
Rate This Article: (1=Bad, 5=Perfect)

*Comment:
 

More Specialty Releases

Love is Strange
Film Review: Love is Strange

Ira Sachs’ sublimely told and beautifully acted contemporary romantic drama about an aging gay Manhattan couple hitting some unexpected choppy waters is the flip side of his dark, raw and daring Keep the Lights On but every bit as engaging. John Lithgow and Alfred Molina add complexity and class to a classy production that should resonate with quality-seeking filmgoers, gay or straight. More »

The Trip to Italy
Film Review: The Trip to Italy

Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon work hard to be funny in this ultimate piece of luxuriant fluff requiring a surfeit of viewer indulgence. More »

Dinosaur 13
Film Review: Dinosaur 13

Doc chronicling the sad plight of dedicated paleontologists, academics and scholars as they hunt and preserve a prized dinosaur fossil is no treat for kids enthralled by dinosaurs or Jurassic Park adventures, but another wake-up call about injustices that slip through a porous legal system and sock the powerless. More »

Moebius
Film Review: Moebius

Crazy is as Kim Ki-duk does in this dialogue-free Korean thriller about castration, incest, rape, sadomasochism and much, much more. While Kim has more on his mind than gross-out exploitation, many male viewers will be hard-put to stick around and find out what that might be. More »

ADVERTISEMENT



REVIEWS

The Expendables 3
Film Review: The Expendables 3

Third go-round for the aging mercenaries, this time fighting a ruthless arms dealer. Sylvester Stallone's B-movie formula is wearing thin. More »

The Giver
Film Review: The Giver

Another bleakly perfect future-world, another teen hero who challenges the status quo. Is this long-gestating project too late to the party? More »

Player for the Film Journal International website.


ADVERTISEMENT



INDUSTRY GUIDES

» Blue Sheets
FJI's guide to upcoming movie releases, including films in production and development. Check back weekly for the latest additions.

» Distribution Guide
» Equipment Guide
» Exhibition Guide

ORDER A PRINT SUBSCRIPTION

Film Journal International

Subscribe to the monthly print edition of Film Journal International and get the full visual impact of this valuable resource for the cinema business.

» Click Here

SPONSORSHIP OPPORTUNITIES

Learn how to promote your company at the Film Expo Group events: ShowEast, CineEurope, and CineAsia.

» Click Here