My Brooklyn Makes the Case that Gentrification is Worse Than We Thought


My Brooklyn opens with a lifelong resident of the eponymous borough gushing over his youth in the ’70s: drinking water from fire hydrants, swimming in Prospect Park. These days, we’re told shortly thereafter, are long gone—lost to gentrification. Filmmaker/narrator Kelly Anderson approaches her documentary from the perspective of a dual insider-outsider, a white woman who moved to Brooklyn after college and appears to have undertaken the project as a means of better understanding the adopted home she clearly loves. As a paean to the sort of vibrant, quickly disappearing community that Brooklyn represents less now than it did in the past, her film works well; as a genuine study, it sometimes falls short. Hard evidence and talking-head testimony are presented alongside anecdotes from passersby and Internet commenters, the latter two better as embellishments than a driving force of the argument. These occasional hiccups notwithstanding, My Brooklyn is ultimately persuasive in making the case that gentrification was, is, and continues to be even more racially motivated and systematic than conventional wisdom suggests. Focusing on the Bloomberg administration’s redevelopment of the Fulton Mall area in the mid-2000s allows Anderson to weave in a people’s history of similar goings-on in the past, not all of them New York–centric. The personal and political don’t always align as well as they’re meant to, but enough of the labor-of-love aspects shine through in a positive way to grant the film a genuine emotional core.