In a new documentary, filmmaker Michela Monte explores the harrowing circumstances North Brooklyn tenants face when their landlords attempt to displace them—and identifies how the area’s strong network of community organizers, lawyers, and others who refuse to accept gentrification as inevitability has kept many longtime locals in their homes.
To develop the film, she worked closely with many local organizations such as St. Nick’s Alliance, Brooklyn Legal Services Corporation A and Southside United HDFC, documented the wrecked homes of tenants who were the victims of egregious landlords, and filmed at housing court and tenant’s rallies.
“The Method” presents a five point approach to fighting displacement: Find a lawyer, assert your housing rights, get organized, take control of your building and never give up.
The five steps appear throughout the film on a banner made using a historied printing press in Monte’s hometown of Rimini, Italy.
When Monte embarked on the project, she wasn’t entirely sure what she would find as she filmed, but it became clear as she witnessed the determination Brooklyn tenants that the film’s focus needed to be about their consistent, methodical, approach to staying in their homes.
She wanted to help support the framework that enables tenants to act instead of leaving, instead of “just making a sad movie about the phenomenon, [saying] that you can’t fight back—Actually, you can, because there are people that are able to do it and they do it every day!”
Monte, who has a background in investigative journalism, is from Rimini, on Italy’s Adriatic coast.
In Europe, she says, communities gentrify, but “Not in this violent way, never in this violent way. Yes, you see that your city is changing, but … it’s so hard here. I was surprised … sometimes shocked, but I was also impressed by the way people are organizing here to resist.”
The film is not available online, but several screenings are coming up. Next week, on Friday November 11, it will play at a housing rights night at East Williamsburg’s Olly Oxen Free Vintage, and on Wednesday, November 23, it will play at Anthology Film Archives in the East Village as part of NewFilmmakers New York’s fall screening series.
Additional details about both screenings are forthcoming; that information will soon be available on The Method’s Facebook page that also features news and other information relevant to the film’s subject matter.
The film is also available for screenings at other community events—drop Monte a line if you’d like to present it at your community space!
Featured image: The Method banner at Santarcangelo di Romagna in Italy. Photo by Eleonora Tonini Antica Stamperia Marchi, used courtesy of The Method.