Tuesday, February 28, 2023 at 7:30pm
Resolution Film Collective's Redevelopment: A Marxist Analysis

361 Stagg Street, Suite 407, Brooklyn

Redevelopment: A Marxist Analysis, Resolution Film Collective, 1974, digital projection, 60 mins

Introduced by Malcolm Harris

In the opening minutes of Redevelopment: A Marxist Analysis, activist Arnold Townsend tells the filmmakers that, before redevelopment, families could find solid housing in San Francisco’s Fillmore neighborhood for $100 a month. It’s hard to draw an equivalence without an inflation calculator—in 2022 dollars, that $100 is $600, which would be an enviable amount to pay to live in an American city. This film is almost half a century old, and yet the people’s defeat as it’s depicted feels unrelentingly current. “There’s no place for people to gather anymore,” the voiceover laments, “in fact, it’s almost illegal to gather.” Though it’s San Francisco that falls under this proverbial microscope, you could produce a similar project for a neighborhood or two in any American urban center. Redevelopment feels current because we live in the cities built in its wake.

The Resolution Film Collective produced Redevelopment between 1971 and ‘74, working on two borrowed cameras with homemade reels and 200 volunteers. For the New Left film collectives—of which Resolution was one—access to relatively low-cost portable cameras opened up a new form of democratic expression. “A sympathetic portrayal of ghetto residents could be done by CBS News or the Maysles and it will basically feed back to the kind of liberal sentiment that produced that portrait,” Resolution members later wrote, “But a group of people creating their own documents, their own expression of themselves and their lives, their own skills in communication, is a challenge that demands our attention and respect, and only secondarily our possible sympathy.” Redevelopment is that kind of account, and even among them it stands out. As Bill Nichols observed, unlike many of the other similar films, Redevelopment doesn’t “evince a singular point of view.” Rather, it foregrounds the city’s plurality.

It’s jarring to see the young New Left filmmakers alongside the elderly Old Left activists, united in understanding and action. The gap between the ‘30s and ‘70s is often treated as unbridgeable, and yet here it is, bridged, and with a problem and analysis that resonate in the present. The foresight displayed in Redevelopment is astounding, but also, on some level, disturbing: If we can’t blame the ignorance or fecklessness of our forebears for the state of things, then we can’t hope to improve on their showing with simple effort. If the filmmakers can’t offer an answer, Redevelopment shows what we’re up against and who “we” are.

- MH

Malcolm Harris is the author of Palo Alto: A History of California, Capitalism, and the World. Copies will be available for sale at the event.

Tickets - Pay what you can ($10 suggested donation), available at door.

Please note: seating is limited. First-come, first-served. Box office opens at 7pm. No entry 10 minutes after start of show.