Documentary Movie Review: East Lake Meadows: A Public Housing Story (2020) #BloggingAtoZChallenge

Welcome to Panorama of the Mountains! My name is Liam and I enjoy watching documentary movies.  This month I will be reviewing 26 documentaries from A-to-Z!

Documentaries starting with the letter E that I have previously reviewed include:

Title: East Lake Meadows: A Public Housing Story
Release Date: January 13, 2020
Director: Sarah Burns, David McMahon
Production Company: Florentine Films

This documentary is a story about public housing in Atlanta, but it could be in Boston or New York or Chicago or St. Louis or Los Angeles, as the same story has played out again and again in cities across the country.  Once seen a vital stepping stone for the white working class, in post-World War II America, the emphasis shifts to subsidizing suburban living and public housing becomes the place to warehouse the poorest of the poor, typically people of color.  Even when new public housing is built it is poorly planned – in East Lake Meadows, the houses were flooding with sewage soon after tenants moved in – and poorly maintained.  Out of sight and out of mind, public housing is plagued by drug abuse and crime.

What’s great about this documentary is that it tells this familiar story from the point of view of the Black residents of the East Lake Meadows project.  They tells stories of crime and indignity, yes, but also of joy.  Despite all the problems of public housing there also were the advantages of forming strong community bonds.  And there were those who fought for their community to have something better, in this case the late Eva Davis.  Unfortunately, but not unexpectedly, when improvements came with the demolition of East Lake Meadows in the late 1990s and replacing it with a higher-quality mixed-income development, it came at the cost of shutting out the poorest residents.

In addition to the many great interview subjects, East Lake Meadows features a great variety of archival footage.  I particularly like the homemade films made by some school children who lived in East Lake Meadows in the 1990s.

Rating: ****

7 thoughts on “Documentary Movie Review: East Lake Meadows: A Public Housing Story (2020) #BloggingAtoZChallenge

  1. Yes, as tough as these types of living spaces can be, it’s even tougher when the neighborhoods become gentrified and push people out of them, since many of them never get off the streets again. We saw this in Seattle, and my husband knew many displaced friends. As you say, it does create community in ‘the projects,’ and where there’s community there’s hope of rising as well as surviving.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m in Atlanta and there is another case like this going on right now. The apartments are a mess and everyone says they are going to renovate but they never do. The remaining families are living in conditions that shouldn’t exist for anything. Now the city is saying that they will have new housing by summer. Meanwhile, gentrification continues and housing costs have skyrocked. I used to be mad I didn’t wait a year and buy my house after prices crashed awhile ago. Now I’m just glad I got it while it was affordable.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. The gaps between haves and have-nots seems ever wider. I saw this one last year sometime and thought it was well-done. I agree that this subsidized house project idea has been a failed cookie cutter idea all over the country. It seems that every town, no matter how small or large, has them, and they are earmarked as poorly maintained, liberally vandalized, and full of people struggling to survive.

    Liked by 1 person

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