At this year's Full Frame doc fest, the Center for Documentary Studies gave its top prize to Flag Wars, a film from New York filmmakers Linda Goode Bryant and Laura Poitras. More than any other film in the festival, Flag Wars carried a strong resonance for many local viewers--particularly those from Durham. Simply put, this documentary about urban gentrification puts into narrative relief a drama that is very similar to a process that is well underway in the Bull City.
In Columbus, Ohio, a working-class African-American neighborhood becomes a hot destination for would-be homesteaders who are attracted to the undervalued vintage homes in the area. In this case, the newcomers are, in the main, gay and lesbian. In the interest of securing their investments, some of them move aggressively to enforce housing codes. The longtime black residents suspect, with some justification, they're being driven out.
Flag Wars achieves several objectives at once. It illuminates the conflicts that arise as idealistic urbanites and opportunistic realtors join forces to reinvigorate the thinly populated urban cores of America's cities. It limns the sad ironies of two historically marginalized groups fighting each other, and it also finds colorful and tragic characters who carry the film's narrative forward. Most controversial is the film's "villain," a shrewd, calculating realtor who happens to be a lesbian.
This Monday, June 16, at 7 p.m., Flag Wars will receive an encore screening at the Center for Documentary Studies in Durham. There will be a panel discussion afterward, with speakers to include Melvin Whitley, president of the Inter-Neighborhood Association of Durham; Perry Pike, educational coordinator of the Historic Preservation Society of Durham; and Richard Mullinax, president of the Old North Durham Neighborhood Association.
The following Saturday, Flag Wars will air on the PBS program P.O.V., at 11 p.m.