Successive generations of immigrant Americans mix it up in veteran documentarian Frederick Wiseman’s celebration of a community fighting gentrification in New York’s most ethnically and culturally diverse neighbourhood.
Screened as part of NZIFF 2016
For 50 years Frederick Wiseman has documented the workings of diverse social institutions (Public Housing, NZIFF98) and, more recently, cultural establishments (La Danse, NZIFF09; National Gallery NZIFF14). Here he celebrates one of New York’s most ethnically and culturally diverse neighbourhoods.
In Jackson Heights recent immigrants from Peru, Colombia, Mexico, India, Bangladesh and Pakistan rub shoulders with elderly residents of Jewish, Irish and Italian extraction. Stores sell baby goats, saris and Bollywood DVDs; others offer HIV testing, Tibetan food and classes for students of the Quran or would-be cabbies. The Jewish community centre hosts LGBT activists planning Pride celebrations, and support groups for survivors of terrifying border crossings. Almost all are alarmed by the gentrifying threat of a Business Improvement District Strategy and Wiseman attends closely to the complex dynamics of community meetings convened to oppose it.
“[A] panoramic portrait of the new America – yearning, teeming, ambitious and teetering on the brink. Made in 2014, it is shot in Wiseman’s patented style – unapologetically direct, unadorned, narration-free and with an editing technique that lands you in each scene like you just jumped off an E train from JFK…
Most of the film is set within a heady ethnic mélange, where all the food looks delicious and the sense of energy and intelligence are acute. In Jackson Heights – which, BTW, is a very entertaining movie – should be earning Wiseman a Pulitzer prize. But an Oscar would be OK.” — John Anderson, Indiewire