Documentary Tells Story of Gentrification

Michael Murphy, Reporter

“U-Street Contested,” a documentary about a historic neighborhood in the nation’s capital, highlighted the displacement of people and the destruction of neighborhoods due to gentrification.

Director Michael Barry says the film is important to maintain the integrity of those faithful to the neighborhood.

“The primary message of the film is to respect longstanding residents of communities like Washington DC’s U Street, which have undergone rapid changes over the course of the last handful of decades,” said Barry.

Many long-time residents of the neighborhood have been displaced economically, culturally and politically.

Barry said losses have been substantial in the once booming neighborhood.

“U-Street was once a thriving epicenter of African American artistic, cultural, political and economic activity.”

Today, the neighborhood maintains some of its historic heritage, but it is in transition as white Millennials are shaping it into their own.

“U-Street Contested” offers solutions to preserve the rich African American history, such as affordable housing policies and political action.

“Another goal of the film is to outline solutions for preventing gentrification in communities which have yet to,” said Barry.

Barry sees many benefits to the documentary.

“The first, most rewarding, element of making this film is sharing it with longstanding residents of U Street, or with residents who once lived on U Street and remember what it was like decades ago,” said Barry.

Barry enjoys hearing first-hand accounts of people who encountered changes in the neighborhood, and their opinions about their area could improve.

He also hopes the new wave people at U Street will learn valuable lessons from the film.

“Hopefully, these individuals will utilize the solutions offered in the film and live their daily lives with more respect toward the history and longstanding residents of U Street,” Barry said.

Making the film was  challenging, Barry said.

“Each film takes endless hours of work and patience.”

He takes attention to detail seriously.

“I think all filmmakers, to a certain extent at least, are perfectionists, and this means a lot of hours alone, hunkered down in front of the computer.”

He believes he will meet his goal to educate people about the need to preserve neighborhoods and people’s ways of life, their heritage and their dreams.

“Overall, it is worth it in the end when the work is complete and you are hopefully able to educate audiences on the topic at hand, but it can be a long, tiring process getting there” said Barry.

“U-Street Contested” was nominated for Best Short Documentary at  the World Music and Independent Film Festivals and the Clifton Film Celebration.

It also received Official Selections at the Rhode Island Black Film Festival, Tampa Bay Underground Film Festival, the Nyack Film Festival as well as the Miami Independent and Direct Monthly Film Festivals.

The film was shown on campus Oct. 29. The film will be shown in Clifton, Virginia and in Tampa Bay, Florida over the next two months..