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New film documents the class divide in NYCís Chelsea

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  • New film documents the class divide in NYCís Chelsea

    CLASS DIVIDE highlights the recent effects of hyper-gentrification in New York Cityís West Chelsea neighborhood, focusing on an intersection where an elite private school sits directly across the street from public housing projects.

    Veteran TV and film director Marc Levin focuses on a representative clash between the old and new Chelsea. Right across the street from the vast Elliot Houses, a city-owned public housing project where family income averages an annual $21K, stands an old factory that once served as a turkey slaughterhouse and has now been converted into a private school with $45K tuition.

    The poor door

    Although parents and other community people appear, the expertly crafted film offers penetrating portraits of the youth on both sides of the divide, and their sharply contrasting environments. We meet a cast of poor kids doing their best to fight an always rising tide. We learn their aspirations in life, and the impediments blocking them; we go to their public schools; we hang out in their homes, particularly in one with an undocumented dad away 12 hours a day at work, and subject to the vagaries of bosses and the INS. The 8-year-old Rosa is a real star in the making with her infectious verve, creativity and ambition.

    And we are introduced to the children of privilege, who slowly begin understanding the entitlement wealth has bestowed on them.

    Wealthy kids are being prepared for global leadership through bilingual education through the 4th grade. They learn global languages, such as Mandarin, through the most up-to-date teaching methods, and often end up teaching each other.

    A central point the film brings out is that despite the national myths we like to believe, there is in fact far less opportunity in the U.S. for upward social mobility than in many countries. Those born poor, with cofactors involving housing, schools, environment, health, policing, crime, etc., will most likely remain poor and stuck in low-level, dead-end jobs. Except that now they also have to fight off racist "urban renewal."

    One of the African American young men interviewed in the film pointedly says that the divide is not about racism as such - because he sees Latino families in similar straits as his own - but rather classism. It's about "what you have." Both forces are obviously at work and frequently overlap. We see among these youngsters an emerging class consciousness that gets expressed in scenes of demonstrations against landlords raising rents sky-high or renovating apartments to house not the longtime tenants but the new gentry.

    Here is a link to a trailer from the film

  • #2
    thanks for posting this- I wanted to go the other day but I did not reserve in time- I do get HBO and have been wanting to see this for some time


    • #3
      It's interesting. I remember there were schools in NYC that had special programs for all kids or all backgrounds who qualified, - music, arts, even prep schools to prepare you for foreign policy.


      • #4
        i think this is an important documentary that everyone who lives in chelsea should get the opportunity to see. I know their was a public screening already and only wish they would haver another one as not everyone has HBO as I do and maybe missed the one shown by corey with questions and answers segment


        • #5
          RCN is giving a free HBO weekend (Oct. 7-10) so you can still get a chance to see Class Divide Sunday Oct. 9 at 2:30 PM