The Pruitt-Igoe Myth—Sunday, 10:30 a.m., RMTC Cabaret Theatre The Pruitt-Igoe housing project in St. Louis is often held up as an example of the abject failure of government housing. Built in the early 1950s, it was a complex of 33 highrise apartment buildings spread over 57 acres.
Soon, the isolated buildings turned into a haven for crime and poverty, and by 1972, the towers were being torn down. Director Chad Friedrichs’ documentary tries to figure out why the project was such a failure.
Pruitt-Igoe was conceived as a response to the wartime overcrowding facing the city, but the government failed to anticipate the problems that would face the cities in the next few decades. This includes how the white middle class largely abandoned cities for suburbia, greatly reducing cities’ tax bases, and how industry left the cities as well, stranding the lower class far away from the jobs they came to the cities for in the first place.
The way the projects were run mirrored these problems as well. The federal government built the projects, but maintenance was paid for from tenants’ rents. Of course, only sufficiently poor people were allowed into the projects, so the rents were inadequate to pay for proper maintenance. As the buildings deteriorated, fewer people wanted to live there, which resulted in even less rent collected, and a vicious cycle. Eventually, the high rises emptied, leaving behind a perfect place for drug gangs to set up shop.
The filmmakers also talk to people who lived at Pruitt-Igoe, getting firsthand stories of the project’s legacy, both good and bad. One woman wants to dispel the notion that the project was a purely evil place, and tells of the good memories she has of growing up there. Another man wonders whether seeing his brother murdered at Pruitt-Igoe has made him a harder, more standoffish adult.
The country is full of failed housing projects, and The Pruitt-Igoe Myth teaches a lesson that we could have learned a lot sooner. CN
SoLa: Louisiana Water Stories—Sunday, 10:30 a.m., Alabama Loft Southern Louisiana (SoLa) is defined by its waterways. They influence everything in the state, from politics and economics to culture and communities. SoLa: Louisiana Water Stories explores the world that has been built around the water, placing it in a larger context that makes clear the fact that Southern Louisiana’s problems are, in a way, America’s problems. When Oceans 8, the production company behind SoLa, went to Southern Louisiana in 2008, they had no idea that the worst ecological disasters in history, the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill, would take place while they were filming. Unchecked corporate interests are threatening to put an end to entire ways of life in Southern Louisiana. Birmingham residents, whose drinking water is currently being threatened by mining interests, should be able to relate to Southern Louisiana’s plight. AM
The Reconstruction of Asa Carter— Sunday, 12:30 p.m., Hill Center In 1976, Forrest Carter published The Education of Little Tree, a memoir about his youth as an orphaned Cherokee boy. The memoir went on to become wildly popular in the 1980s and 1990s, inspiring people with its message of acceptance and peace. But Forrest Carter was never a Cherokee boy. In fact, he was never Forrest Carter. He was, in fact, named Asa Earl Carter and, prior to his literary career, had the dubious distinctions of founding a militant branch of the Ku Klux Clan and writing speeches for Alabama’s famed segregationist governor George Wallace. The Reconstruction of Asa Carter explores how a man who had lived as a violent racist for years transformed himself into a beacon of tolerance. The Reconstruction of Asa Carter is real-life poof that the truth is relative. AM
Live at Preservation Hall: A Louisiana Fairytale—Sunday, 1:10 p.m., Carver Theatre This documentary chronicles the collaboration between the Preservation Hall Jazz Band and the rock group My Morning Jacket. The jazz band is based at the legendary Preservation Hall in New Orleans’ French Quarter, and its goal is to preserve Dixieland and New Orleans jazz.
Some of us might prefer our jazz to stay as pure as possible, but the Preservation Hall band members are happy to get their music out to as wide an audience as possible, and the two bands work together well. Their set includes old tunes like “St. James Infirmary Blues” and “Mother-in-Law” as well as some of My Morning Jacket’s own songs.
The film shows another side of My Morning Jacket as well, as frontman Jim James sings a lot of the songs through an old bullhorn, in an effort to give the songs a crackling, old-timey feel. Director Danny Clinch does a good job capturing the magic of the Preservation Hall, and how, with its bare walls, few seats and peeling paint, it can transport you to another time. Yet the music always feels alive and of the present.
The Preservation Hall Jazz Band will be performing live on the Sidewalk Central stage on Sat., Aug. 27, at 6:45pm. CN
Where Soldiers Come From— Sunday, 1:15 p.m., Alabama Theatre Providing an intimate look at the lives of soldiers, this documentary from director Heather Courtney follows three soldiers before, during and after their deployment to Afghanistan. Lured by college tuition and delayed deployment, as well as not really having any better ideas, a group of friends from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula enlists in the National Guard. The friends are Cole, Bodi and Dom, who is a talented artist. We see them as they work, hang out with their friends and go to their one-weekend-a-month training exercises. Then, their unit is deployed.
Somehow, the filmmakers got permission to follow the guys around Afghanistan, showing them on the base and as they go out on missions. Their job is to sweep for IEDs, and they do so in huge trucks that have big metal arms on them. Because of this, the guys get blown up so much that they all develop some form of traumatic brain injury. The army pays for their education, but it breaks their brains first.
Like The Deer Hunter minus the Russian roulette, this film begins with typical young friends and ends with disillusioned veterans, showing us the true cost of war. CN
The Man in the Glass: The Dale Brown Story—Sunday, 3:00 p.m., Carver Theatre The Man in the Glass is a documentary, written and directed by Birmingham’s Patrick Sheehan, about famed college basketball coach Dale Brown. He’s the man who, beginning in 1972, took the hoops program at football-mad LSU to heights it had never achieved, including visits to the NCAA Final Four in 1981 and 1986. He also built a reputation as a P.T.Barnum-style promoter, a campaigner for racial justice in Louisiana who actively recruited black players, and a rebel who battled what he saw as the unfairness of some NCAA rules. If you like sports, especially college basketball, you will enjoy this film. It was not made on the cheap. New Orleans jazz trumpet legend Wynton Marsalis supplies the music, and the long list of talking heads include sportscaster Tim Brando; the always-irritating TV basketball analyst Dick Vitale; former NBA star and Brown recruit Shaquille O’Neal; legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden, whom Brown claimed as mentor; and actor Matthew McConaughey, who chose Brown to help him prepare for his role as an inspirational coach in the film We are Marshall. JC
Page One: Inside the New York Times— Sunday, 6:15 p.m., Alabama Theatre This year’s closing night film is a documentary by Andrew Rossi about the New York Times’ attempt to reinvent itself in a digital medium. For one year, Rossi gained unprecedented access to the inner sanctum of the Grey Lady as its employees scrambled to rescue one of America’s last great publications from the maw of obsolescence. A celebration of old-school journalistic credibility and the ability to adapt to change, Page One provides an over-the-shoulder look at what may be one of the defining events of modern journalism and the people and ideas that made such a moment possible, not to mention an intricate look at the inner workings of a massive publishing behemoth. The film centers on the paper’s Media Desk, a section created to cover the ever-shifting landscape of media in the internet age, and its argument that print journalism is still a vital part of the way we engage in the ongoing conversation about our lives and the world we live in strikes true. SG
Other Films We’re Looking Forward To:
Autoerotic: Joe Swanberg (Hannah Takes the Stairs, Nights and Weekends) is a Sidewalk veteran, and his latest, co-directed with local boy Adam Wingard, is an anthology film centering around stories about sex.
The Innkeepers: Ti West’s last film, the excellent House of the Devil, played Sidewalk in 2009. His new shocker is the festival’s opening night film, and it concerns a couple of employees at a soon-to-close hotel who try to take advantage of the inn’s reputation of being haunted in an effort to save the place and discover that it isn’t just a legend.
Missing Pieces: Alabama native Kenton Bartlett directs this tale of a man (Sons of Anarchy star Mark Boone Junior) who kidnaps two strangers in the hopes that they will fall in love.
Senna: This documentary follows the life of famed Brazilian Formula One driver Ayrton Senna, who won the F1 world championship three times before his tragic death at age 34.
Silver Tongues: This dark drama stars Oz actor Lee Tergesen and Enid Graham as a couple who put on elaborate cons more to ruin people’s lives than for any monetary gain.
Film capsules written by Sam George, Jesse Chambers, Carey Norris, Andy McWhorter, Scoop Schwaiger and Katherine Webb. Please send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.