Local film puts gentrification in the spotlight

Film-maker Kurt Orderson is in the final stages of making his new movie that focuses on gentrification. The movie is titled Not in My Neighbourhood.

Gentrification is just a new term for something that is happening all over the world. These were the thoughts of film-maker and Green Point resident Kurt Orderson, who is in the final stages of making his movie titled Not in My Neighbourhood.

Mr Orderson, who is originally from Mitchell’s Plain, said the film seeks to raise the question “Development for whom?”

The film focuses on gentrification in Woodstock and Salt River but also touches on the same things happening in neighbourhoods in New York and Sao Paulo in Brazil.

Last week, a screening of part of the movie, which is about 70 percent complete, took place at the Labia Theatre in Gardens.

For Mr Orderson, displacement is a subject matter that hits home. Both of his parents were affected by the Group Areas Act during apartheid. “My body of work for the past 10 years has always looked at socio-political issues. I’m interested in the historical narrative that speaks but the past with the present. My films have been touching on these issues with various different themes.”

Mr Orderson has focused on various issues in the past, including land reform and farmworkers’ rights. He’s also looked at issues across the continent. “My body of work has been about questioning the African narrative that has been constructed by a colonial voice. It’s about remembering and retelling.

“When I started researching Woodstock and Salt River and what was manifesting there and the urban renewal, I was critical and asked development for who? Who is it catering for? Woodstock becomes a microcosm for a massive conversation that we are not having.

“Private and growth of the economy is used as justification. We are talking about a generational deprivation of economic power.”

This is the background to how the film Not in My Neighbourhood came about.

Even though news of evictions in Woodstock has been in the news recently, Mr Orderson started working on the film in the beginning of 2014. “It’s not a new subject matter, other people have touched on it. When we talk about gentrification it’s just new terminology for something that has been happening for a long time.”

“It was during in the 2010 Fifa World Cup where I started to see what was happening in Woodstock with forced evictions. I remember seeing these archive photos of people with all their belongings sitting outside. Why wasn’t there an outcry on social media for what was happening to these people? We were caught up in the hype of the World Cup.”

Prior to the 2010 Fifa World Cup, Mr Orderson’s aunt was also told by authorities they could no longer sell shoes at the Grand Parade due to development taking place. “This was how she raised her kids. They were then told they could no longer trade and had to pack up.”

He said his main objective of making the movie was that gentrification is a new form of colonialism. “I grew up in Mitchell’s Plain so I was interested in the root cause. Those are all links to when destruction happened in places like District Six. Not in My Neighbourhood is about struggles that manifest into a 90-minute film. We’ve been working on it for two years now and it is a self-funded film.”

The film is being created by his independent company Azania Rizing Productions.

Mr Orderson said it was very important to include a global perspective in the film, to show what is happening in Woodstock is not unique. The movie is set in three different continents. “What happens when the social and heritage fabric changes? What happens to the auntie who used to sell koeksisters on the corner? Development is not catered for the people. Gentrification is a fancy term but when I speak about spatial violence people shiver. There is a correlation to what happens in places like New York where gentrification is linked to police brutality.”

He said a few years ago, when he was sitting at a cafe in New York, he saw a graffiti sign that read “Gentrifiers get out of my neighbourhood”. “At that point I didn’t know what the term meant but my friend broke it down for me. I realised that this is very similar to what I know from back home.

“When I came back to South Africa I saw that it was happening in Woodstock. My father grew up in Salt River and his family were victims of the Group Areas Act when parts of Salt River became Observatory. They were just on the border but were kicked out. I inherited an inter-generational story of forced removals and it is my family story. Gentrification is a form of social and economic inequality.”

He said what was happening in Woodstock and in some neighbourhoods in New York was the same thing. He thought it was important to make that point in the film. “It’s important to speak about these issues because these are global. This film can be made about Woodstock alone because there is already a strong story there. Gentrification is a global issue right now and is happening at the same time. When you look at urban renewal development it is almost like a cut-and-paste form from other cities around the world.

In a way, the film is even more relevant now then when they first started filming it. Families, who have been living in Woodstock for 50 years in Bromwell Street, are facing the threat of eviction after private developers brought the homes they are renting.

“When I started making this film gentrification wasn’t popular terminology, but they knew what evictions meant.” He said that his work has always been around this theme of remembering and retelling the African narrative. “It is about reframing and retelling the African narrative. It is about decolonising the African narrative and how we look at the frame and see ourselves in the story.”

Mr Orderson said the film is almost completed, with one shoot left in New York and editing to be done. He said he hopes the film will be released early next year and plans to have a lot of community screenings.

The main challenge for the completion of the film, he says, remains funding. He is also awaiting the outcome of the Bromwell Street eviction case, which is featured in the film.

If you are interested in helping to fund the completion of the film, you can contact Mr Orderson on 072 577 0731 or email director@azaniarizing.com