Who Loses in the Real Estate Boom?

Chris Palmeri

One topic largely missing in all the coverage of the nation's housing boom in the past few years has been that of gentrification. It used to be a big story in the 1980s, the tear-jerking incidents of immigrants, low income workers and seniors getting booted from apartments they'd rented for years by yuppies and condo converters. Maybe reporters are just tired of the tale. Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland were not. They are the writers/directors of a new movie called Quinceanera that's opening Aug. 4 in Los Angeles and New York and will move to other cities in coming weeks. The movie, which won the audience award and dramatic grand jury prize at the Sundance Film Festival in January, is the story of a young girl celebrating her Quinceanera--the fifteen birthday party that serves as a sort of Bat Mitzvah in the Latino community. The action takes place in Los Angeles' Echo Park neighborhood, which has been a classic example of gentrification in the past few years. The largely immigrant Latino population is being supplanted by artists, gays and urban hipsters. Glatzner and Westmoreland live in the neighborhood and used many locals in the picture. In fact, the movie's biggest weak spot is that many of them can't act. Glatzner and Westmoreland don't have any solution for the plight of the people who lose their home to gentrification in the movie--I'm trying not to give away too much of the plot. Like all good artists though they shine a spotlight on our times. Like the girl at her Quinceanera, the neighborhood is in transition.

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