The Right to the City Film Series

The Right to the City Film Series

The Right to the City Film Series features five films examining cities undergoing processes of uneven development as they take place in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Newark, Detroit and Istanbul.  Each film screening will be followed by a Q&A with the filmmakers and CUNY faculty and students from different departments, bringing together media artists and scholars working on similar issues and research sites.  The Right to the City Film Series seeks to create a space of interdisciplinary discussion on the impact of global capitalism on cities, and to examine the possibilities of media to contribute to urban research.

The series is co-sponsored by Sociology and Critical Psychology, the Center for the Humanities, the Center for Place, Culture and Politics, the Center for Urban Research, the Center for Human Environments, Earth and Environmental Sciences, and The Public Science Project, Graduate Center, CUNY.




Featuring Films:

02/17/2015 – 7:00 pm – Skylight Room

My Brooklyn
My Brooklyn is a documentary about Director Kelly Anderson’s personal journey, as a Brooklyn “gentrifier,” to understand the forces reshaping her neighborhood along lines of race and class. The story begins when Anderson moves to Brooklyn in 1988, lured by cheap rents and bohemian culture. By Michael Bloomberg’s election as mayor in 2001, a massive speculative real estate boom is rapidly altering the neighborhoods she has come to call home. She watches as an explosion of luxury housing and chain store development spurs bitter conflict over who has a right to live in the city and to determine its future. While some people view these development patterns as ultimately revitalizing the city, to others, they are erasing the eclectic urban fabric, economic and racial diversity, creative alternative culture, and unique local economies that drew them to Brooklyn in the first place. It seems that no less than the city’s soul is at stake.

The screening will be followed by a discussion with Kelly Anderson (Filmmaker and Professor in the Department of Film and Media Studies at Hunter College), Sharon Zukin (Professor of Sociology at Brooklyn College and CUNY Graduate Center), and Sara Martucci (Doctoral Candidate in Sociology, CUNY Graduate Center).

03/05/2015 – 7:00 pm – Doctoral Students’ Council Lounge (Room 5414).

Rezoning Harlem

Rezoning Harlem follows longtime members of the Harlem community as they fight a 2008 rezoning that threatens to erase the history and culture of their legendary neighborhood and replace it with luxury housing, offices, and big-box retail. A shocking expose of how a group of ordinary citizens, who are passionate about the future of one of the city’s most treasured neighborhoods, are systematically shut out of the city’s decision-making process, revealing New York City’s broken public review system and provoking discussion on what we can do about it.

The screening will be followed by a discussion and Q&A with filmmaker Tamara Gubernat, Urban Affairs and Planning Professor Tom Agnotti (The Graduate Center and Hunter College), M. Ndigo Washington (founder of Take Back Our City), and will be moderated by CUNY scholar Pilar Ortiz (Sociology).

03/26/2015 – 7:00 pm – Martin E. Segal Theatre

The Rink 

Branch Brook Park Roller Rink, located in Newark, NJ, is one of the few remaining urban rinks of its kind. This concrete structure is nestled in a public park bordered by public housing and a highway. Upon first glance, the exterior resembles a fallout shelter; however, the streamers and lights of the interior are reminiscent of 1970s roller discos. This 55 minute documentary depicts a space cherished by skaters and a city struggling to move beyond its past and forge a new narrative amidst contemporary social issues.

The screening will be followed by a discussion and Q&A with filmmakers Sarah Friedland and Ryan Joseph, Graduate Center alumni CalvinJohn Smiley, and will be moderated by CUNY scholar Brenden Beck (Sociology).

04/16/2017 – 7:00 pm – Doctoral Students’ Council Lounge (Room 5414).

Ecumenopolis: City Without Limits 

Ekümenopolis tells the story of Istanbul on a neo-liberal course to destruction. It follows the story of a migrant family from the demolition of their neighborhood to their on-going struggle for housing rights. The film takes a look at the city on a macro level and through the eyes of experts, going from the tops of mushrooming skyscrapers to the depths of the railway tunnel under the Bosphorous strait; from the historic neighborhoods in the south to the forests in the north. It’s an Istanbul going from 15 million to 30 million. It’s an Istanbul going from 2 million cars to 8 million. It’s the Istanbul of the future that will soon engulf the entire region. It’s an Istanbul you have never seen before.

The screening will be followed by a discussion and Q&A with filmmaker Imre Azem, CUNY scholar Duygu Parmaksizoglu (Anthropology), and will be moderated by CUNY scholar Joshua Scannell (Sociology).

05/07/2015 – 7:00 pm – Skylight Conference Room, 9th Floor

Rerooting the Motor City: Notes on a City in Transformation:

Rerooting the Motor City: Notes on a City in Transformation was produced by Paper Tiger Television members: Maria Byck, Amanda Matles, Nadia Mohamed, Adrienne Silverman. From food deserts, to the plans to “rightsize” the city, Detroiters resist, rework, and remain resilient given the social and ecological failures of post-industrial global capitalism. With a critical lens on race and class dynamics, the human cost of industrial capitalism, produced scarcity and the problematics of frontier mentalities subtending “progressive” politics in the United States today are discussed. Rerooting weaves together segments on Detroit’s labor history, the roots of Detroit’s urban agriculture movement, a critical look at philanthro-capitalism and its relationship to urban renewal, as well as media (mis)representations of a city in transformation.

The screening will be followed by a discussion and Q&A with filmmakers Adrienne Silverman and Nadia Mohamed, and CUNY scholars Cindi Katz and Amanda Matles (Earth and Environmental Sciences), and will be moderated by CUNY scholar Bronwyn Dobchuk-Land (Sociology).

Confirmed Participants:

Kelly Anderson

Kelly Anderson’s most recent film is My Brooklyn, a documentary about gentrification and the redevelopment of Downtown Brooklyn. Her other work includes Never Enough, a documentary about clutter, collecting and Americans’ relationships with their stuff, and Every Mother’s Son, a documentary she made with Tami Gold about mothers whose children have been killed by police officers and who have become national spokespeople on police reform. Every Mother’s Son won the Audience Award at the Tribeca Film Festival, aired on POV, and was nominated for a national Emmy for Directing. Kelly’s other documentaries include Out At Work (also with Tami Gold), which screened at the Sundance Film Festival and was broadcast on HBO.  She is a Professor in the Department of Film and Media Studies at Hunter College (CUNY).

Tom Agnotti

Tom Angotti is Professor of Urban Affairs and Planning at Hunter College and the Graduate Center, City University of New York, and Director of the Hunter College Center for Community Planning and Development. His recent books include The New Century of the MetropolisNew York For Sale: Community Planning Confronts Global Real Estate, which won the Davidoff Book Award, and Accidental Warriors and Battlefield Myths. He is co-editor of Progressive Planning Magazine, and Participating Editor for Latin American Perspectives and Local Environment. He is actively engaged in community and environmental justice issues in New York City.

Imre Azem

Imre Azem was born in Istanbul in 1975. In 1998 he graduated from Tulane University in New Orleans with degrees in Political Science and French Literature. He also studied at the Sorbonne in Paris to complete his French Literature degree.  After graduating in 1998 he moved to New York where he worked in media. From 2004 on he worked as a director of photography and editor in independent projects. At the same time he designed and built furniture. In 2007 he moved to Istanbul to embark on his directorial debut project, Ecumenopolis: City Without Limits about the neo-liberal urbanization of Istanbul. The award-winning feature-length documentary was completed in 2011. Mr. Azem is also a member of People’s Urban Movement, a volunteer group producing reports and actions on urban issues.  His latest film Agoraphobia: Investigating Turkey’s Urban Transformation was completed in October 2013. He continues making furniture and activist films on mostly urban issues.

Brenden Beck

Brenden Beck is a doctoral student in sociology at the CUNY Graduate Center with an expected graduation date in 2017.  His dissertation, titled “Broken Windows in the Cul-de-sac: Racial threat, inequality, and policing in the changing suburbs,” examines how police in suburban departments have responded to an influx of poor and minority residents by adopting misdemeanor-focused policing strategies.  He is at work on an article with Adam Goldstein about police budget increases during the housing market boom of the 1990s and early 2000s.  He also studies inequality and rural prisons.

Bronwyn Dobchuk-Land

Bronwyn is a PhD candidate in the CUNY Graduate Center Department of Sociology, and an Instructional Technology Fellow at Macaulay Honors College. Her dissertation is about settler colonialism and the politics of prison and policing expansion in the Western Canadian Province of Manitoba.

Sarah Friedland

Sarah Friedland’s documentary films and installations are concerned with personal stories that reveal larger histories and intricacies about place and society. Friedland’s works with Esy Casey have screened widely in the US and abroad and have been supported by grants from the Jerome Foundation, the Paul Newman Foundation, the William H. Prusoff Foundation, The Princess Grace Foundation, the Ford Foundation, and the Center for Asian American Media. In 2009, after the debut of her feature documentary Thing With No Name, she was named one of the “Top 10 Independent Filmmakers to Watch” by the Independent Magazine. She is a recipient of the 2014 Paul Robeson award from the Newark Museum for her feature documentary The Rink. Her recent documentary Jeepney (directed by Esy Casey produced by Esy Casey and Sarah Friedland) will be broadcast on PBS in 2015. She is a 2014 LABA House of Study fellow and is currently working on two projects: Memorials (with Esy Casey), a feature documentary about the way America memorializes its dead; and 5 x Lydda, a documentary video installation. She is currently an Assistant Professor of Film and Film Studies at Wagner College.

Tamara Gubernat

Tamara Gubernat is a documentary filmmaker, artist and activist born and raised in Brooklyn, NY. Tamara’s creative process involves documenting personal geographies within the constantly changing social and physical landscapes of New York City. After experiencing the drastic shifts in her neighborhood brought on by the 2005 Greenpoint and Williamsburg Waterfront Rezoning, Tamara set out to demystify urban planning and policy to empower individuals to take proactive roles in shaping their communities. Her first documentary film, “REZONING HARLEM: The battle over Harlem’s future” follows the City’s land use process to rezone 125th Street and organizing efforts of longtime community members to have a say in the future of their legendary neighborhood. Tamara’s upcoming film, “OPEN PROCESS: local democracy in one corner of Brooklyn” takes a closer look at New York City’s existing framework for local participation in city government, community boards, by turning the lens directly on her own local community within Brooklyn CB 1.

Ryan Joseph

Ryan Joseph was born in Trinidad, West Indies and now resides in Jersey City, NJ. He is a freelance documentary filmmaker and photographer. He co-produced and co-wrote The Rink, a feature length documentary about a local roller skating rink in Newark, New Jersey. Ryan also co-produced, co-wrote, and co-directed It took 50 Years: Frances Goldin and the Struggle for Cooper Square, a documentary about a legendary housing activist who, alongside her community, fought Robert Moses and the City of New York for affordable housing in the Lower East Side.  Ryan is an Adjunct Lecturer at Lehman College, and La Guardia Community College. He was also a staff member and instructor at The Center for Digital Filmmaking, Mason Gross School of the Arts, Rutgers University.  Ryan has taught filmmaking, photography, and mass media at several academic institutions. He has been the recipient of numerous awards and grants, and his work has been shown in various venues, including Aljira, Center for Contemporary Art in Newark, New Jersey, The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, in Baltimore, Maryland, and Art for Change in New York City. Ryan has been published in The New York Times and Jet Magazine. He earned an MFA in Integrated Media Arts from Hunter College in New York City.

Amanda Matles

Amanda Matles is an artist, activist, geographer and filmmaker originally from the Detroit area. She is currently a doctoral student in the Geography Program at CUNY Graduate Center.

Sara Martucci

Sara Martucci is a doctoral candidate in the CUNY Graduate Center Sociology department. Her work investigates varied experiences of gentrification based on tenure in a neighborhood. Sara is currently an Instructional Technology Fellow at the Macaulay Honors College.

Nadia Mohamed

Nadia Mohamed is a Jersey City born and based media maker. She is an MFA candidate in Hunter College’s Integrated Media Arts program and works with a national economic and social rights organization based in NYC.

Pilar Ortiz

Pilar Ortiz is a doctoral candidate in Sociology at The CUNY Graduate Center, and holds a degree in Architecture and an MFA in Integrated Media Arts.  Her interdisciplinary work explores urban space as a terrain for cultural expression and social interaction, focusing on race, class, and gender in the exchanges that take place in public life. Her research has addressed issues such as temporary cities, public housing, urban segregation, and inequality in processes of urban development.  Her dissertation examines sexualized service labor in the coffee shops of Santiago, Chile.  Pilar’s interdisciplinary practice has developed around a series of theory and practice-based projects, incorporating research, teaching, and the production of media works.

Paper Tiger Television 

Paper Tiger Television is a creative, nonprofit, volunteer-based artist collective that produces documentaries, studio shows and advocacy shorts. Most collective members are media makers committed to creative, political, independent, alternative media production.

Duygu Parmaksizoglu

Duygu Parmaksizoglu is a doctoral candidate at the CUNY Graduate Center, anthropology department. She recently conducted a year- long field study in Istanbul, where she focused on a particular urban redevelopment/ gentrification scheme that seemingly renders the urban poor not as the victims of displacement, but ostensibly as the “stakeholder”. Her research explored the dynamics of “stakeholding” within a real-estate market bubble and investigated a complex process that is heavily animated by speculation, experiences of risk and uncertainty. While doing research, Parmaksizoglu actively participated in Taksim Gezi demonstrations of June 2013 and in the aftermath, she served as one of the spokespersons of Urban Movements Istanbul Organization. As a spokesperson, she had given speeches at several community meetings on the hidden ecological, social and economic costs of urban redevelopment schemes, organized demonstrations and protests to inform the general public on the matters of right to the city.

Joshua Scannell

PhD Candidate, Sociology, CUNY Graduate Center.

Adrienne Silverman

Adrienne Silverman was born and raised in Brooklyn, NY. She has a Masters in Media Studies from The New School. She currently works as an editor for a cable network and has been a member of Paper Tiger Television for over 5 years.

CalvinJohn Smiley

Dr. CalvinJohn Smiley received his Ph.D. in Sociology, with a Certificate in Africana Studies, from The Graduate Center of the City University of New York (CUNY) in March 2014. Dr. Smiley’s dissertation, entitled Existing But Not Living: Civil Death and the Carceral State, is a qualitative study of his work, through a community-based prisoner reentry organization, with men and women in Newark, NJ, and their challenges as they seek to reenter society. In addition, this study explores ways in which the notion of citizenship is constructed with a criminal record in the United States. Dr. Smiley’s research focuses on prisoner reentry, inequality, restorative justice, and the impact of mass incarceration on poor communities.

M. Ndigo Washington

Community organizer, author, Harlem activist, and founder of Take Back Our City.

Sharon Zukin

Sharon Zukin is professor of sociology at Brooklyn College and the City University Graduate Center.  She has written a trilogy of books about recent changes in New York City: Loft Living (1982), The Cultures of Cities (1995) and Naked City: The Death and Life of Authentic Urban Places (2010), and has just completed work on a collective book on the reshaping of local shopping streets in global cities.  She won the C. Wright Mills Award for her book Landscapes of Power: From Detroit to Disney World.












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