Friday, October 19, 2018

Roger Paradiso's THE LOST VILLAGE indicts NYU/Capitalism for the decline of the Village

In 2012, Roger Paradiso explains to us in his new documentary, THE LOST VILLAGE, the New York City Council approved what was referred to as New York University's "Sexton Plan," named after the then-NYU President, John Sexton. During the course of this film, we hear the words/promises of Mr. Sexton pitted against the words and needs of various NYU students and faculty members.

TrustMovies well recalls the outcry heard around New York City and especially in Greenwich Village (the geographical home of the university) against this plan. But corporate power, as ever, trumped equality and reason, while tuition costs shot significantly upward, resulting in a huge rise in student prostitution (to pay that tuition), enormous student debt (NYU's is far above the national average) and student suicide.

I absolutely agree with Mr. Paradiso (who is shown at right) and many of his interviewees who bemoan the untoward growth of NYU as some sort of real estate baron while using that increased tuition to feed its President and corporate board instead of putting the money to use in better classroom facilities. I am also, as it would seem is the filmmaker himself, philosophically and in practice against Capitalism and its increasingly rotten results for us 99 per cent. That said, The Lost Village is an unconvincing, poorly reasoned, repetitive mess which grows worse and ever more tiresome as it lumbers along.

It focus is wobbly at best, and it tries to incorporate way too much into its 88-minute running time. The subject of student prostitution alone (NYU would seem to have more than its fair share) could easily provide fodder to a full-length documentary. On that subject Paradiso gives us everything from a strong speech by a masked student activist (shown below) bemoaning her stint as a prostitute (to which she must return from time to time to pay the bills) to a kind of recruitment video in which a pretty young woman explains the wonders of the sugar daddy/sugar baby relationship and why you might want to consider embarking on one of these. Really: Some honest-to-god investigative reporting on all of this could fill a whole film.

Instead, Paradiso treats us to a entirely other matter: how small businesses are increasingly being forced out of the Village so that what made the place special is being lost. But this is true all over New York City and its boroughs. Further, the two or three examples of the threatened small businessman we are shown do not have that much original to say and grow repetitive after a visit or two (the filmmaker give us several too many). We also hear from a dedicated economist and a real estate broker with enough skin in the game to seem more like an apologist for the unrestricted Capitalism that is destroying New York City.

By the time Paradiso has begun indicting national politics, he is telling most of us stuff we've long known -- and doing it in a less than compelling manner. This is a shame because, clearly, the filmmaker's heart and mind are in the right place. You may not disagree with what's shown here. But you will probably wish it were better focused and had been conceived and executed in a much stronger and disciplined fashion.

From First Run Features, the documentary opens today, Friday, October 19, in New York City at the Cinema Village (certainly an appropriate venue). I don't find any other cities or playdates available, but as the film is from FRF, it will probably see a DVD or streaming release eventually. During its one-week Cinema Village run, there will be various personal appearances and specific subjects discussed during the Q&A's following the film's screening. You can find these listed by clicking here and scrolling down.

No comments: