Bulldozing a Path: North St. Louis and NGA is a short documentary film that explores the idea of urban renewal as a cyclical cycle. This cycle often starts by removing the current, underprivileged community and evidence of their historical presence. This theme of destruction and renewal is explored by looking at North St. Louis’s recent chronological events through the narration of those who lived it.
By hearing the personal stories of those who had family in Carr Square or Pruitt Igoe, and those who received care at Homer G Philips, the viewer will realize that buildings are more than brick and mortar. They are the foundation for entire communities. The audience is left to wonder, who are we serving by bulldozing one building and erecting a new one? As well as how this constant moving of poor communities impacts generations and their ability to accumulate wealth.
This expository approach to a public history documentary is straightforward. This mode of storytelling allows the audience to flow with the authenticity of the oral histories being told. This authenticity can be seen clearly with the narration from Charlesetta Taylor, who, despite the odds, was able to work with the city to keep her family home. Though the methods were unconventional and not practical, her house was saved for future generations through her protest and refusal to submit to the city’s demands.
Mrs. Taylor’s description of her community is a brilliant example of how fear tactics are used to displace poor communities. She gives several examples of how many times these tactics are not valid. North St. Louis has been painted in the light of the crimes committed in its boundaries, but rarely in the light of its neighborly compassion or desire for the community to succeed.
The experience of Mrs. Taylor is one example of many within this film that highlights the cities role in displacing poor communities for profit. This film will leave the audience reflecting on this systemic problem and wondering what we as a society can do to break this cycle.