By Gregory Crofton
Director Ian Phillips did the work many of us think we ought to do in “There Goes the Neighborhood,” a new 75-minute doc about a community’s historic defeat of Amazon and its push to establish headquarters in Long Island City, New York, in early 2019.
But this film is about more than a fight with Amazon.
Shot over three years, partly during the beginning of the Covid-19 Pandemic, Phillips introduces us to resident activists who work extra hours to preserve the multi-cultural worlds of boroughs like Queens, Brooklyn and places like the Lower Eastside of Manhattan.
What does it take to build a political movement powerful enough to stop Amazon? You’ve got to go outside with megaphones and speak truth about what’s happening and what will happen. You need to make movies about people who are doing just that. You need to build political support by frequently gathering, talking, marching and protesting. Ultimately, you need to gain the attention of the national media.
The vitality of this film is in the hundreds of hours Phillips spends on the streets with his camera. He focuses on the lives of a hardware store owner, a LGTBQ night club owner, a mother concerned about pending large-scale development, and a Dominican-American law student who learns how to galvanize and defend the Astoria communities he loves and was born into.
Is creating wealth more important than protecting culture? “There Goes the Neighborhood” puts you right in the middle of that debate. As astonishing as it is for a community protest to send Amazon packing (the company headquarters were built in Arlington, Virginia, instead), it is just as important to take note of the playbook used because the power brokers of capitalism, not the residents, usually win.