LAND OF OPPORTUNITY asks the question: What kind of cities do we want to inhabit in the 21st century? Through the eyes of urban planners, displaced residents, immigrant workers, developers, community activists, artists and public housing residents this question is asked, answered and asked again. But this is not just a situation that is happening somewhere else and to someone else, as our tagline points out: it’s “happening to a city near you”. As cities all over the world struggle to recover from disaster, whether economic, natural or man-made, we believe that the lessons of post-Katrina New Orleans have only become more urgent. We want to utilize the diverse stories we’ve captured to galvanize and educate urban America around the core urban issues of urban redevelopment, immigration, and affordable housing. We aim to inspire nuanced discussions and support the work of organizations that cut across single-issue frameworks to build a broad-based and multi-racial movement for urban spatial justice.
These are some of the stories that Land of Opportunity tells of ordinary people facing extraordinary circumstances:
- Tr’vel Lyons – a young displaced New Orleanian, who makes the most out of his relocation to Los Angeles by becoming a model student. As he says, “Katrina, you did something.”
- Andres Duany – a developer and planner whose ambitious plans for rebuilding New Orleans dissipate in the face of government inertia. He warns “The heart of the problem…is that New Orleans is becoming more and more like other places…and that is a cultural tragedy.”
- Al Aubry – a Gentilly resident with deep roots in New Orleans who begins to grow food for his family in an empty lot after his home is destroyed. He proudly asserts, “My first vegetable was grown because I got upset… $1.89 for a bell pepper, when I bought a pack of seed for 25 cents and I had bell peppers for seven months.”
- Vanessa Gueringer – a Lower 9th ward Community organizer whose fight to bring back her neighborhood takes her all the way to President Obama. She says, “We need to make the powers that be understand. We’re coming back!”
- Marcio P. and Elza F. – Undocumented Brazilian immigrants who come to New Orleans in search of work and to participate in the reconstruction of the city. As Marcio says, “I’ll be able to say I took part in this, I helped rebuild.”
- Sharon and Kawana Jasper – displaced public housing residents who fight to prevent the destruction of the development and community they called home before the storm. Kawana asserts, “We’re not welcome here…they want to make it more for tourists, more like Las Vegas…”
LAND OF OPPORTUNITY is an important part of the New Orleans story. It gets down and dirty with the people on the ground. Five years in the making, Luisa’s film gives voice to everyday people working hard to rebuild their city and their lives. Anyone who cares about the future of cities in this country should see this movie!
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