Washington DC

DC Filmmaker Chronicles Gentrification of Northeast Neighborhood

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In his first feature film “Residue” art imitates life for writer, director and D.C. native Merawi Gerima.

The movie centers around, Jay, an aspiring filmmaker who returns to the District to write a screenplay about the Eckington neighborhood where he grew up, only to find it transformed.

"It looks a lot different around here," Jay says in the movie.

"I was like an alien crashlanding in some, you know, brave new world," Gerima says of his real-life experience coming back to Eckington.

Sitting outside his parents video and bookstore, which has survived waves of gentrification itself, Gerima recalled the first summer he returned home from film school at the University of Southern California.


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That's when he says the idea began to take shape.

"You have no choice but to walk, kind of just seeing the ghosts of your childhood, and, you know, your home and your community left and right. And it may appear surreal to other people but it’s a very real and physical type of existence for black folks in D.C.," Gerima said.

Gerima sees his film as a living record of Eckington’s past. What life on Q Street NE used to be like.

"The main triumph of the film is being able to archive the people I know, the places I know and the way I grew up," he said.

While race, gentrification, and issues like police brutality aren’t explicitly mentioned in the film, they constantly bubble under the surface — revealing themselves through imagery, dialogue between neighbors and confrontations with strangers.

"The film is really about all these things, the pressures bearing down on Black people’s lives," Gerima said.

As D.C. continues to change, Gerima hopes "Residue" can join movements like #Don'tMuteDC as a sort of cultural resistance to those problems.

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