Gentrification: The Movie

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Class Divide

On one side of 10th Avenue in lower Manhattan is the almost comically upscale Avenues school, where students learn Mandarin for $40,000 a year. Just 115 steps away on the other side are the Chelsea-Elliott housing projects.

Cue drool over the insane perfection of the metaphor by gentrification documentarians Marc Levin and Daphne Pinkerson. Their resulting film, Class Divide, airs on HBO on October 3.

Asking kids to parrot the necessary clichés about race, class, and mobility is a high-risk strategy. This out-of-the-mouths-of-babes tactic can go terribly wrong in unskilled hands. What saves the piece is that, unlike their adult counterparts, kids from both sides of the tracks are refreshingly uninterested in scoring points against evil landlords, the corrupt capitalist system, lazy welfare queens, or other boomer bogeymen. They seem to be genuinely trying to figure out how to behave productively and ethically in a city full of such startling contrasts, rather than looking for someone to blame.