Flag Wars

"Good"

Flag Wars Review


"Urban gentrification" is often bandied about like it's nothing but a bad thing. But while low-income residents of the less upscale parts of town tend to get evicted and run out, the community as a whole does indeed improve. Crack houses are torn down. Graffiti is painted over. Neighborhoods are cleaned up. Gangs move to less troublesome territories. But some long-time residents don't exactly get the royal treatment along the way.

Flag Wars (an awful title, I'm afraid) is a sober documentary about gentrification in one Columbus, Ohio neighborhood, Olde Towne East. Specifically, a run-down, project-infested part of town populated largely by blacks (many in poor health) find their neighborhood being adopted by affluent, white gays, who start renovating the gothic old mansions and putting up rainbow flags. Needless to say, these two groups are a bit at odds with each other.

At ground zero of this argument is the Columbus zoning and building commission. The trouble apparently starts when one gay realtor complains to the commission about the many decrepit homes in the hood: She wants them to be improved or sold; either way is a win for her business and her property values. One black man, a Yoruba priest, hangs a sign on the front of his house and sells art inside. The city wants the sign removed. He refuses.

Other cases are far more contentious, namely the sad affair of Linda Mitchell, an alcoholic on disability whose home is crumbling around her. She has no money to fix it, but the city demands she do so, constantly hauling her before a judge and extracting promise after promise that she'll do what they say. She never does. The cycle continues.

And this is Flag Wars' biggest problem: It goes round and round and never settles anything. Though it was filmed over four years, the end offers no resolution at all. It simply stops, as if the filmmakers ran out of tape. In attempting to cast the story as one of class warfare, you can't help but feel the narrative is a little forced. Aside from one meeting where muggings and burglaries are discussed, you really don't get the feeling that these two groups can't coexist. In direct interviews, the blacks seem to care little about the gay whites and vice versa. They both just want to be left alone... maybe by the filmmakers more than anyone else.



Flag Wars

Facts and Figures

Run time: 86 mins

In Theaters: Monday 10th March 2003

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 67%
Fresh: 4 Rotten: 2

IMDB: 6.9 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director: Linda Goode Bryant, Laura Poitras

Producer: Linda Goode Bryant, Laura Poitras

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