On his way home from a soccer event in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Red Hook, director D.W. Young found a hole in a corrugated metal fence that captured his curiosity. Squeezing his way through, Young found a seemingly alien land of homeless citizens and makeshift homes, resting upon an empty lot only a stone's throw from the Statue of Liberty. The contrast between the thriving neighborhood outside and the makeshift, decaying architecture inside led Young to start questioning the locals, hoping to understand how this primo piece of real estate could be left for dead without triggering anyone's attention.
Of course, anything with that level of financial potential doesn't go untouched for long. Young's story begins during IKEA's bid for the land (dubbed "The Yard" by the camera-shy inhabitants), hoping to transform a drug-riddled area of the community into a profitable hub, using the temptation of jobs as a way to endear themselves to political officials and the cautious residents. A menagerie of artists, gardeners, boating enthusiasts, homeless, hoodlums, and families, the Red Hook locals were not pleased, fearing further gentrification of the neighborhood would be devastating to morale, especially to the lower-income residents already being ejected from the once legendary New York City melting pot.
"A Hole in a Fence," running a succinct 46 minutes, explores the dissatisfaction of the Red Hook populace, who wear The Yard, this black hole of development, as something of a badge, lamenting the coming big box store change. Young doesn't nurture any particular argument here, but rather observes the situation through the eyes of those who've ventured into The Yard, gathering their experiences to shed some light on why the area has remained untouched for so long. Graffiti artists (who, in a spectacularly wrongheaded move, refer to themselves as "bombers") treat the place as a makeshift museum, chronicling the tags located on the crumbling walls of The Yard; architect Benjamin Uyeda visits the area to research housing concepts and mingle with the homeless dwellers; and Young himself visits to understand New York seafaring past, finding the landscape holds a key to once mighty waterfront majesty.
Presented in anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1 aspect ratio), image quality on "Hole in a Fence" is acceptable considering the no-budget source material. Colors remain in a solid state and black levels are stable. Detail is slightly smudged out, but not to any point of distraction.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 mix is simple and effective, keeping interview sequences separated adequately from all music sources. It's a no-frills audio situation, keeping the listening experience basic, but welcoming.
"View from the Red Hook Grain Terminal" (1:21) offers more atmosphere from the area, independent of the film's focus.
"Extended Interview with Benjamin Uyeda" (4:09) chats more with the intelligent architect, recalling his time in The Yard and the people he interacted with.
And a Photo Gallery of Red Hook snapshots is included.
"Hole in the Fence" makes a great case for both sides of the argument, understanding that such a grotesque movement of commerce could result in riches or ruin, though the film eventually favors the neighborhood concerns (IKEA is never interviewed). Young's focus is crisp and his subject original, using the mystery of The Yard to speak on the larger issue of preserving New York City history.
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