Film

The Hostility of Gentrification in Black DC Neighborhoods

Residue, Merawi Gerima’s debut feature, depicts the impact of gentrification in an almost impressionistic, oblique way.

From Residue (2020), dir. Merawi Gerima (image courtesy Sara Sampson PR)

Joining a new wave of thoughtful films about gentrification is Residue, the feature debut from director Merawi Gerima (son of legendary LA Rebellion auteur Haile Gerima). Highly autobiographical, it follows young filmmaker Jay (Obinna Nwachukwu) as he returns to the Washington, DC neighborhood where he grew up to write a screenplay. He finds that his parents are among the few Black residents not to be forced out by gentrification, and struggles to reconcile his memories of the place with its current reality.

In Gerima’s lens, the alienation of gentrification is rendered in almost impressionistic ways. When white people appear, they do so obliquely, their faces never shown clearly. They are a foreign presence whose intrusions are always tinged with a menace that persists after they leave (the source of the film’s title). Yet the movie also packs in some truly wistful beauty, from its autumnal hues to moments like Jay’s parents viewing slides projected over family pictures on a wall. It’s highly accomplished, and not just for a first film.

Residue is now available to stream on Netflix.

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