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Chad Freidrichs's "The Pruitt-Igoe Myth"

"A heartbreaking alarm call for a society that desperately needs to learn from its worst mistakes."
The Daily

"There's a broodingly meditative tone to Chad Freidrichs's Pruitt-Igoe Myth, a film whose deceptively simple, by-the-books documentary template serves dual purposes," begins Ernest Hardy in the Voice. "Freidrichs's main goal, which is fully realized, is the painstaking illustration of how racism, classism, and government serving the interests of big business all shaped the now-myth-like horrors of St Louis's notorious Pruitt-Igoe housing project. The massive complex, which at one time housed roughly 12,000 people in 33 buildings, was launched with much fanfare in the mid 1950s and touted as a solution to the city's many crime-ridden slums. It was demolished with even more fanfare in 1972 after being allowed to slide from a state-of-the-art planned community to a hellhole of violence and despair."

"Blisteringly high-res interviews with the now-grown children of Pruitt-Igoe, as well as urban planning students who studied the complexes firsthand, offer testimonial evidence to the germs of neighborhood pride that lived on there though surrounded by fear, ignorance, and insurmountable penury," writes Joseph Jon Lanthier in Slant. "Most haunting, however, is the relentless interweaving of archival footage with these talking heads — newsreels, photographs, and home movies, some of each repeated more than once in disparate contexts, which form a multimedia-driven collage of interlocking symbols not just about Pruitt-Igoe-the-historical-event, but Pruitt-Igoe-the-idea."

Rachel Saltz in the New York Times: "The film puts Pruitt-Igoe's history in the broader context of American cities after World War II, as they lost jobs and population — especially white residents — with the growth of the suburbs. And it shows how projects like Pruitt-Igoe were built, then left to struggle in declining cities with shrinking tax bases."

The Pruitt-Igoe Myth: An Urban History is "a heartbreaking alarm call for a society that desperately needs to learn from its worst mistakes," writes Eric Hynes in Time Out New York.

At the IFC Center through Thursday.

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