Monday, October 03, 2011

"Something very new in the way of evil."

If you love beautiful old buildings and eccentric characters, and don't mind choking back tears while your blood boils, see Lost Bohemia now playing at the VIFF.

Carnegie Hall opened in 1891, and in 1895 a huge addition of artist studios was constructed on top. Josef Astor is a photographer who moved there in the 80s and began filming the other tenants in 2001. In 2007, eviction notices began appearing on doors, and his film suddenly acquired an unwanted theme. Some of the older tenants had been there since the 40s. Failing financially, the whole place was almost torn down and replaced with a modern office tower in the 60s. The city of New York bought it instead and a corporation (headed by a former Citigroup CEO) was formed to manage it. Claiming that they wanted to create new studios, the corporation began evicting those without rent control, and eventually forced the rest out with settlements. Heritage details were ripped out, cubicles and lowered ceilings were installed, and the supposed new studios filled with offices. Just so happens that the chairman of the board's son in law is an "architect." The legal loophole that allowed this travesty: the charter drawn up decades ago to protect the artists, stating that studios must remain, and artists must fill them, also stipulated no third parties. And technically, tenants were now "subletting" from the real tenant (the corporation).

If you're not convinced that evil psychopaths are taking over, check out what Donald Trump has been up to in another film playing the festival (one that I can't stomach seeing).

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