[Marxism] The New Los Angeles

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Sun Apr 23 14:32:51 MDT 2006

United in their hope for city's future
A screening of the documentary `The New Los Angeles' hits home for a 
diverse audience of civic leaders, activists and workers.
By Lynn Smith, Times Staff Writer
April 21, 2006

"Los Angeles is a city that is profoundly invisible to itself."

— Harold Meyerson, editor-at-large of the American Prospect, in "The New 
Los Angeles"

Before he saw "The New Los Angeles," Bong Hwan Kim, a fair housing advocate 
in Pasadena, doubted that any film could really capture the rapid social 
and economic changes in Los Angeles over the last three decades. The city 
is so disparate, stereotyped and divided, and its image so glamorously 
airbrushed by "Baywatch," that "Los Angeles confounds people, even people 
who live here," said Kim, one of a dozen observers featured in the 
documentary that aims to redefine the city in light of two decades of 
demographic and economic upheaval.

That the film succeeds was evident Wednesday — at least to Kim and 350 
other activists; business, civic and religious leaders; and hotel 
housekeepers who walked down a red carpet for the film's premiere at 
Paramount Studios in Hollywood.

Judging by the cheers (for labor leaders such as Maria Elena Durazo) and 
hissing (for former Gov. Pete Wilson), the diverse group appeared to agree 
the film captures their rarely depicted image of Los Angeles: the ongoing 
civil rights struggles of immigrant workers and an arc of progressive 
"coalition" politics from former Mayor Tom Bradley to current Mayor Antonio 

Former Mayor Richard J. Riordan makes a brief appearance, former Mayor 
James K. Hahn none at all.

Madeline Janis-Aparicio, executive director of the think tank Los Angeles 
Alliance for New Economy, said the film moves her to tears every time she 
sees it.

The documentary uses rarely seen historical footage of hotel housekeeper 
Victoria Vergara and other picketers being arrested and carted away by 
helmeted Los Angeles Police Department officers. The late Miguel Contreras, 
head of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, who married Durazo, now 
the interim head, is also featured prominently.

Third in the four-part PBS series "California and the American Dream," the 
film by veteran producer Lyn Goldfarb will air at 10 p.m. Thursday on KCET.

Another showing for the general public will be at 6:30 p.m. Monday at the 
First A.M.E. Church in Los Angeles.

Goldfarb said in an interview that she was interested in the story of 
Bradley, the first African American to be elected mayor of a largely white 
city, who "built important coalitions between African Americans and Jews 
that were never heard of before."

"I stand on the shoulders of Tom Bradley," said Villaraigosa, who spoke to 
the audience after the screening.

He described Bradley as an "invisible man" who withstood "incredible 
bigotry" to bring factions of the city together. "He is and will be L.A.'s 
greatest mayor," Villaraigosa said.

The film was begun three years ago, before Villaraigosa had decided on his 
second bid for mayor.

"We started with Bradley," Goldfarb said, "and realized that Villaraigosa 
also is building a coalition — though it's not exactly the same — that was 
absent since the time of Bradley."

"Coalitions helped build L.A., and coalitions will help carry us into the 
future," she said. The film notes that Los Angeles is a city with a 
majority of minorities — a trend expected to spread nationwide. "Right now 
we are a model," Goldfarb said.

"The New Los Angeles" uses historical footage of local unrest: the 1992 
Rodney G. King riots, hotel and liquor store pickets and protests against 
Proposition 187, the 1994 ballot initiative that sought to cut off most 
public services to illegal immigrants. (Production had ended before the 
recent protests against proposed immigration reforms.)

"The film brings us up to where we are today. We need to know how we got 
here," Goldfarb said. "The film raises important questions: What are our 
values, what do we want?"

It skirts some darker questions, as raised in the Academy Award-winning 
film "Crash," about the extent to which racism remains a factor in daily 
life, to focus on history, protests and solutions.

"I'm not a Pollyanna, but I'm a believer that this city is a shining light. 
Our strength is our generosity and our yearning to make it work," 
Villaraigosa said.

As Kim points out in the documentary, many of the movies and TV programs 
Hollywood churns out continue to reinforce racial stereotypes about the 
city. Many poor immigrants who have had their views of L.A. shaped by 
"Baywatch," a popular U.S. television export, are surprised to find 
themselves living in low-income, segregated communities with no Anglos in 
sight, he said.

Their challenge now, as in the past, is to figure out where they fit in.

The blacks, Anglos, Asians and Latinos who were chatting happily in the 
Paramount theater lobby can all get along because they have enough money, 
Kim said.

"We still have a ways to go." 

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