A hidden enclave in the shadow of the New York Mets' new stadium, the neighborhood of Willets Point is an industrial zone fated for demolition. Filled with scrapyards and auto salvage shops, lacking sidewalks or sewage lines, the area seems ripe for urban development. But Foreign Parts discovers a strange community where wrecks, refuse and recycling form a thriving commerce. Cars are stripped, sorted and cataloged by brand and part, then resold to an endless parade of drive-thru customers. Joe, the last original resident, rages and rallies through the street like a lost King Lear, trying to contest his imminent eviction. Two lovers, Sara and Luis, struggle for food and safety through the winter while living in an abandoned van. Julia, the homeless queen of the junkyard, exalts in her beatific visions of daily life among the forgotten. The film observes and captures the struggle of a contested "eminent domain" neighborhood before its disappearance under the capitalization of New York's urban ecology. (Modulus Studios)
- Director: J.P. Sniadecki
- Genre(s): Drama, Documentary
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People talk but don't say too much, and as curious and thorough as Ms. Paravel and Mr. Sniadecki are - Foreign Parts is the result of many months of patient filming - they are too polite to pry. But their tact adds to the richness of their film, which discovers a busy, complicated world within the space of few unlovely city blocks.
New Yorkers and those who've been following the neighborhood's plight know exactly how this ends; at the very least, Paravel and Sniadecki have preserved the memory of what was. Sometimes, that's the most you can do.
Foreign Parts engages in sociological inquiry without narration or contextual handholding, utilizing incisive, striking aesthetics (a panorama of hanging side mirrors, worn shoes trudging through grimy puddles) to elicit potent subcultural immersion.
The reinvention of this neighborhood may be in the cause of progress for New York's urban landscape, but sometimes you can't help feeling that the planners and the bureaucrats should leave well-enough alone.