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6 Degrees Entertainment

'Ken Burns Presents East Lake Meadows'
(DVD / PG-13 / 2020 / PBS)

Overview: In 1970, a public housing community was opened in Atlanta called East Lake Meadows. But as public housing was abandoned and stigmatized, it became nearly uninhabitable.

In the mid-1990s, it was bulldozed to make way for mixed-income housing. Through the stories of former residents, this film raises questions about poverty and limited housing opportunity for African Americans.

DVD Verdict: In 1970, the Atlanta Housing Authority opened a public housing community on the edge of the city called East Lake Meadows.

Over the next 25 years, many thousands of low-income Atlantans, mostly African American, would call it home. Shoddy construction and a lack of funding left the project and surrounding landscape in disrepair and led to a rapid decline in the quality of life.

As public housing in America became increasingly stigmatized and abandoned, and a crack wave swept through the neighborhood, East Lake Meadows became nearly uninhabitable, but residents nonetheless found ways to overcome violence and neglect, raise kids, find work, and create moments of joy?

In the mid-1990s, Atlanta bulldozed East Lake Meadows to make way for new mixed-income housing, as government and philanthropic funds poured into the area in an effort to create a thriving community.

In a technical sense, the scope of the new PBS documentary 'East Lake Meadows: A Public Housing Story' is extremely specific.

Filmmaker-spouses Sarah Burns and David McMahon follow a 30-year period from 1970, when the Atlanta Housing Authority opened a public housing project called East Lake Meadows, until 2000, when, after decades of near-criminal negligence, the city destroyed and rebuilt it from scratch.

But the film also attempts to tell a larger story — about the fraught history of America’s relationship to public housing — and a timely one, as the coronavirus pandemic forces the country to confront how the government serves its most vulnerable citizens.

Executive produced by Ken Burns, the film traces the origins of East Lake Meadows back to 1934, when Atlanta officials began construction on the first public housing project in the nation: Techwood Homes. “We think of public housing as a place where low-income and mostly minority families live,” author Richard Rothstein says in the documentary.

Through the stories of the former residents, 'East Lake Meadows: A Public Housing Story' gives voice to some of the most marginalized people in our society and raises critical questions about how we have created concentrated poverty and limited housing opportunity for African Americans; and what responsibility we have as a people to ensure decent housing for our most vulnerable citizens. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

www.PBS.org





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