Brick City (2009) Review
(More customer reviews)BRICK CITY is a powerful and compelling documentary series that chronicles several months in the history of Newark, New Jersey as the city tries to reclaim itself, neighborhood by neighborhood, block by block, and brick by brick, under the leadership of Mayor Cory Booker. Booker is often compared to Barack Obama and the resistance he faces in Newark in 2008 could easily be compared to the national opposition faced by Obama in 2009. There are some people who just want him to fail, even if the result of failure is the status quo or worse.
The series played out on Sundance Channel over five nights in September 2009. And the dynamic Booker was just one of the stars. Directors Mark Benjamin and Marc Levin built the series around several distinct characters, including Police Director Garry McCarthy, Central High School principal Ras Baraka, a young couple Jayda (a Blood) and Creep (a Crip), and a community activist called Street Doctor.
As presented in BRICK CITY, Booker's attempts to rejuvenate his city revolve around crime reduction, improved education, urban renewal and economic development. He's an inspirational personality, but that doesn't mean the whole city is buying into helping him achieve his worthy goals:
*Political foes don't like the way he brings in "outsiders" to solve the city's problems. (While you're waiting for the BRICK CITY box set, be sure to watch the brilliant documentary Street Fight: A Film by Marshall Curry about Booker's 2002 mayoral run. It offers an excellent primer on Newark politics.)
*Inside the police department, McCarthy faces internal resistance and politicking that challenges his authority, even as the murder rate is plunging 40% or more.
*Ras Baraka's dreams of opening the much-delayed $100 million Central High School in time for the new school year are threatened by ongoing construction delays. (Baraka and his vice principal Todd Warren are two of the show's real-life heroes.)
*Meanwhile, Jayda's attempts to rehabilitate her life and create a new mentoring program for at-risk teenage girls become threatened when a crime from her past resurfaces. Her relationship with Creep also faces challenges, even as the couple face the prospect of bringing a new child into the world.
As the economy turns south and the 2008 election approaches, BRICK CITY ultimately becomes a show about the power of individuals to maintain hope and deliver progress in the face of seemingly impossible obstacles. In the midst of it all, and for the first time in years, the circus comes to town, too.
Some may say that BRICK CITY wears its political heart too obviously on its sleeve. The show was clearly created and produced by people who are rooting for Booker to succeed, not fail. But it still feels honest, at times harsh, and very real.
Ultimately, the message is simple: Even in the toughest of situations, rebirth is possible, but the gestation process is lengthy, messy and there's a great deal of kicking and screaming involved.
EXTRAS (as seen on TV): Forest Whitaker served as Executive Producer, giving an on-screen introduction to each episode. After each episode, producer-directors Benjamin and Lucas discussed elements of the series and showed additional mini-stories that didn't fit the "arcs" of the show itself. These "extras" are all worth watching by themselves, adding additional layers and interest to the main story, including more footage of some of the major players (e.g. Jayda and Creep) and putting a bigger spotlight on some of the more interesting people we are introduced to during the show, such as author-activist Dashaun Jiwe Morris.
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BRICK CITY is a provocative and eye-opening documentary series that fans out around the city of Newark, New Jersey to capture the daily drama of a community striving to become a better, safer, stronger place to live. Against great odds, Newark's citizens and its Mayor, Cory Booker, fight to raise the city out of a half century of violence, poverty and corruption. Booker, an outspoken and charismatic mayor who many compare to Barack Obama, works with Police Director Garry McCarthy, youth mentors, Blood and Crip gang members and other citizens on the front line to bring peace and prosperity to their once-proud city.Bringing to life the true challenges and adventures of social transformation and urban renewal, BRICK CITY goes from City Hall to the street to create a vivid portrait of a city at a critical moment in history.