Films: The Pruitt-Igoe Myth: An Urban History

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The Pruitt-Igoe Myth: An Urban History  {Icons Revisited}

The Pruitt-Igoe Myth: An Urban History
Icons Revisited

USA, 2010, 83 Minute Running Time
Genre/Subjects: African-American, Documentary, Drama, Educational, Human Rights
Program: Documentary Films
Language: English

DIRECTOR: Chad Freidrichs
Producer: Chad Freidrichs
Screenwriter: Chad Freidrichs, Jaime Freidrichs
Cinematographer: Chad Freidrichs
Principal Cast: 

Friday, Sept. 21 @ 4:30pm
When it was built in the 1950s, the Pruitt-Igoe housing project in St. Louis was a model example of affordable urban housing, providing an alternative to the slums and a home for low-income families in exodus from rural blight. But by 1972, the area had declined and the government abandoned its experiment. Over the following decades, Pruitt-Igoe became a glaring example of the failures of the federal urban-renewal program.

Chad Freidrich’s unsettling but enlightening documentary aims to put the plight of Pruitt-Igoe into a historical context. Just as crowded, unsafe, and unsanitary slums were being razed to provide the working man with an inner-city utopia at the end of World War II, the combination of a dramatic drop in urban-centered industrial jobs and so-called white flight to newly emerging suburbs caused a setback. Projects like Pruitt-Igoe soon became a tool for segregation. Coupled with a punitive welfare system and declining maintenance funds, Pruitt-Igoe residents found their poor living conditions exacerbated by vandalism and crime. While everyone pointed fingers, the tenants themselves waged a desperate fight for decent housing, trying to live through the day-to-day.

Through their eyes and poignant stories, Freidrich shows us the good times as well as the bad that were had in the projects—from the skills locals used to adapt to life at Pruitt-Igoe to the ways in which they fell victim to both harsh conditions and sociocultural stereotypes.
—REBECCA CARO

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