“Razing Liberty Square,” Documentary About Climate Gentrification in Miami, Premieres at Human Rights Watch Film Festival

Razing Liberty Square, directed by Oscar-nominated director Katja Esson, exposes  dynamics of climate gentrification in a historically black neighborhood in Miami.
Razing Liberty Square, directed by Oscar-nominated director Katja Esson, exposes dynamics of climate gentrification in a historically black neighborhood in Miami.

The Human Rights Watch Film Festival runs from May 31 to June 11 in New York and streams nationwide from June 5 to 11

Razing Liberty Square, directed by Academy Award Nominee Katja Esson, will have its New York Premiere at the 34th edition of the Human Rights Watch Film Festival, running May 31 to June 11. Razing Liberty Square profiles a historically Black neighborhood in Miami that was the first segregated public housing project in the South. As rising sea levels cause widespread damage to wealthy oceanfront neighborhoods in the city, Liberty Square draws the attention of developers, and a “revitalization” project begins that threatens to dismantle this thriving and close-knit community.

When residents of the Liberty Square public-housing community in Miami learn about a 300-million-dollar revitalization project, they know that the sudden interest comes from the fact that their neighborhood is located on the highest and driest ground in the city. As rising seas threaten Miami’s luxurious beachfront, wealthy property owners are pushing inland to higher ground. Now the Liberty Square residents must prepare to fight a growing form of racial injustice—climate gentrification.

From the Academy Award-nominated filmmaker Katja Esson, Razing Liberty Squareshares perspectives from all angles—residents, community advocates, teachers, developers, and politicians—following the redevelopment from start to finish. Miami is experiencing sea level rise before much of the country, but communities across the U.S. are facing changes similar to the dramatic shifts happening in Liberty Square as the climate crisis exacerbates the affordable housing crisis and the impact of systemic racism.

“I have a problem with them tearing down Liberty Square. Liberty Square is the heart, and when you destroy the heart, you destroy this community. You destroy the people. You’re not going to see people that look like me staying in these projects.” — Samantha Quarterman, film participant, Razing Liberty Square

“People think that climate change or environmental things are not a Black people’s issue, but one thing I learned about climate is that it affects us in the worst ways.” — Valencia Gunder, climate activist and film participant, Razing Liberty Square

“The story of Liberty Square is also a cautionary tale of the future of many low-income communities in the face of climate-change displacement. It’s a story of racial segregation and a haunting reminder of Jim Crow laws.” — Lena Simet, Senior Researcher and Advocate, Poverty and Inequality, Human Rights Watch

In-person screenings:
Friday, June 2, 6:30pm, Film at Lincoln Center, Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center
Tuesday, June 6, 6:30pm, IFC Center
Discussion to follow both screenings with filmmaker and Valencia Gunder, activist, organizer and film participant (June 2 only) and Juanita O. Lewis, Executive Director, Community Voices Heard (June 6 only).

Digital screening:
Available to watch at your own pace, any time between June 5 and June 11, 2023, on the festival’s digital streaming platform. Digital screenings are available nationwide in the U.S.

This film is captioned and audio-described; the discussion panel following the film will be live-captioned.

The Human Rights Watch Film Festival, now in its 34th year, will present a full edition of 10 groundbreaking new films nationwide in the United States, from May 31 to June 11, 2023. The New York festival will be back with a full program of in-person screenings at Film at Lincoln Center and IFC Center, with in-depth discussions with filmmakers, film participants, journalists, activists and Human Rights Watch researchers. The festival will continue to offer the opportunity to watch all 10 new films online nationwide across the United States with a full digital edition of the film festival from June 5 to June 11.

For full program information and to purchase tickets, please visit https://ff.hrw.org/newyork.

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