Push (4 stars)

Push

An inspiring, housing-related crusade is the subject of Fredrik Gertten's well-argued documentary

The right to housing is an expansive topic, but Swedish writer-director Fredrik Gertten's globetrotting film wisely zeroes in on the one-woman crusade of personable Canadian Leilani Farha. Previously an advocate for the homeless, Farha reports to the United Nations, with a remit to investigate the impact of gentrification on ordinary city dwellers.

In London, New York, Barcelona and other major cities around the world, properties change hands for increasingly large sums of money, and yet many buyers never set foot inside their investments. Blue-chip purchases are sought after by banks and hedge-funds, sourcing reliable returns, but the inevitable result is that building owners hike up rents to clear out their existing tenants. Farha travels extensively to hear the heart-breaking testimony of those who are effectively driven from their communities, and listens to experts ranging from academic Joseph Stiglitz to Gomorrah writer Roberto Saviano – who seems to have a few ideas as to where the bodies might be buried, metaphorically speaking.

Centralisation of wealth is nothing new, but Push seems to suggest a nadir is being reached. One frustrated tenant is angry, yet admits to 'zoning out' when it comes to understanding the financial details. Gertten and Farha's thoughtful consideration of Grenfell and other tragedies helps keep the big picture in focus. The takeaway is simple: tomorrow's cities may not prosper without actual people living in them.

It's perhaps revealing that Blackstone, the private-equity company regularly identified by Gertten as amongst those responsible for this crisis, simply refuse to argue their case on-camera. Their silence hands the filmmakers' argument a win by default; watching the well-reasoned Push might just inspire audiences to ask a few questions of their own, or even prompt moneyed shareholders to enquire exactly what's being done in their name.

Selected release from Fri 28 Feb.

Push

  • 4 stars
  • 2019
  • Sweden
  • 1h 32min
  • Directed by: Fredrik Gertten
  • UK release: 28 February 2020

Documentary about Leilani Farha, who investigates the impact of gentrification on ordinary city dwellers. The takeaway is simple: tomorrow’s cities may not survive without actual people living in them, and the silence of those most responsible for the crisis might prompt audiences to ask a few questions of their own.

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