Home > Entertainment, Lifestyle > Film Debut This Sunday at the New York Film Festival

Film Debut This Sunday at the New York Film Festival

Matt Surrusco, arts and culture editor

Tires, windshield glass, rims, and mufflers. All in the shadow of the New York Met’s new ballpark Citifield.

This is the setting of filmmakers Verena Paravel and J.P. Sniadecki’s “Foreign Parts,” a narrative documentary that tells the story of the diverse community living and working in a 75-acre stretch of auto-body repair shops in Willets Point, Queens. The same location told a similar tale in the 2008 film “Chop Shop,” which centers on a fictional young Latino street orphan. But the drama and intrigue of “Foreign Parts” comes from the true residents (both legal and illegal) of Willets Point and those who work in the junkyard.

The film opens to the noise of a forklift obliterating a run-down minivan, setting the rusty tone and conflict between old and new, man and machine. While depictions of poverty and drug and alcohol abuse juxtapose a story of resilient small businessmen, the sociopolitical subject matter is often outdone by the cinematography. In the hands of Paravel and Sniadecki, the camera takes on the perspective of a junkyard dog, traversing pot-hole-ridden pavement and piles of car parts. Some of the subjects of the film take notice, while others won’t throw the filmmakers a bone.

Shots of near-biblical flooding, which forces mechanics to wade through water, and cars to hydroplane dangerously around each other, address the changing seasons and changing times that parallel the narrative arc of the film.

“The camera triggers something all the time,” according to Paravel, who commented during a press conference on the issue of performance versus authenticity in a documentary. The filmmaker explained how letting the people of Willets Point “act” on camera was actually a means to allow them to depict their true identities for the viewer.

Filmed between 2008 and 2009, after the City of New York had targeted the neighborhood for redevelopment, “Foreign Parts” shows how local politics affect the citizens, and how they react, rather than drowning us is bureaucratic, urban planning mumbo-jumbo. “Mike Bloomberg, you are a traitor to the American dream,” an angered voice declares during the end credits. What comes before this line is a (dis)heartening insider’s look into a local community that will likely seem foreign to most people, even New Yorkers.

“Foreign Parts” (USA, 2010; 80m) screens for the public on Sunday Oct. 10 at 3:30 p.m. at Walter Reade Theater. For ticket information click here.

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