Su Friedrich’s latest film project hits close to home. For about 2˝ years, the Princeton visual-arts professor has been documenting the transformation of her Brooklyn neighborhood, Williamsburg, where older industrial and residential buildings have been torn down and replaced with luxury condos. The development, she says, has destroyed what had been a “quiet Polish, Hispanic, and Italian neighborhood” with industrial spaces for artists like herself and affordable homes for working-class people.
Filming took an even more personal turn last summer, when Friedrich realized that she would be forced out of her apartment by skyrocketing rent. “I suddenly found myself part of the story,” says Friedrich. She hopes to finish the documentary, titled Life Takes Over, next year.
Incorporating personal experiences into her films isn’t new for Friedrich, who has taught at Princeton for 10 years. She examined her relationship with her father in Sink or Swim (1990) and chronicled her battle with illness in The Odds of Recovery (2002). Not all her films are self-revelatory. From the Ground Up (2008), for example, traced the work that goes into making a cup of coffee.
A retrospective of 14 of Friedrich’s films will be shown at BAFICI, the Buenos Aires International Independent Film Festival, March 26–30.
Friedrich’s oeuvre doesn’t fit neatly into any category. She’s made unconventional narrative, documentary, and fiction films and incorporates various devices — archival footage and interviews, along with traditional roles for actors — to tell the story.In her classes at Princeton — she is teaching “Intermediate Video and Film Production” and “Advanced Video and Film Production” this spring — she tries to convey to her students how to “see” and edit, and how to make films that matter. “A lot of material on TV, in movies and theater, and on YouTube — you watch it and it’s gone,” says Friedrich. She wants her students, she says, “to think more about [making films] that have some sort of lasting value.”