The Hot Seat: Su Friedrich


Welcome to the Hot Seat, in which we interview folks involved in Brooklyn real estate, architecture, development and the like. Introducing Su Friedrich, the filmmaker behind Gut Renovation. Gut Renovation chronicles Su getting priced out of Williamsburg after the 2005 rezoning. The film is now showing at Film Forum in Manhattan.
Brownstoner: What neighborhood do you live in, and how did you end up there?
Su Friedrich: I currently live in Bed Stuy. We moved from Williamsburg in June 2009 after an eight month search through various neighborhoods. We ended up in Bed Stuy because the loft in which we had lived for 20 years in Williamsburg became totally unaffordable due to the 2005 rezoning of the neighborhood. In other words, I’m happy to have found a nice home, and I think Bed Stuy has a lot to offer, and we’ve gotten very involved with our neighbors and our block association, but it isn’t where I would be living (nor is any other place…) if I hadn’t been forced out of the loft, and the neighborhood, which I had grown to love so much.

BS: Can you talk about the premise of your film, and what inspired you to start shooting?
SF: My film is a record “from the inside” of what happened to Williamsburg in the five years following the rezoning. It isn’t a conventional, objective documentary. Instead, it creates a more visceral experience as one witnesses the experiences that I had, and which I shared with countless other residents, when we found ourselves invaded by developers and engulfed by demolition and construction. The rezoning was announced in May 2005. Within a short time, the invasion began, and within a few months after that, I started recording what was going on, and continued filming until 2009.

After the jump, Su gets into the specifics of the rezoning, the presence of artists in gentrifying neighborhoods, and her favorite business and building that survived the redevelopment of Williamsburg…
BS: Many residents didn’t assume the Williamsburg rezoning would so quickly have such a dramatic impact on the neighborhood. Did you, or your longtime neighbors, have an involvement in this rezoning? How do you think the rezoning process could be changed to better serve the long-time residents and business owners?
SF: I don’t know about what “many residents” assumed, but speaking for myself and those friends and neighbors with whom I was usually talking, we all thought it was going to be a disaster as soon as we read the reports of the rezoning. It was clear that a dramatic change would occur by a rezoning of such a large area to make it available for residential construction — it would mean huge increases of rent in existing buildings, and undoubtedly very expensive new housing being built. And it obviously was going to mean that many of the industries and small businesses would be pushed out. They don’t have any rent protection anyway (with a commercial lease) and landlords would want to make more money by converting to residential if they had the option, which the rezoning gave them.

We had no involvement in the rezoning, but there were people in the neighborhood who had been very involved in trying to create better conditions for Williamsburg and Greenpoint. They worked for four years (from 1998 to 2002) to create a plan to improve all sorts of aspects, and published a 120-page, detailed report (called 197-A) which was approved in 2002 by the City Council. However, three years later, the City Council and the Planning Office approved the “new” rezoning, the one that went into effect, and it had very little relationship to the earlier plan; a few ideas from the earlier plan were included (like more parks) but most of those haven’t been acted on, which I find typical and predictable. The only real purpose of the rezoning was to create a way for developers to build luxury housing, and that’s what they’ve done. If anyone wants to know more about what was promised, and what promises weren’t kept, they can get in touch with Neighbors Allied for Good Growth, an activist group which has been based in Williamsburg for as long as I can remember.

BS: Your film chronicles the wave of artists moving into Williamsburg, which has planted the seeds for gentrification in many neighborhoods in New York. Did you feel like the changes in your neighborhood were an inevitability, looking at neighborhoods like SoHo and the East Village? 
SF: I think there are as many neighborhoods that have gone through gentrification in New York without the early presence of artists (for example, Park Slope and Prospect Heights), and I don’t think it makes much sense to blame artists or claim that the presence of artists inevitably leads to the next waves of wealthier and wealthier residents. After living in New York for 36 years and seeing how artists have been pushed from one neighborhood to the next (Soho, the East Village, Williamsburg, and soon from Bushwick), I think it would be useful to consider that the economy of New York has depended for a long time on the revenue that artists bring to the city in so many ways. And if a city benefits from its artists, then why doesn’t the city help artists by making it possible to afford to live and work here? We (the artists) need a place to work, and we have so often been willing to live in areas (and in buildings) that are unwanted by those with more money. That has often meant moving into poorer neighborhoods, areas neglected by the city, or areas with industrial buildings, and my experience has been that I’ve lived in those areas gratefully. I’ve used the local services, eaten at the local restaurants, etc., and I’ve also been a part of keeping that neighborhood stable, safe, etc. It wasn’t the artists who were “selling” and “branding” Williamsburg as a trendy place, it was the media and it was the landlords, because they saw that there was money to be made, and as soon as they could raise rents, the artists (as well as thousands of working class residents who weren’t artists) had to leave.

So I tend to say that it’s landlords and politicians who create a situation for gentrification. For example, the majority of landlords who rented spaces (illegally) to artists in Williamsburg knew that they shouldn’t be doing that but knew that it was in their financial interests to do it. They could have said “no living” (and a few did) but most just pretended not to know. And that was because they knew that artists would maintain, and often improve, an industrial building, and that down the line they could kick out the artists if a rezoning let them convert the building to residential use, and that’s exactly what they did.

BS: Your work also joins My Brooklyn, a recent documentary tracing the rapid gentrification of Downtown Brooklyn. The issues of development and the displacement it causes has become a huge talking point in this borough. Where does the conversation go from here? How can the arts help us deal with this huge force now sweeping through New York?
SF: I’m really glad that Kelly made her film, and that Michael and Suki made Battle for Brooklyn (about Atlantic Yards) and that several other filmmakers have done related pieces (you can see a program list for the series called Brooklyn Reconstructed that FilmWax did last summer). I think it’s crucial that we know what’s going on, and that we continue talking about what’s happening next and about what already happened. In making Gut Renovation, I felt first and foremost that I was bearing witness, that I needed to say, “This really did happen” so that no one could later claim that the changes were minor, ordinary, or “inevitable” (which I’ve noticed is a very popular word for developers to use in explaining why this is happening).

BS: Finally, your favorites: favorite Brooklyn neighborhood, favorite building or business in Williamsburg that still survives, favorite building or business in Williamsburg that didn’t. 
SF: I don’t have a favorite neighborhood; Brooklyn is so diverse, and most areas have great things to recommend them. My favorite building in Williamsburg that (sort of) survived is ours. Built in the 1890s for the Hecla Ironworks, it’s a gorgeous structure with vaulted ceilings and casement windows. The façade was landmarked about ten years ago, thank goodness, although the inside wasn’t, and the new owners spray painted the ceiling and somewhat buried the delicate carved plasterwork that had been there for over 100 years. Someone posted a history of the building here. And my favorite business that survived is Angelika’s Hair Salon where I still go for my haircuts. Just a basic, cheap and good place to get a haircut, like so many of those kinds of shops and businesses that used to be along Bedford. My favorite building that got wrecked was the Old Dutch Mustard building on Metropolitan and my favorite business that got driven out was the fabulous L.A. Video store on North 8th and Bedford, run by Irene, a wild and wonderful local woman.

50 Comment

  • people that talk like this make me sick.

    • Neither of these comments are useful. I thought this was an interesting conversation (for once) — I might disagree with the implication that the city does not do anything to encourage so called “artists” (by which I assume she means more than visual artists, but it’s hard to be sure), but I thought it’s interesting to hear the perspective of someone watching the development boom from the ground up. At least she doesn’t claim that her film is a neutral POV.

  • BOOOOOOOO!!! Why would you give her any shine? Sorry Su, even the hippies on Brownstoner are not feeling you, so keep it moving

  • Who did she displace when she moved to Bed Stuy?

    • nobody! artists don’t displace apparently. /sarcasm

    • The previous owner was a civil servant who had recently retired and decided to move back to South Carolina and as a consequence chose to sell his house. It seemed to me at the time a basic process of a property being voluntarily sold and bought by two individuals. But sure, feel free to call this displacement…because who am I to say what really happened since, according to most of you, artists are the devil, have no right to speak, and never do anything but evil. Which I find amazing.

  • Her answer to the questions about artist planting the seeds for gentrification just seems so hypocritical and self important. When artists move to a neighborhood and push out manufacturing it’s ok because they need somewhere they can afford to live and work, but if non-artists do the same later on it’s ruining the neighborhood. The argument over gentrification completely ignores the history of this city and the way it’s neighborhoods have remade themselves time and time again to meet the needs of the population. I have sympathy for a family that is pushed out, but not for some nitwit who is upset her rent went up over a period of twenty years. If you want to live in a bubble go find a commune upstate.

  • The film’s great, I just saw it at Film Forum! I love the style of it, funny, real, and personal. She gets at a lot of the nuts and bolts we’re living with (and I moved out of Williamsburg in 1991!)

    I’m more than a little appalled at the creepy commenters doing the stupid Internet poison thing. I’m not new to Brownstoner, but since I’m not in active renovation mode I haven’t been checking the Forum as much. (Yeck, why read comments! I want to keep liking the site!) This is a perfect film for all of us obsessed with real estate, and living here, how can we not be?

    Gorgeous film, Rock on, Su Friedrich!

  • How was ahe actually “forced” out of her loft???????

    • Why did she lose her home? End of a twenty year lease. But that’s not the important thing — because she was someone with a camera and skills and an interest in what was going on around her, Friedrich documented the intense turnover that’s been going on in one chunk of our riverside city. It’s not about her or the one building, it’s about 170 buildings in a five year span in a six block square.

  • I have not seen her film…But I am familiar with the building she was evicted from. I have been patronizing a business there for more than a decade and a half.. She’s correct in saying the building only survives in its present state because the exterior is landmarked, however the building still has a thriving group of artists, dancers, furniture makers, cabinet makers, interior designers and toy makers. It is not residential. They do not live in their spaces. I know the new landlord has extended their leases at least another 10 years.

    Ms. Friedrich had an amazing space on a (once) very industrial block. Brooklyn Brewery is a big presence there, so is Brooklyn Bowl. The garage that repaired fork lifts is gone, but now there is a dry cleaners…Such is the world.

  • I enjoyed reading this interview. I think Su makes a number of valid points. The overall blaming of artists/ hipsters I see here and on other sites is baseless. It’s Bloomberg, his planning department and the developers, plain and simple who are responsible for this city becoming unaffordable. (and trending towards big box development) Take a look at how Bloomie’s net worth has kept increasing exponentially through his time in office. Hmm… how does that happen?

  • is “su” an attempt to make “sue” sound artsy/williamsburg???

  • I never understood the hatred for artists on this site. All someone has to say is “I’m an artist” and there’s some visceral reaction by a lot of people, who then feel the need to make gratuitously unkind remarks about someone they don’t know.

    If there was only one or two cases of artists claiming to be the vanguard of development in previously unwanted neighborhoods, you could possibly dismiss her claims as puffed up self importance. But it’s not. Soho, Tribeca, DUMBO, Williamsburg; these are all clear to see, if you’ve been here for more than ten minutes, or were paying attention. Artists of all kinds made these neighborhoods desirable for further development. And that development made it too expensive for most of them to stay.

    I have not seen Ms Friedrich’s film, but I did get a postcard handed to me by her at last week’s Historic Districts Council conference. My impression of her, which is certainly as valid and as knowlegeable as anyone else’s here, is that she is a nice lady who made a film expressing her experiences. She doesn’t deserve to be pilloried by mean spirited know-it-alls who haven’t seen her film, and haven’t lived through what she’s experienced.

    • It’s not the fact that they’re artists. It’s the smug, entitled superiority that people like Su Friedrich exude that makes people hate them. Not all or most artists are that way, but the ones who are tend to make spectacles of themselves like this woman has.

    • I’m an artist, but I didn’t think of myself as one until I started showing my work in 2001, 27 years after I bought my house. I also didn’t displace anyone–bought my house from an elderly women in a nursing home, who wasn’t able to live in a three story house any more. I’m not sure how I fit in, if at all. But all this generalizing about artists is silly IMO.

      BTW, although I’m an artist, I’ll NEVER be an artiste :-)

    • There is hatred for everyone on this site, didn’t you know? Hate hipsters, hate yuppies, hate poor people, hate newer folks, hate older folks, hate activists, hate lazy people, hate the way people paint their walls. It’s always been the absolute weirdest thing of this site. I guess the haters always here, are some greek gods or something. That said, thank you for always being so thoughtful in your posts.

  • I’m an old timer in FG/CH. And an “artist.” Nobody can force me out because I own a building, and my mortgage is paid off. But I planned it that way in the last century: I had a rent stabilized tenement apt on the LES…and the landlord from hell. So I saved my pennies for ten years to be able to afford a down payment on a property with rental income, in what was then an area I could afford – and swore I’d be the most considerate landlord possible. I wasn’t remotely rich, and displaced nobody, buying from a retiree moving south and accepting an inherited tenant.

    And now hipsters ring my doorbell to inform me that it’s time for me to “cash out.” Recent transplants to the area have actually complained to me that it’s “not fair” for “old timers” to own homes in FG/CH, or even to “make a huge profit when they sell,” because after all, “young families with children” need those homes now, and should have priority.

    And I reply with a simple smile, because I’m only leaving in a box. It seems to me that nobody, whether “artist” or “young family” or whatever, is entitled to live in the area of their choice if they can’t afford the rent; and the only constant is change. And every time I read one of these “pushed out” laments, I wonder why the complainers didn’t just buy somewhere they could afford – years ago. Maybe where they can afford isn’t where they’d prefer to live. But that’s a choice to be made in the interest of a more stable living situation, if that’s what they crave. Home ownership seems to me, now as then, to be the only way to guarantee one will never be “pushed out.”

    • Those hipsters rining your doorbell have been listening a bit too much to the ridiculous Elizabeth Warren and her crap. Everyone is entitled to what they dont have.

    • “I wonder why the complainers didn’t just buy somewhere they could afford”

      Well said “fior” – I’m sure some of your friends called you crazy to buy in Fort Greene, all those years ago.

      I’ve been in Brooklyn long enough to remember when Williamsburg was a concrete dump for priced out Lower East Siders, there were prostitutes walking up and down Atlantic Ave/Grand – in the day time, and crackheads hanging out on Washington Ave.

      “Home ownership seems to me, now as then, to be the only way to guarantee one will never be “pushed out.”] ”

      I always feel bad for gentrification’s first wave of victims: immigrants, the working poor etc. but – “artists” college kids, hipsters – and long term renters who COULD HAVE BOUGHT BUT DID NOT – not so much.

      If you are a first time home buyer, last time I checked, there are lots of neighborhoods, further along on the A/C/3/4 lines, past Winthrop St/Church Ave – on the 2/5 lines, that have lovely houses, on tree-lined blocks, they aren’t trendy enough to register on sites like this one, you may feel “unsafe” because their aren’t many faces that like you, the cafes you want – yet.

      Just remember – that was the case with FG/Clinton Hill/Prospect Heights a few years ago. If it’s close to a subway and it’s in NYC – give it a second look.

      • Yup. I wanted brownstone Bklyn, but didn’t bother looking in the Slope, much less the Heights, since I couldn’t afford them. I just got off the subway at transit hubs, and started walking. And when I walked up Lafayette from Fulton, I knew I was home. And yes, none of my friends would visit; their loss. But I joined local groups and found new friends in FG/CH, and that was my gain.

    • Home ownership seems to me, now as then, to be the only way to guarantee one will never be “pushed out.”

      That’s a nice bubble you live in. Sounds nice. Eminent Domain in your back yard much?

      • Eminent domain isn’t too likely in the middle of a landmarked residential district, so where’s the bubble? When I bought back in the day, I actually looked at houses in the immediate vicinity of what’s now the arena and Ratner’s mall. But the traffic and the unknowns about future construction in that war-zone area made me nervous, so I opted to buy at a substantial remove from all of that.

        Not to sound at all unsympathetic to those displaced; but if you have the opportunity to consider the environment you’re buying into, it’s not a bad idea to give a wide berth to anyplace that will expose you to whatever problem child gets built across the street.

        • Well, we can’t all be as smart as you, or to be as psychic. Stop pretending that any part of NYC is actually affordable, or safe from rezoning or the Mayor’s whims, or natural disaster.

  • I have several multi-family buildings in the FG/CH area. I have lots of Pratt Grads and other professional artists that tend to live in my properties because this neighborhood is considered Artistic.

    Artists, in the last few years, have been hit hard. I had to bend the requirements a bit as some of my artistic tenants had to take other jobs like baby sitting, dog walking, etc. in order to get close to an income requirement of 40 x rent.

    Artists are great for the neighborhood. However, they have to also understand that money is equally as important.

    There is a great conflict between an Artist and money. If you are creating art, which is very personal, and your work just isn’t mainstream, chances are that you will not be a very wealthy Artist.

    Many Artist feel that conflict because they may have to change their personal art to become more mainstream or commercialized so that they can afford to live in their neighborhood.

    It really is unfortunate, but that’s the life of an Artist. If their Art does not become well accepted, they are choosing a life which forces them to move to less expensive neighborhoods. If they change their art to become more towards the mainstream, that is almost an inner betrayal as they feel that Art comes from Inside a person. But that can’t pay the bills if its not mainstream.

    Sometimes you will find an Artist that winds up doing both. Jeff Koons, for instance. Fantastic Art and very well accepted.

    I also want to mention that Artist are like every other person in General terms. Some are hard working, MANY party too much, some are very lazy, etc.

    HARD working Artists can usually make a decent Income.

    Those that think outside of their Artistic box, who start to understand the Business of Art, may wind up doing things like becoming a Landlord.

    By becoming a business person, the Artist ensures that they can afford to live in a Neighborhood that they themselves have had a part in it’s climb upward in both desirability and rent increase.

    Like most workers, you have to be more than just that kind of worker (or Artist) to ensure your continued residency in an upcoming Neighborhood. You have to be Entrepreneurial as well.

    When Su blames the Landlords for “so called” pushing her and other Artist out, I really have a problem with that Statement.

    You only get pushed out if you don’t take the next step of becoming a Property Owner.

    There is nothing that stops an Artist from owning. It’s their own choice.

    To me, an Artist leaves a Neighborhood because they wanted to leave as they chose not to be an Owner of a property and an Artist.

  • here’s some reviews:

    The New York Times
    An alternate title for Gut Renovation, Su Friedrich’s cranky, sarcastic documentary polemic about the gentrification of a Brooklyn neighborhood, might be “The Rape of Williamsburg.”

    Time Out New York
    The navel-gazing artist class that gave Williamsburg its character (now more of a marketable “brand”) has in Friedrich both a vigorous defender and, it must be said, something close to an angry parody of itself.

    The A.V. Club
    Friedrich’s snide tone gets in the way, turning a study of capitalism run amok into one artist who just can’t stand all these rich squares and their “fancy dogs.”

    Slant Magazine
    Due to the one-minded construction of the documentary, there’s little to parse beyond impassioned harrumphs.

    New York Post
    The result is like an hour and a half listening to someone bellyache about her landlord.

    Village Voice
    What a shame it is that Friedrich, so impassioned by her subject matter, couldn’t get enough objectivity to make a film that’s more than just a complaint.

  • It seems to me that nobody, whether “artist” or “young family” or whatever, is entitled to live in the area of their choice if they can’t afford the rent; and the only constant is change. And every time I read one of these “pushed out” laments, I wonder why the complainers didn’t just buy somewhere they could afford – years ago.

    **

    Indeed. Seems to me”Su” might have spent a few of those 20 years figuring out a way to buy a property in the neighborhood she loved so much when it WAS affordable. This is not about artists v. anyone else. It’s about taking responsibility for what you want in life and working to achieve it. To me she sounds like a sore loser.

  • Okay, we’re both fans of Irene, so I will tread lightly. There were a lot of people in old Williamsburg who were (and are) wonderful. Irene. Sam. Nancy. Tony. Vinnie. Phyllis. John. Other John. I have to say though, none of them were “artists.” I did know some artists too–and their lives were much like mine. We had crappy temp jobs. And cheap rent. I don’t think any of them got to keep their apartments either–much like the many working class families in Williamsburg and Bushwick who have been displaced for more “artists.”

    I thought back then, and I continue to think, that making “art” into some kind of special snowflake profession is problematic. For many different reasons. Also, it is not like supporting a community for many years then gives you a free pass.

    I’ve said before, i am shocked that Williamsburg gentrified as it did. I always thought it was too toxic, the housing stock was too crappy, and that there was a limit to just how much people would spend. I was totally wrong. We can all wax nostalgic until the cows come home, but that doesn’t entitle us to anything.

  • Perhaps she’ll find her niche in a nice & cozy air conditioner sleeve…

  • > She doesn’t deserve to be pilloried by mean spirited know-it-alls w

    MM, I think you meant to say ‘know-nothings’.

    Whatever the merits or flaws of Su’s film, she should not be subject to this vituperation. Not eveyone can buy property, it’s not a ‘choice’, and it’s strange to hear that said in a city that is what, 60%+ renters? But then, the word artist certainly brings out the nastiness in the uber-capitalists. I guess they never go to small plays, art shows, street perfomances, or see their kids enthalled by real, not Broadway-style, art.

    • You and MM are making assumptions. That is the definition of “know-nothing” vituperation. The majority of the critics, myself included, take offense to her mean-spirited and unrealistic expectations, not being an artist. I am very familiar with her body of work, of which this latest project is a classic example. So, pardon me, but I happen to know her approach. I have lived in this city for 40 years and I have moved five times because the cost of the neighborhood or place where I lived became cost-prohibitive. It sucks, but I don’t turn my situation into hate for men, for the rich, for everyone who is like me. She does. THAT is what I find offensive. I am a librarian, and I sure as heck knew that getting a master’s degree in library science wouldn’t lead to riches, but I am doing what I enjoy. So do artists. But there is a price to pay for doing what you love instead of what pays well. So if you don’t want to pay that price, I guess you can try to make a living by blaming people with money for the result of your choices.
      It is so charming that Brownstoner, a media placard for the very gentrification and development Su loathes, has given her a forum. It looks very benevolent.
      Montrose, I enjoy your posts very much and realize you are very intelligent, but you shouldn’t assume that critics of something you support are ignorant jerks. Many comments may be sarcastic or satirical, but not always.

  • “Artists” are not a protected class. If they were, we might also want to start revering “social workers” and “teachers” and “firefighters” and probably even “accountants.” I’ve seen post after post on this site having very little sympathy for rent stabilized tenants (the kind with legal, residential leases) who get displaced. Why should someone’s ability to make something they call art get a pass?

    Look, some artists–like, say, Arthur Wood, are very, very good at their craft. People should buy their work and let them earn a living. But perhaps the entire myth of an artist as some kind of special visionary is an anachronism. I know–one might need a twenty foot wall to mount and build one’s magnetic sculpture made out of ball bearings and paint that resonates in the key of a minor when the viewer steps on a pedal inset into the floor…. or whatever. One might need elephants to make the dung before one gilds it too. But I remain unconvinced that the world needs either thing. Maybe if you don’t get your twenty foot wall or your loft, you should count your blessings for what you do have. And learn to make something with what you’ve got.

    Good art should be part of its community–not a rarefied, fetishized part, but something living and breathing. Etsy, for example, is brilliant. Anyone can be an artist–everyone is an artist. Yes, most of them are busy making faux naif pictures of birds and large-eyed children like Dame Darcy, but if that’s what the market wants, so be it.

    Apologies, this topic makes me cranky and incoherent. I probably shouldn’t share.

  • In Williamsburg especially, the artists rented from owners who then took that money and turned around and built many of the condo buildings that Su is now complaining about.

    The artist complainers of condo buildings are the true cause of them because they funded them all.

  • Booya, Freedom is the Right to Hate!!!!! :)

  • Mrs. Mingott, who’s making assumptions? I merely pointed out that the reactions to his woman would make one think she smothered her children, not expressed her opinion in her film, or in interviews.

    I have no problem with people having issues with what she says, but it’s quite disheartening to see the amount of vitriol aimed at her, personally, or artists in general.

    No one knows anything about her, except what they read here, or in the NYT. Only one commenter said they saw her film. Yet the amount of bad feelings here is comparable to the treatment of someone who had done much worse than make a movie where she complains about the loss of her neighborhood.

    I mean really, so what? She doesn’t like rich people, or the new Williamsburg, or developers. Is that any worse than what half the people on this site say, in some way or another, every day?

    Sheesh.

    • Judgment via mob mentality, I agree, is grossly unfair. Su, unlike her sincere critics, has a platform for her opinions that extends far beyond commenting on a blog. Putting aside the veracity or intensity of Su’s disenfranchisement, no one appointed her documentary ambassador for all Brooklynites. There are fair points on all sides, but this documentary is not objective and will be viewed by outsiders who then assume it best represents what is actually happening here. Most genuine vitriol is created when one group assumes a position of superiority over another for self-serving or arbitrary reasons in an attempt to claim greater victimization from outside threats. Hence, long-term residents may be offended when artists claim they “saved” a neighborhood that is now gentrifying.
      As far as mean blog comments, most should be taken with a large portion of salt. For better or for worse, commenting is as vital to this blog’s survival as useful real estate information or ad revenue. No thin-skinned readers are forced to read the comments if all they want is the blog comment. Debate is healthy and potentially amusing, but it loses those qualities when any faction criticizes the freedom of opinion of others.
      You are quite right that much worse is said daily on this blog, but Su expresses her art by producing documentary films so there should be a reasonable expectation of public criticism.

      • The movie does not for a second claim to be an objective one. She even jokes about it at some point. And most documentaries highlight an aspect of a bigger picture, and show exactly that what the makers want to emphasize. I am not sure that I have ever seen an objective documentary ever.