You’ve probably heard the old adage, “All roads lead to Rome.”
In Los Angeles, “All freeways lead to East Los Angeles.”
That’s the foundation behind a full-length documentary making its world preview Sunday at the Downtown Film Festival L.A.
Located at the intersection of the 101 Hollywood, 5 Santa Ana, 5 Golden State, 10 San Bernardino and 60 Pomona freeways, Boyle Heights is just east of Downtown Los Angeles.
Eight years in the making, “East LA Interchange” a new documentary from Bluewater Media, chronicles the working-class area’s change from a multiethnic Los Angeles neighborhood to one that is predominately Latino and its thrust into becoming the center of Mexican-American culture and political activism in the United States in order to survive.
Boyle Heights was once home to Japanese, Russians, Jews, Italians and other ethnic groups, many of them immigrants, as well as long-established Mexican American families. There was a harmony to their co-existence; remnants of which can still be found in the buildings, landmarks and the people who left, but continue to return to this day.
People like will.i.am of The Black Eyed Peas.
“I came back because I am who I am because of the community I grew up in,” says the musical performer whose nonprofit foundation supports a variety of programs in Boyle Height.
But few things can escape the ravages of time unscathed. Survival takes dedication and action.
That’s been the history of Boyle Heights and the story documented in East LA Interchange.
Using old video footage, photographs, headlines from newspapers like the Eastside Sun and on-screen interviews, the film examines how the Boyle Heights neighborhood found its political voice in its fight against the building of the largest freeway interchange system in the nation: A system that bisected the neighborhood’s physical landscape but not its sense of community.
The documentary also examines how residents are continuing their political struggle today, organizing against a new era of issues, speaking out for their rights as a predominately Latino, working-class, immigrant, community.
But with the higher cost of living and pressure on land values, the question remains: Can Boyle Heights survive the next round of challenges from environmental pollution, industrialization, development and gentrification?
It’s a scenario being played out in urban areas all across the country.
“East LA Interchange provides a compelling look at what the future of what America can be if communities like Boyle Heights work together to secure our nation’s pledge of providing justice for all,” say the film’s producers.
The film, executive produced and directed by Betsy Kahlin, features narration by actor Danny Trejo (Machete) and interviews with will.i.am (The Black Eyed Peas), Father Greg Boyle (Homeboy Industries), and actress and author Josefina López (Real Women Have Curves), as well as an original song by Raul Pacheco (Ozomatli).
“Boyle Heights stands for what we could become if we stood against forgetting that we belong to each other,” says Father Greg Boyle of Homeboy Industries
East LA Interchange premiers this Sunday, July 26 during the Downtown Film Festival L.A. www.dffla.org/. It will screen at 3 p.m. at the Regent Theater: 448 S. Main Street, Los Angeles 90013.
Watch the Trailer featuring will.i.am: https://youtu.be/9Z2FYuL0Zgg