Academic Reviews

*Starred Review* “What price progress? That question and others are raised in this film-festival-winning documentary that tracks the history and evolution of Boyle Heights, a working-class East Los Angeles neighborhood…Archival footage, sepia-toned photographs, and news clips capture the heyday of the former melting pot, and onscreen interviews with personable and knowledgeable residents, scholars, authors, and others put a human face on this drive-over community…Plenty of thought-provoking material for general-interest audiences as well as urban studies, sociology, and history students.” – Donald Liebenson, Booklist Online

East LA Interchange channels outrage at the tragic legacy of urban freeway construction that sacrificed the city to automobility and the suburban dream. It inspires hope in the struggles of immigrant and minority residents to improve their communities and demand racial justice. Yet it also asks questions about the destiny of the 21st century metropolis as suburbanites return to the central city.

East LA Interchange spotlights the Boyle Heights story in the vicious folklore of the U.S. postwar freeway system that devastated many urban minority neighborhoods with monstrous concrete interchanges while paving the route to suburban homeownership, white flight and disinvestment from the urban core. Vivid archival footage, family recollections and emotional testimonies depict its 20th century transition from the ‘Ellis Island of the West Coast’ to the heart of Latino East Los Angeles as a cadre of activists and leaders emerged to fight for civil rights, educational equity, political representation and environmental justice. It exposes the tricky aftermath of the struggle for a more livable city in the new millennium as reinvestment and gentrification dynamics confront the neighborhood with new fault-lines of race and class division.

The film is suitable for young and adult audiences from secondary school to college and public audiences to educate and encourage debate about urban race relations, the automobile society, and the relationship between the city and the suburbs.”  Jan Lin, Professor, Sociology; Advisory Committee, Urban and Environmental Policy at Occidental College

East LA Interchange elucidates the historical underpinnings of the multi-ethnic and multi-racial pathways that have energized the residents of Boyle Heights to act and remember together and across generations in pursuit of a more humane sense of place, belonging, community, and history. The imaginaries, destinations, highways, and personal relationships driving this film reveal the simultaneously devastating displacement of repatriation, redlining, and gentrification while not losing sight of the heartening common ground that prevented Boyle Heights residents from becoming forever displaced or disconnected from each other and this community and its history. Rendered with a sensibility for the archives and soulful voices of people invested in the power of community and its history, East LA Interchange is a decisively imperative text to our teaching of the indignities of the economic and social disenfranchisement of a community persistently perceived and treated as ‘dangerously’ diverse and in turn, disposable and the empowering potential of rigorously magnifying the history behind the painful and joyful memories that bring communities, like Boyle Heights together and over time.” – Ana Elizabeth Rosas, Associate Professor, Chicano-Latino Studies and History, University of California, Irvine

“The documentary East LA Interchange highlights the history and future of Boyle Heights, one of Los Angeles’ oldest and most diverse communities. Boyle Heights has been referred to as ‘the Ellis Island of the West Coast.’  It was once one of the most diverse, multicultural and multi-racial areas in the United States. It was a working class, immigrant community, not so much a melting pot, but rather a mixed salad, as it was a place where different ethnic, religious and immigrant groups lived side by side while maintaining and respecting their identities and cultures.

East LA Interchange explores how the construction of 5 freeways dissected and impacted Boyle Heights and its residents. Through interviews with current and former neighborhood residents Betsy sensitively and insightfully draws attention to a microcosm of America: an ethnically, racially, and religiously diverse urban community that has struggled, evolved and overcome social, political and economic struggles and injustices. The film provides insight into what the future of America could be, when people from diverse backgrounds work together in support of dignity, tolerance and respect. The documentary and the community of Boyle Heights provides an example of how we can, if we work together, achieve a better future for everyone. Both the film and the community reinforces that diversity is a source of strength and enrichment, something to be celebrated and preserved.” – Presentation of the J. Thomas Owen History Award from the Los Angeles City Historical Society