In 'The Numbers,' Rockwood-area residents count
Portland filmmaker Sika Stanton and journalist Donovan Smith recently collaborated on "The Numbers," a documentary focusing on life in the "numbered" streets of East Multnomah County.
The film — available at oregonhumanities.org/this-land/stories/the-numbers — was funded by a grant from the Oregon Humanities. Here's what you need to know before you watch.
OUTLOOK: What questions did you ask to get people talking?
SIKA STANTON: What makes a home a home, what makes a place like home? This area is fraught with a lot of perceptions about what it is or is not. I was curious if people were aware and if they agreed with that.
OUTLOOK: Can you describe those perceptions?
DONOVAN SMITH: If your neighbors (are) a lot of black people or a lot of brown people, they get branded with a blanket of criminality.
OUTLOOK: Most of your interview subjects are young. Why?
SMITH: That was on purpose. We wanted to talk to people who were (inside) the American Dream. Eighteen-to-25-year-olds, that's the core bracket where you're getting your own home, pursuing a career — things that aren't necessarily happening for (our) generation.
OUTLOOK: Gentrification is a hot topic in Gresham right now. What's your take?
STANTON: It's already happening in the area they've designated as urban renewal areas. More people want to live here. You can't change that, but you can try to influence it.
SMITH: How many people in Rockwood actually know what Rockwood Rising is? How many people are going to be displaced? How many people are going to stay in the neighborhood and actually benefit from the services? Those are all important questions.
OUTLOOK: Any answers?
SMITH: Gentrification is not as simple as putting a structure up and people get dispersed. There's levels of engagement, and the government or the city is not creative enough in terms of engagement and inclusivity.
Especially with Rockwood Rising, that structure is being built with some city funds, but it's being majority built by outside investors. Because they control the majority of development, 80 percent of the housing that's (planned) is not even affordable.
STANTON: That's the thing! People have to make a profit, and we live in a capitalist model. So how do you benefit people who have the least amount of capital in that equation? How do you generate the economy in your neighborhood if nobody has any money?
OUTLOOK: I don't know.
STANTON: The solution is always going to be get more money. Those are the questions I (leave) our film with. We talked to all these kids (who) all want the same thing. Everybody wants to live in a nice place. Everybody wants the opportunity to determine the course of their lives and their dreams.
OUTLOOK: What would you like city planners to change about Rockwood Rising?
SMITH: "I think they could be more public about how many people are going to be displaced in places like Rockwood, where rents are starting to go up, where people are starting to leave their homes due to the "market."
They're not even giving an estimate. They're saying, 'We're doing this for you — just trust us.' When the process of gentrification has always been so secretive and insidious.
OUTLOOK: It sounds like the documentary is a lot larger than just Rockwood.
SMITH: The film is about everything past 82nd Avenue in Portland. The way that politics functions, sometimes it passes off blame or responsibility because of where somebody's zip code is or the lines that have been drawn.
OUTLOOK: What do you want viewers to take away from the film?
STANTON: There's this thing about perception versus reality. I want people to have less stereotypes when they talk to people who don't necessary look like them. Check your perception of an area, and actually engage with it and be curious.
JUST THE FACTS
Name: Sika Stanton
For this film: Producer, camerawoman and editor
On the web: sikastanton.com
Education: Studied art and photography at Stanford University
Current home: The Historic Mississippi District in Portland. "Historically black," she clarifies. "Everytime I see one of those (historic) signs I want to write over it: Historically black."
JUST THE FACTS
Name: Donovan Smith
For this film: Copywriter and production assistant
On the web: ignorantreflections.bigcartel.com
Education: Oregon Episcopal School. Attended Fisk University for two years.