Academic Reviews

★ ★ “An interesting social portrait of a community over time, THIS IS RECOMMENDED.” – Kathleen C. Fennessy, Video Librarian

“As this documentary illustrates, the identity and very existence of Boyle Heights is threatened by multiple challenges, such as gentrification and transit development. Yet, as the film also adeptly shows, such challenges are nothing new for a community that has weathered many storms in preserving its culture and character, qualities that continually evolve and make it one of the most distinctive districts in the city and the country. Director Kalin has assembled an impressive collection of archival footage and engaging interviews with residents and observers from assorted disciplines, painting a clear, concise portrait of a community worth saving. VERDICT An excellent case study of a neighborhood in crisis and the proactive steps being taken to keep it intact. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.” – Brent Marchant, Library Journal, May 15, 2017

“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. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED” – Donald Liebenson, Booklist Online

“In her documentary film East LA Interchange, Betsy Kalin relates the litany of exclusionary federal laws and local planning decisions that over the past seventy-five years have had negative impacts on the people of Boyle Heights…This fracturing of people in space galvanized a generation of residents who saw the freeways as yet another attack on their community. Such postwar exercises in discriminatory legislation, exclusionary housing, and environmental racism were met with Boyle Heights’s active contribution to the civil rights movement…East LA Interchange should be included on the growing list of important documentary films about Los Angeles social history…Kalin covers a remarkable amount of ground in a film that reiterates the multiple ways in which policy is political, encouraging us to see that “progress” is best interpreted through the lens of those on the receiving end of it.” – Emily Bills, Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, September 2017

East LA Interchange addresses the impact of Federal Housing Policy and Freeway construction on Boyle Heights, the destruction of its multi-ethnic character but also its continued resilience as its inhabitants fight to preserve it. East LA Interchange both addresses the complexities of city planning and its role in the production of segregation in the west, uncovering institutional racism in ways that are easy to grasp. However, it also holds out hope for the ability of ordinary people to fight for spaces and communities they value.” – Elizabeth Clement, Associate Professor, History, University of Utah

“We learn about the different cultures that lived together as neighbors, the social changes in the country that affected their futures, and the political and planning decisions that were made which transformed the area, both geographically and culturally. Unlike many cases where gentrification means renewal at the expense of the local community, in Boyle Heights, long-term residents are part of a change that aims to improve their quality of life while preserving their neighborhood. Their efforts exemplify a model that other communities can follow to avoid the pitfalls that gentrification has brought elsewhere. RECOMMENDED” – Sharadha Nataj, University of Wisconsin Milwaukee, School of Architecture and Urban Planning, Educational Media Reviews 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

“It is a community full of life, beauty and color – a patchwork that is matched by the documentary’s interviews, photographs, found footage and new footage, quilted together by Danny (“Machete”) Trejo’s narration…This is a rich story of place informed by LA’s historical conjunction of white supremacy and planning, told in the voices of many of its diverse residents…Shaped by its diversity, its respect for different cultures, and a working class culture of mutual support and generosity, Boyle Heights stood in contrast to much of the rest of Los Angeles, unified principally by insistence on its whiteness. East LA Interchange captures a handful of very powerful stories embodying some of these dynamics as they developed over a momentous century.” – Andrea Gibbons, University of Salford, Antipode: A Journal of Radical Geography, January 2018

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