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Lead Actress in 'Bushwick' Movie is 'Whitewashing' Nabe, Locals Say

By Gwynne Hogan | August 8, 2017 1:57pm
 The movie
The movie "Bushwick" will hit theaters on Aug. 25.
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Courtesy of the Directors of Bushwick

BUSHWICK — A new dystopian action flick set in and named after Bushwick is an disturbing example of film industry "whitewashing," locals say.

The action-heavy thriller "Bushwick," directed by Jonathan Milott and Cary Murnion, follows a white woman played by actress Brittany Snow trying to get to her grandmother's house after Texas secedes from the union and invades the neighborhood.

The movie has a cast of supporting characters of color, including co-star Dave Bautista, who is Filipino and Greek, but no black or Latino lead representing the majority of Bushwick's population, locals point out.

The main bone of contention is with Snow, who has starred in a host of movies and television series, including the "Pitch Perfect" franchise

"Bushwick is made up of brown people. Ecuadorian, Mexican, Puerto Rican, Dominican," said Pati Rodriguez, 35, a resident of Bushwick since she was 8, who works in a local immigrants rights attorney's office and is an organizer of "Mi Casa No Es Su Casa (My House Isn't Your House)," a Bushwick-based anti-gentrification art collective.

"Kudos that they got other brown people to be around her, but it's still that one white girl," she said. "It's just a continuing of whitewashing of Bushwick. We don't need a white savior. We're all struggling here and we're also the ones who are organizing ourselves. There're no white people trying to save us."

Murnion pointed out that the film's protagonist, Lucy, played by Snow, has Polish roots.

The action follows Lucy as she emerges from the Jefferson Street L train stop just as the Texans invade and she desperately tries to get to her grandmother's house,

He wouldn't say if black or Latino actors had been considered for the lead role.

"We were big fans of Brittany Snow's work and we thought she was best for the role creatively," he said.

Lucy's race is "used as a way to talk about some of the issues that the neighborhood is currently dealing with, specifically gentrification and how people identify with the neighborhood they grew up in," Murnion said, though he would not say how.

The directors said that Bushwick's diversity, with new residents and lifelong ones and folks of all different racial backgrounds and economic status, becomes its strength in the film, as everyone bands together to outsmart the Texas militia forces, who are attempting to take over Bushwick and establish a base to further invade New York City.

"In Bushwick there is a true mix of people who have lived there for generations and new transplants who have moved to NYC from all over the country," said Murnion. "The people we met while living there were so independent and unique, we thought they would no doubt fight back if someone tried to take their freedom away from them."

Murnion lived in Bushwick for five years in the mid-2000s and started to think about filming a movie there when he lived near the Jefferson L train stop and often emerged late at night to desolate industrial streets. He wondered what it would be like if some unknown evil descended and he had to defend his wife or she had to defend herself from peril.

Murnion also emphasized that the movie is not highlighting street art or coffee shops; it's looking at tight-knit family bonds and filming in some homes of residents who'd been there for years.

"We're going down the real parts of Bushwick," he said, adding that someone was actually shot and killed the next day at a corner where they were shooting in 2015.

The movie was filmed almost exclusively in Bushwick and Ridgewood and residents familiar with the area will recognize the outside of middle school J.H.S. 162 The Willoughby, Grover Cleveland Playground, St. Aloysius Roman Catholic Church, and the now shuttered bodega Edwards Grocery Store.

It's shot to simulate a single take, and the main characters chart a path around a few square blocks around the Jefferson Stop along the Bushwick, Ridgewood border.

Here's the path the two main characters take.

The film will be in select theaters on Aug. 25.