‘The Place That Makes Us’ Review: Rebuilding, Brick by Brick

Cities devastated by industrial closures should never be written off for dead. “The Place That Makes Us” looks at a handful of people trying to revitalize Youngstown, Ohio, where the shuttering of steel mills led to an exodus of residents, a rash of vacant homes and an ebb of civic engagement.

The movie, directed by Karla Murthy, substantially, perhaps even too narrowly focuses on the work of the Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corporation, a nonprofit that rehabilitates empty houses, with the goal of turning ghost blocks into desirable neighborhoods. The subjects profiled include Ian Beniston, the group’s executive director, and Tiffany Sokol, its housing director, who removes plywood from a door and takes us through the process of surveying an abandoned home’s potential. By the end, we’ve seen it sold, to a new owner we’ve gotten to know.

Elsewhere, Julius T. Oliver, a city councilman, concentrates on investing in Youngstown’s youth by pushing to reopen a once-thriving basketball arena. With the filmmakers, he visits the former sites of the two houses he grew up in. (After speaking of violence around the first location, he says that the problems eventually traveled to the second.) Early on, he talks about how, as a businessman, he found that a simple perception that a neighborhood “looks scary” can deter potential customers.

The families’ stories help turn “The Place That Makes Us” into more than a policy proposal in motion. Ian’s father, a former steelworker, says, “If I had to do it over again, I would not have been in Youngstown.” Ian and his sister, Abby, who have chosen to stay, have a more optimistic outlook.

The Place That Make Us
Not Rated. Running time: 1 hour 10 minutes. Watch on PBS platforms.

Source: Read Full Article