Véréna Paravel and J.P. Sniadecki are two young filmmakers who met under the auspices of Harvard's Sensory Ethnography Lab. (The HFA previously showed two earlier films by Sniadecki in 2009.) They have collaborated on a feature-length documentary shot in the industrial neighborhood Willets Point – also the setting for Ramin Bahrani’s Chop Shop (2007) in Queens, New York. Since winning two prizes upon its premiere at the Locarno film festival, Foreign Parts has been well-received at festival screenings around the world.
Special thanks to the Film Study Center, Harvard University.
Directed by Véréna Paravel and J.P. Sniadecki, Appearing in Person
USA 2010, digital video, color, 80 min.
Foreign Parts is a portrait of a place, made up of an accumulation of moments out of which several characters emerge – including, ultimately, the filmmakers themselves – yet no real narrative. The film reveals Willets Point to be a well-functioning urban ecosystem threatened by economic redevelopment. There are tensions among those who live and work in the neighborhood, especially around drugs and – to a lesser extent – race, but the primary menace is the threat of eviction at the hands of real estate developers and the city officials who do their bidding.
“The junkyards of Willets Point form a small universe of contradictions: violence and tenderness, bittersweet happiness, orderly chaos, beauty and disgust, damaged lives and automobile parts. These contrasts connect us directly to the American history of industrialization, immigration, political violence, environmental degradation, and the erosion of democracy. To record such a broad dynamic, we let the chaotic dynamism and life rhythms of Willets Point shape our filmmaking. Its promiscuous intermingling of humans and machines drove us to treat the auto parts and people equally as ‘characters.’ Making Foreign Parts was a constant search for the right balance: between intent and discovery, between subtly acknowledging the political backdrop and making room for the junkyard's hidden lyricism.”
—Véréna Paravel and J.P. Sniadecki