DER Documentary

Neighbors: Conservation in a Changing Community

Neighbors: Conservation in a Changing Community launch preview watch a preview

by Richard P. Rogers
produced by Janet Mendelsohn
color, 28 min, 12 min extras, 1977, digitally remastered 2014

Digitally Remastered DVD Edition


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When filmmaker, Richard Rogers and producer, Janet Mendelsohn were funded by the National Endowment for the Arts to make a film about the growing interest in neighborhood conservation, they chose Boston's South End — an ethnically and economically diverse community that, like many other American cities at the time, had found itself in the midst of the urban renewal process.

The resulting film, Neighbors: Conservation in a Changing Community examines the challenges and opportunities of neighborhood revitalization through the stories of 12 South End residents. The older, working class population is juxtaposed with the more affluent newcomers who are attracted by the prime location and historic architecture as well as the ethnic mix of the neighborhood. While documenting the differences among these residents, the film also reveals their common goals — to make their neighborhood a better place to live.

The film remains remarkably relevant for 21st century audiences.

Neighbors Revisited
(color, 12 min, 2012)
Producer, Janet Mendelsohn and cameraman, Kevin Burke return to the South End to interview several of the participants in the original film, including former congressman Mel King and two generations of the Young family. In the update, the dynamics of change in this complex community are brought into the present. With soaring property values, the South End has become one of the most desirable residential areas in Boston — while the gap between rich and poor has widened. As a companion to the original film, it will spark audiences to discuss similar issues that are impacting traditional neighborhoods across the country.

RESTORATION NOTE: Neighbors was digitally remastered from original film elements, 2011-2013.

Telecine by National Boston, from CRI provided by Harvard Film Archive. Audio transfer from magnetic track by Colorlab, Rockville, Maryland. Digital color correction by Modulus Studios. Post-production work supervised for DER by Frank Aveni. Audio mixed by Michael Hutcherson. Thanks to Janet Mendelsohn, Alfred Guzzetti, Liz Coffey at Harvard Film Archive, Eric Masunaga at Modulus, Susan Fanshel, and Kevin Burke.

“The issues raised by this award-winning film may be even more critical in today's urban communities than they were in 1977. Displacement isn't going away, it's accelerating as newly desirable neighborhoods are “discovered“ by young, relatively affluent newcomers. As the complex challenges continue, Neighbors bears witness to the human aspects of neighborhood change.” — Robert H. McNulty, President, Partners for Livable Communities

Film Festivals, Screenings, Awards
Best Conservation Film of the Year, Awarded by National Trust for Historic Preservation, 1978
Premiered at the Neighborhood Action Conference in Savannah, Georgia, 1978
Aired on public and commercial television, 1978
American Film Festival finalist, 1978

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Related Films
Mission Hill and the Miracle of Boston
Down the Project: The Crisis of Public Housing
Screening Room with Richard P. Rogers

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Supported By Massachusetts Cultural Council National Endowment for the Humanities National Endowment for the Arts