If you’re thinking about enrolling in NYU … you should probably wait until you’ve seen “The Lost Village,” a documentary that is screening Jan. 28 in New Brunswick, as part of the opening weekend of the Spring 2018 edition of the New Jersey Film Festival.
The “Village” in the title is, of course, Greenwich Village, and director Roger Paradiso of Montclair — who will take part in a question-and-answer session after the Jan. 28 screening — paints a pretty depressing picture of what NYU, and the Village, have evolved into.
This is no charming bohemian enclave, anymore. Skyrocketing real estate costs have made it impossible for small businesses to survive in the Village, Paradiso argues, and with only big businesses (i.e., national chains) able to thrive, much of the neighborhood’s old flavor is gone. NYU’s determination to expand at all costs — and pass the bill on to students, in the form of raised tuition — makes for a difficult college experience for all but the richest kids. Paradiso includes stories of students becoming homeless, or trying to subsist on one meal a day, or resorting to sex work. Best case scenario, they graduate with a daunting amount of debt.
Of course, these are not problems that apply only to the Village and NYU, and Paradiso does a good job of supplementing his horror stories with experts who are able to help explain what is happening on a more macroeconomic or even historical level. Again, though, what the experts have to say is not for the faint of heart.
Paradiso’s dire message is balanced, to a degree, by the stubbornly optimistic determination of the artists, activists and small business owners whom he interviews. Many of the good guys seem to know on some level, though, that they’re fighting a losing battle. They can slow down the deterioration of the Village, perhaps, but it doesn’t seem very likely that the trends can be reversed any time in the near future.
“The Lost Village” will be shown at Voorhees Hall at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, Jan. 28 at 7 p.m., as part of the Spring edition of the New Jersey Film Festival. Director Roger Paradiso will take part in a Q&A session after the screening; visit njfilmfest.com.