Foreign Parts

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The observational spirit of Frederick Wiseman hangs over the initial scenes of Verena Paravel and J.P. Sniadecki's heartbreaking doc about the auto shops and junkyards of Willets Point, Queens. For roughly 15 minutes, it's all fly-on-the-wall reportage: A car is torn apart, its fluids spurting like blood from a dismembered corpse; a mechanic trudges down a line of cars, gruffly asking drivers what they need. It's only when a homeless woman (there are no identifying titles) turns to the camera and discusses this decrepit locale's sense of community that the film's distinctive emotions begin to seep through.

True to its working-class sympathies, Foreign Parts keeps to the streets, chronicling the lives of people who eke out a mostly below-the-poverty line existence. But lurking in many of the images is the imposing Citi Field, home to the New York Mets. It stands sentinel like the 2001 monolith---a beacon of forward-thinking change, though as usual, progress comes with a price. Rather than just clean up Willets Point (adding necessary amenities like sewage systems and streetlights), the Bloomberg administration is out to raze the area and build mixed-income housing and a convention center, in the process sweeping away a vibrant community. New Yorkers and those who've been following the neighborhood's plight know exactly how this ends; at the very least, Paravel and Sniadecki have preserved the memory of what was. Sometimes, that's the most you can do.

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