La Alameda 2018

Wow, that was really interesting.

La Alameda 2018 is a documentary looking at the Alameda district of Seville, known for prostitution, drugs and music, which has underwent gentrification. It is a collective subjective remembrance of the neighbourhood by its current and former occupants. It is a life weaved out of many lives.

The filmmaker’s own life is part of that. She grew up there and loved it, but with the increasing drug addiction in the neighbourhood in the late 80s and early 90s, her parents decided to send her to a secondary school outside the area. This led to film school and travel abroad, and by the time she returned as an adult, gentrification had rendered the area almost unrecognisable. While teasing out what the Alameda was and how it changed, she’s also kinda tracing out the life she did not have.

The impression you get from the film is of Alameda as a place of women. It was where women earned money through sex work. It was where women made art in music, dancing, flamenco. Today it has women leading squatting activism and women keep the neighbourhood’s history.

I loved Deborah. From the first shot of her, all I could think was, “glamma gramma”. Flawlessly put together, her face done, her sunglasses giving her a touch of chic, she leads tours of the area, giving out the history she lived through as a resident there for 60 years. For her, Alameda was a sanctuary for trans women, where sex work could provide a life line, and the camaraderie of hooking women gave a sense of belonging.

One comment from a former resident rang true, that he’d felt safer before the place was done up. Because back then, you knew everybody, you knew who was maybe a bit erratic and why, what would might set them off and what to avoid. Now, gentrification has anonymised the area, to be like any other city street. That doesn’t make a place safer, for it to be filled with anonymous strangers. And the idea that crime is only crime if it’s visible, like with street prostitution and drug users, is bullshit. Now you just don’t know what’s going on, and what to be wary of. I get that.

What I like though is neighbourhood diehards are still there, keeping the light lit. Deborah’s still there, the musicians still play, and the squatting activists are still there, insisting on their right to the space. However sterilised they try to make the place, to milk the house prices, there will always remain someone to shout about who made this neighbourhood, to remember. Great film.