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Chavez Ravine

CHAVEZ RAVINE tells the bittersweet story of how an American community was betrayed by greed, political hypocrisy, and good intentions gone astray.

In 1949, photographer Don Normark stumbled on Chavez Ravine, a closely-knit Mexican-American village on a hill overlooking downtown Los Angeles. Enchanted, he stayed for a year and took hundreds of photographs, never knowing he was capturing on film the last images of a place that was about to disappear.

The following year, the city of L.A. evicted the 300 families of Chavez Ravine to make way for a low-income public housing project. The land was cleared, homes, schools, and church razed to the ground. But the real estate lobby, sensing a great opportunity, accused the LA Housing Authority's Frank Wilkinson of being a communist agent. The city folded and instead of building the promised housing, it sold the land to baseball owner Walter O'Malley, who built Dodger Stadium on the site.

Fifty years later, Normark's haunting black-and-white photographs reclaim and celebrate a lost village from a simpler time.

'Heartfelt... well-shot and sharply edited... it's Mechner's sense of people and place, more than moral outrage, that makes his work compelling. ***' MicrocinemaScene

'This bittersweet tale recounts a lost village, Dodger Stadium, and the miraculous moment of time that lay between them.' Florida Film Festival Program

'Powerful and moving... a gripping revival of the forgotten history behind the land which today holds L.A. Dodger Stadium.' The Daily Sundial, California State University

'Using historic photographs of the families as well as contemporary interviews -- and with a surprising twist -- Mechner tells a cautionary story of community, deception, and loss.' Full Frame Documentary Film Festival Program

'Chavez Ravine is a unique and fascinating contribution to the unknown history of Latino people in California. It relates beautifully to every dislocated community; it connects in a surprising and important way to the McCarthy Era; it is composed of oral history and historic photographs, woven seamlessly with a beautiful score and narrative. I cannot recommend it highly enough to all teachers because it shows the relevance and power of history for all. My own students raved about it.' Lauren Coodley, History Dept., Napa College, Author of Napa: the Transformation of an American Town and Land of Orange Groves and Jails: Upton Sinclair's California

'Chavez Ravine is a poignant and painful look at race, politics, and displacement in Los Angeles. This documentary tells the story of Mexican communities that were removed first by City Hall and then, by the L.A. Dodgers. The film, though, also tells a story of memory and resistance as the publication of old photographs brings people together and in some ways keeps the communities of Chavez Ravine alive. This film would be ideal for courses dealing with communities of color, urban politics, race, and the politics of memory.' Maria Elena Garcia, Asst. Prof. of Anthropology, Sarah Lawrence College

'Chavez Ravine is an important work of historical recovery that visually retrieves a strand in the lost history of Los Angeles. It is a beautifully produced account of the human costs of urban displacement and of the complexities of urban politics.' Michael Kowalewski, Carleton College

'The villages are gone, they survive only in memory, and in this recommended.' David Kidney, Greenman Review

'A fascinating assembly of Normark's photographs of a community lost in time and mind...Highly recommended.' Brad Eden, Ph.D. University of Nevada, Las Vegas for Educational Media Reviews Online

'An eerie foreshadowing of today's 'eminent domain' debate about the use of private property for the public good...this revelation of a shameful episode in Los Angeles history is illustrated with the hauntingly evocative pictures of acclaimed photographer Don Normark...recommended.' Video Librarian


Main credits

Mechner, Jordan (film producer)
Mechner, Jordan (film director)
Mechner, Jordan (editor)
Mechner, Jordan (screenwriter)
Marin, Cheech (narrator)

Other credits

Photographs by Don Normark; music by Ry Cooder; director of photography, Andrew B. Andersen.

Docuseek subjects

Distributor subjects

American Democracy
American Studies
California History
Latino and Chicano Studies
Low Income Housing
Multicultural Studies
Race and Racism
Social Psychology
Urban Studies
Urban and Regional Planning
Western US


Mexican-American community, Chavez Ravine, Dodger Stadium, Don Normark, Los Angeles, low-income housing, baseball, LA Dodgers, Walter O'Malley, Frank Wilkinson, Richard Neutra, Housing Authority, Apartment House Owners Association, communist, House Un-American Activities Committee, Loeb and Loeb, ACLU; ; "Chavez Ravine"; Bullfrog Films

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