Few works have captured the powerful pull of ghetto life as well as this video by Laurie Collyer, which documents five years in the life of a Puerto Rican welfare family in Brooklyn. Only the oldest child, Robert, has escaped, to a Manhattan apartment and a career educating Latino kids; he's contrasted with the three drug-addled siblings he tries to help. Danny knows he should get a job but speaks passively about his life (“Shit flips on you”), while Robert reminds us that during Danny's teenage years in jail he received no education or vocational training. The older sisters became teenage mothers, and most of their children wind up living in grandmother's small apartment; Collyer's handheld camera does an excellent job portraying this crowded space and the interdependency of people living in such close quarters, so it's no shock when sister Tati loses her apartment and Danny is returned to prison for seven years. The grandchildren, though, are full of life—one plays in Danny's lap as he nods out, an image that leaves the viewer with the disturbing question of which way these kids are headed.
By Fred Camper