As part of a NYU Madrid documentary class during Fall 2016, I`m happy to say that I made a wonderful documentary along with 2 other students. The film took place in a immigrant neighborhood in Madrid, called Lavapies. The neighborhood is going through the process of gentrification so once some saw designer set up his store in the neighborhood, they gave him a negative welcoming. Here, my team and I investigate, how the designer and young Chinese and Ecuadorian entrepreneur feels about his work and environment.
We received guidance by the Emmy Award winning documentarians, Almudena Carrecedo and Robert Bahar, most known for their film, Made in L.A.
A film by Cristal Jefferson, Kiara Ventura and Samantha Scoggins.
Lavapies is a Madrid neighborhood that is transforming before its residents’ and patrons’ very eyes. Daniel Chong, the owner and designer behind the artisanal store, The Wanderer, shares how his shop reflects the beauty and anxieties of a changing community.
As three women of color never before traveling to Madrid, we were surprised by the clear lack of diversity in a such a large metropolitan city. Our first few weeks in Madrid consisted of conversation of feeling stared at and feeling like complete outsiders. Coming from New York City, diversity is so normalized and fluid that it can be shocking seeing such a stark difference in cultures. With these ideas in mind our first discussion of film ideas we were all in agreement that we would search for a story where we investigate Madrid’s culture in search of diversity that we knew must exist somewhere.
A scorching hot Madrid Summer day lead us to Lavapiés, searching for a new idea as our previous film would not work out. We walked into Daniel’s store, The Wanderer, and were looking at his clothes and asked him a few questions about what he did for a living, where he was from etc. I wasn’t even thinking about possibly making a story about Daniel, but then Kiara ran up to Samantha and said, “Guys! This is it, We can make a story on him.” It was like a light bulb went off in all of our heads at the same time, as we started imagining what this documentary could look like. It was perfect, a designer who just opened up his store in a neighborhood that didn’t feel happy about him being there, Daniel was a reliable person and it was good energy from the moment we walked in. Daniel seemed a little hesitant at first, but over time he opened up and every time we walk into his store we are greeted with a big smile. In the end we are very glad we were able to find this store, a great story and most importantly enjoying the documentary film making process.
“The Wanderer” represents the enigmatic relationship with the Madrid neighborhood, Lavapies and immigrant fashion designer, Daniel Chong. It’s obvious that Chong has a love for the neighborhood yet, has a different lifestyle compared to the natives. Images of Lavapies flash such as its colorful buildings and hard working immigrants who came here to work hard and build their small businesses, just like Chong. However, the drunkards and other immigrants of Lavapies don’t have the advantage of being cool and hip like Chong does. The design and setup of his store would remind non-madrid natives of “hip stores” like Urban Outfitters and vintage boutiques in brooklyn back in the States. Chong’s prices range from 3€ to 300€ while a neighboring Indian fashion store has most prices below 100€.
Daniel lives and works in Lavapies, he has relationships with his neighbors, and even promotes local artists in his own store, yet he still faced with opposition leading to the vandalization of his store front with the motto “NO HIPSTERS FUERA”.
As the curators of the film, we attempt to show the complexity of gentrification. As a whole, the film represents the many features of Daniel and his store. It is then put in the conversation with gentrification, fashion, immigration in Madrid, and more. Like art and life, we show that the story isn’t just black and white, it has many colors just like the beautiful yet complex neighborhood of Lavapies.
This journey has opened our eyes to the issue of gentrification worldwide. It is a notorious issue in New York but, it was powerful to see that it a global struggle with many complex characters and stories to be told. Daniel represents many entrepreneurs and artists seeking inspiration from diversity and culture, just like us. Although he faced opposition from the previous owners of his building he did not retaliate with a similar level of hate, instead he continues to express himself artistically through his designs. Daniel’s resilience and continued confidence in his place in Lavapies has inspired us and we will always be thankful to him for allowing us in and allowing his side of the story to be heard.