Review: Push

by Andrew Parker

A frightening, effective call to action, anger, and concern, Fredrik Gertten’s look at the global housing crisis in Push should give viewers further pause and a more comprehensive view of an issue that goes well beyond gentrification.

Swedish filmmaker Gertten (Bananas*, Bikes vs. Cars), assisted by expert subject Leilani Farha, the UN’s Special Rapporteur on the Right to Housing, travels around the world to examine how lower and middle class people are being forced out of cities due to skyrocketing housing costs. From Toronto to Barcelona and London to New York, the story is relatively the same: as the cost of living increases, wages stagnate, and the housing market remains unfairly competitive, affording a place to live becomes harder by the day.

Farha proves to be the perfect guide for Gertten’s thesis about why housing prices have grown astronomically out of control. Farha, who describes herself as someone who doesn’t hate capitalism, but prefers to question its motives, outlines in Push a world where the wealthiest members of the population are using real estate as a piggy banks. They don’t care if people can afford to live in the buildings they own or if anyone lives in them at all. To these one-percenters, buildings aren’t places for everyday people; they’re just another line item in their ledgers.

The evidence presented by Gertten and Farha is as damning as it is irrefutable, which might make Push depressing for some who’re trying and struggling to secure their futures. On the other hand, it’s precisely the kind of documentary that could cause people to rally against absentee corporate landlords and financial purse string holders. Push will also make viewers going through similar struggles and frustrations a little less alone. It’s a sharp indictment of a broken system made with the utmost empathy for those caught up in its insidious machinations.

Push opens at The Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema on Friday, July 19, 2019. It opens at Vancity Theatre in Vancouver on the same day, and screens as part of the Open Roof Festival in Toronto on July 24. It opens in Cobourg, Ontario (The Loft) and Calgary (Globe) on July 26, Montreal (Cinema Moderne) on August 3, and Kingston, Ontario (Screening Room) on  August 9. It screens in Waterloo (at Princess Cinemas) on August 15 & 17, the Winnipeg Cinematheque on September 20, and at the Guelph Film Festival on November 9.

Check out the trailer for Push:

This review originally appeared as part of our coverage of the 2019 Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Film Festival.

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