The Stroll: Exploring Transgender Life and Gentrification in New York City

The Stroll: Exploring Transgender Life and Gentrification in New York City

Welcome to the Scene 2 Seen podcast. Today, we delve into the captivating HBO documentary, The Stroll, directed by Kristen Lovell and Zackary Drucker. Joined by one of the film’s subjects, Carey Smith, our hosts discuss the making of the film, the emergence of a tight-knit community within “The Stroll,” and the far-reaching consequences of the changes that have taken place in the Meatpacking District. Let’s dive into the details.

Kristen Lovell arrived in New York City during the 1990s, embarking on a personal journey of transition. Unfortunately, she faced adversity when she was dismissed from her job. With limited options to sustain herself financially, Lovell, like many transgender women of color during that era, turned to sex work. This led her to “The Stroll,” an area in the Meatpacking District of lower Manhattan where trans women sought solace, forming a deep bond to shield themselves from harassment and violence.

Drawing upon her firsthand experiences and reuniting with her sisters, Lovell narrates and conducts interviews, presenting an extraordinary collection of archival material that vividly brings to life the bygone New York City of the 1970s through the early 2000s. While The Stroll primarily focuses on transgender life, it also serves as a stark portrayal of gentrification. During Mayor Giuliani’s tenure, the implementation of “quality of life” initiatives intensified policing in the city, ultimately displacing the sex workers from their neighborhood.

Lovell’s involvement in the trans community spans over two decades, during which she has been a vocal advocate. In addition to her directorial debut, she has contributed to various projects, including her appearances in Random Acts of Flyness and her co-production of the award-winning feature film The Garden Left Behind, directed by Flavio Alves.

Alongside Lovell, Zackary Drucker assumes the role of director. Drucker has garnered an Emmy nomination for her work as a producer on the docuseries This Is Me and has contributed as a producer to the critically acclaimed Amazon show Transparent, which received both Golden Globe and Emmy Awards. Moreover, her directorial debut for television, The Lady and The Dale, premiered on HBO in early 2021. Drucker’s artistic achievements extend beyond her directorial pursuits, as she has showcased her work internationally in renowned museums, galleries, and film festivals, including the Whitney Biennial 2014, MoMA PS1, Hammer Museum, the Art Gallery of Ontario, MCA San Diego, and SF MoMA, among others.

Carey Smith, one of the film’s subjects, shares her experiences as a participant in “The Stroll” from 1996 to 2009. Following a six-year imprisonment, Smith sought certification as a home health aid but encountered a setback due to her extensive criminal record. Currently, she serves as the front desk manager at Vocal New York, a grassroots membership organization that assists low-income individuals directly affected by HIV/AIDS, the drug war, mass incarceration, and homelessness.

Premiering at Sundance 2023, The Stroll is now available for streaming on HBO and MAX since June 21st. We highly recommend immersing yourself in this eye-opening documentary that sheds light on a significant chapter in New York City’s history.

The Stroll delves deep into the lives of transgender women living in the Meatpacking District and the challenges they faced during a time of gentrification. Lovell and Drucker skillfully capture the essence of camaraderie and resilience within “The Stroll,” providing viewers with a profound understanding of a pivotal era in New York City’s social landscape. Do not miss the opportunity to witness this powerful documentary that juxtaposes personal narratives with broader societal issues.

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