Braddock, Pennsylvania has been the home to key events that have greatly shaped American history. Today, it is struggling to reinvent itself and stay relevant.
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Braddock, Pennsylvania has been the home to key events that have greatly shaped American history. Today, it is struggling to reinvent itself and stay relevant.

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31 October 2014 (USA)  »

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Braddock, Ameriki  »

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One-sided documentary of gripes, with some useful history
11 December 2013 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

This documentary does as intended insofar as providing historic details and contrasts, telling the viewers about -- and letting them see through old film clips and new content -- the decline of the town of Braddock, Pennsylvania, from a mighty industrial enclave to a burg where buildings are disintegrating where not abandoned. The film fails (despite lengthy interviews) to provide proper understanding, owing to a one-sidedness which permeates the film.

Whether by design or happenstance, the townspeople chosen to appear on screen tell variations of a theme of abandonment by industries and distant government, without these outside agencies given a chance for their side to be heard. Mitigating circumstances they might have told of are not mentioned. One Braddock woman lectures a crowd about the hospital company which closed the town's hospital but left open two in Pennsylvania towns with lower utilization rates, which the woman claims is proof that the company lied about low utilization rates being the reason for the closure. The woman gripes that this unfairly forces Braddock residents to travel to Monroeville for the nearest hospital. When Monroeville gets mentioned later in the documentary by another towns-person, we learn that Monroeville is just three miles away. Suddenly -- for those viewers alert enough to notice -- we find out how petty the complaint was. (The two towns allowed to keep their underutilized hospitals are unnamed, but the number of isolated towns in Pennsylvania is so considerable as to suggest that these two were much further from the next one than had been Braddock.) The demolition of the hospital is shown without comment, although the loss to the company of a once-valuable asset would have made for interesting analysis. The fact that another hospital company didn't buy it could have been a sub-story of its own.

The documentary shows at length an obvious pro-union townsman opine that the owners of the steel mills acted reprehensibly in closing the plants, that he believes the directors weren't worthy of the money they made after following the industry trend toward global production. The documentary doesn't present any opposing voice to counter that foreign manufacturers would have exported to the United States had not the American firms moved their plants overseas first, that government cannot protect one American industry without bringing on a trade war that would harm other American industries in turn. (A few shots of a now-inactive factory in Braddock could remind some that the owners lost, too, but no such comment is made.) The feature length of this film deceptively suggests a thorough and thoughtful examination of the situation may be offered, but instead there are a plethora of gripes, gripes, gripes. This documentary might retain value of a sociological study of how people think when they're not willing to accept that responsibility may lay where they are not willing to look for it, but for most audiences such limited value does not warrant spending the time it would take to view.


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