Art Here and Now
Daring creativity happening now around the world
Tekkon Kinkreet – Universally, Land Developers are Seen as Villains

Right now, within a 10 block radius of my apartment, there are about 15 condo projects going up. The average price for a condo is about $350,000, double what the average person in the city could afford. Yet they keep rising from the ground, many times taking down or absorbing perfectly good apartment buildings before they begin. The affordable housing disappears, along with the neighborhood character that took 50 years or more to build. That character, which is made up of the people who have lived there for so long, the aesthetics of buildings and the neighborhood businesses who have long done business there, is the most irreplaceable.

Here and in other cities, when developers show up and convince the government that money will be made, that character is quickly forgotten. Whole swaths of neighborhoods are demolished, and new ones are erected in their place. It feels the developers are from somewhere else, and have no notion or respect of what this place is. They seem only interested in making more money.

In Tekkonkinkreet, Treasure Town is a neighborhood which is far from perfect. It’s old and crumbling and full of crime. But even the old villains, the Japanese mafia, at least understand the nature of the place, they are of the neighborhood and respect it.

The main characters of the story are two kids, brothers, named Kuro (Black) and Shiro (White). The kids are homeless and live in an abandoned car. As the older brother grows up in this broken down place, he has to choose between becoming good or bad (Black or White) in order to protect the neighborhood from being torn down by land developers. The land developers, not the mafia, are the big villains. As he makes his choices, he has to leave his little brother behind.

The movie goes into some deep dark places for the older Kuro, but even more so for the little brother. Watching a kid go through so much trauma when he doesn’t understand what’s going on is very sad.

What Kuro and Shiro face is not that different from what Luke faces in Star Wars, it is a classic myth. How do you protect what’s important to you from bad people and bad circumstance without becoming bad yourself? In the darkest circumstances, the choices you face are even harsher. In the real world, unlike a fantasy of outer space, the choices have consequences, for those people you love, and for yourself. Tekkonkinkreet doesn’t provide rosy answers. That’s why it’s such a great film.

Things always change. Buildings and people come and go. But from Anime to Bollywood to 70’s rollerskating movies, what turns developers into villains is not a fear of change, but the sense that things are changing without regard to a greater good, without regard to the whole, change whose purpose is solely personal gain.

The repercussions of that kind of change is now fueling lots of art in many parts of the world.

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posted by Trout Monfalco