May 6, 2019  (Web Review)

Owned: A Tale of Two Americas

(2018) 83 min. DVD: $99.95: public libraries; $350: colleges & universities; Blu-ray/DVD Combo: $400. The Cinema Guild ( DRA. PPR. Closed captioned. ISBN: 0-7815-1596-3.

Reviewer rating: 3.5/4

Filmmaker Giorgio Angelini’s documentary considers the convoluted history of U.S. homeownership in the years following World War II. When veterans began arriving home from battle, they found a nation facing a significant housing shortage. Savvy real estate developers began to promote suburban housing markets, while the government provided funds through the G.I. Bill and the Federal Housing Administration to move people into the American Dream. However, this effort was aimed almost exclusively at white homeownership—redlining policies by lenders excluded many African Americans from accessing mortgage credit, while real estate covenants kept many choice neighborhoods restricted to white residents. The 1968 Fair Housing Act was designed to erase segregation, but housing discrimination was never completely eradicated. Owned focuses on Greg Butler, a young African American in Baltimore who aspires to be a home-flipper in a neighborhood where quality housing is nearly nonexistent. Also prominently featured is Jimmy Silvestri, a gregarious retired police officer who grew up in Long Island’s Levittown, the most famous of the post-war planned communities. Attention is also given to a lesser-known project in Mar Vista, CA, that sought to offer an integrated housing environment. Presenting a well-researched and compelling overview of race-related socioeconomic problems that were intentionally implemented and continue to resonate, this is highly recommended. Aud: C, P. (P. Hall)