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Film Description

Shot over four years, Flag Wars is a poignant 90-minute account of economic competition between two historically oppressed groups, seen through the politics and pain of gentrification. The setting could be any city with a once stable working and middle class black community, now aging and economically depressed, in danger of losing control of their neighborhoods as wealthier home buyers gentrify block by block. In this case, the neighborhood is in Columbus, Ohio and the home buyers are largely white and gay.

Rainbow Flag on a restored house in Olde Towne, Columbus, OH

The resulting conflicts are a case study of differences in perception. Where realtors and buyers see run-down homes, black residents see evidence of institutional racism that steered resources away from this community. What newer residents see as a beneficial effort to renovate and restore value, veteran residents see as an assault on their heritage and a threat to their ability to hold on to their homes.

The events in Flag Wars unfold against a backdrop of racism, homophobia, and tensions between privilege and poverty. Mix in government zoning boards, the court system, lending institutions, and civic leaders, and you've got a film that literally hits people "where they live." Flag Wars explores the complexity of gentrification, and the contradictions between intention and result, belief and action. It goes beyond merely assigning blame or labeling people as "good guys" or "bad guys" to examine the relationship between housing, heritage, and public policy.

Key People Who Appear in Flag Wars:

Nina MasseriaNina Masseria — realtor who lives and works in the neighborhood>


Chief Baba Olugbala Shango ObadenaChief Baba Olugbala Shango Obadena — a lifelong resident and artist fighting to keep his sign on his house


Judge PfeifferJudge Pfeiffer — the Environmental Court Judge


Linda MitchellLinda Mitchell — a lifelong resident of the neighborhood unable to keep her house in good repair.


Jim YoderJim Yoder — man who moved from the country to the city to buy and renovate a house in the neighborhood



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Flag Wars’ narrative structure is designed to ‘drop’ the viewer into the film’s events so they gradually watch the story unfold and come to understand the community through the people who live there, rather than through talking heads or voice-overs.”

— Laura Poitras, Filmmaker

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