A film will always be more effective when you tell a personal story that you know intimately, and co-directors Zackary Drucker and Kristen Lovell’s documentary “The Stroll” works so well because of it. The film offers a history of New York City’s Meatpacking District as told by transgender women sex workers, many of whom Lovell herself worked alongside for nearly a decade. The result is an entertaining and often riotous retelling of the past, present, and future of the once-seedy (and now highly corporate) legendary Manhattan neighborhood.
The documentary interviews the trans women who lived and breathed the streets of the Meatpacking District, giving firsthand accounts of their various exploits over the years. The grand stories of their days working the streets are sometimes overshadowed by the subjects’ even bigger personalities, and Lovell is able to establish a natural rapport with her interviewees. I loved spending time with this eclectic group of women.
Back in the 80s, it wasn’t easy for transgender women, especially those of color, to get a “normal” office job. Unable to join the workforce, many turned to sex work in order to make ends meet. Facing inaccessible career paths and shunned by their families and much of society, some of these women found it safer to be on the streets than in their own home. There are sad stories of abuse, death, and violence, but the insights shared by these women is fascinating, poignant, and timely.
The film discusses the eventual gentrification and ‘whitewashing’ of the culture, but the subjects take plenty of time to reminisce about what the Meatpacking District once was. Obviously, “The Stroll” is a documentary that’s made for a more progressive and forward-thinking audience, and it’s not out to change closed minds. But this fascinating film serves up an interesting slice of modern American history with which few are familiar.
By: Louisa Moore