Winner of the U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award: Clarity of Vision (2023), The Stroll is a fiercely defiant statement from a community demanding to be heard. It also highlights bonds that can never be broken. As this captivating film reveals, gentrification of an area in any city may pave over some of its history, but the past will never be completely obliterated as long as members of its community remain vigilant.
This thoroughly absorbing and sensitively rendered doc revives the history of NYC’s notorious Meatpacking District, and one street in particular, otherwise known as ‘the stroll’. The film effectively reconstructs the era from the 1970s into the 2000s when a community of transgender women of colour who had no other way of making a living worked the street in dangerous district. It shows us through the stories of these women that human connections thrive under the most difficult of circumstances.
In The Stroll, directors Kristen Lovell (in her directorial debut) and Zackary Drucker (Transparent producer and producer/director of The Lady and the Dale) deftly resurrect the atmosphere of this presently unrecognizable neighbourhood and its previous inhabitants, both living and gone. In essence, it’s a recovery mission in an area now known for luxury retail shops.
The Stroll opens with a scene in which Lovell reviews footage of herself from a film about trans sex workers in which she participated. She admits that she thought that it would launch her career as a filmmaker, something she had always longed for but can only now realize with The Stroll. From there, she introduces us to some of her friends, including people she worked alongside during her decade on the street.
Beyond the remarkable stories, what’s striking about the film is its lively style. The interviews are more like intimate chats as Lovell and the interviewees reminisce about that time and place. The directors blend in a vibrant style of noirish animation, which mixes visuals and content perfectly and, together with the archival footage, brings forth this community’s heartbreaks and joys. it shares their lives together as a united group that looked out for one another during this time.
The Stroll is an important record of a past that might have been wiped away by so called progress and the economic and political powers that came to be in New York City. This is a chronicle that is bursting with love and pride for a community that refuses to be forgotten, one that has traditionally been pushed to the margins by so many. As the film is careful to point out, this is now changing with coordinated efforts to protest and organize systems for better living conditions. We become privy to this group’s extraordinary process of transformation into a vocal and visible force.
The film serves as an important archive of the stories of these courageous, beautifully stubborn individuals and this defiant community who continues to resist discrimination today. It’s an important act of preservation. The Stroll is a powerful display of resistance, especially to the erasure this community has always faced. It’s an inspiring portrait of courage.