Who Killed the Fourth Ward?


Originally founded as Freedman’s Town after the Civil War, The Fourth Ward is one of the oldest and most culturally significant black communities in Houston, Texas. In the 1970s, the city along with big business interests planned to redevelop the Fourth Ward in order to revitalize the dilapidated real estate and freshen the image of downtown Houston. The price of progress in this case would be the removal of many poor black families. The film explores a complex series of encounters with elected city officials, businessmen and the people of Fourth Ward in order to better understand how a city like Houston works. Who makes the decisions about where resources are spent and so determines the growth and wealth of the community.

Behind the scenes:

“That was the shade that we advanced into.  And from that came larger issues: what are the forces at work in our democracy — in our community? Do the poor have any control over their destiny? There’s no simple solution offered. The viewer is taken through a three-hour journey in pure cinéma vérité fashion. That’s a filmmaking term not often used correctly. The original form was established in the 1960 film, Chronicle of a Summer, by Jean Rouch and Edgar Morin.  Unlike its neighbor, observational filmmaking or direct cinema, in cinéma vérité the filmmaker is the protagonist. James Blue’s journey into the Fourth Ward provides a series of experiences for the audience to access this strange world. It can be a scary journey when Blue is put on the spot by challenging questions about, poverty, failure and race.” –B.H.

Production details:
Produced by James Blue
Co-produced and Filmed by Brian Huberman
Co-produced, Editor and sound recordist,  Ed Hugetz
Screenings: Global Village Festival, New York; Grierson Documentary Seminar, Canada; Canberra Ethnographic Film Festival, Australia; Televised on PBS
Three one hour episodes. Super 8 mm film transferred to Video tape.