Spanish Lake is a groundbreaking community study of an unincorporated suburb of St. Louis, whose past residents favored no government and exemplified Tea Party politics. Formerly a predominantly white area, it’s population has shifted drastically in recent years to a majority African-American population, an example of what has since been dubbed by social scientists as "white flight." U.S. Census Bureau statistics reveal an 80% decline in white residents in Spanish Lake since 1990.
The shift of race and economics of Spanish Lake are traceable to a landmark Supreme Court case from 1971, United States of America v. City of Black Jack, Missouri. Former HUD secretary George Romney, father of GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney, successfully sued the surrounding community of Spanish Lake to accept public housing, arguing racial discrimination. The effect of the landmark ruling has allowed wealthy suburbs exemption from Section 8, while less powerful working class communities have been forced to accept the poor under the guise of “fair housing”.
The candid and passionate talk of race by current and former residents of Spanish Lake in the film is bold and unsettling. “I didn’t censor anything; I wanted to present the truth we captured on camera”, said the film’s director, Phillip Andrew Morton. But with such controversial subjects of race and government, catharsis and understanding cannot be found until the real voices of all those affected are heard.
Beyond race, the film explores the flawed government programs and corrupt business dealings that ultimately spurred "white flight" from Spanish Lake. The saturation of Section 8 housing projects in the area, coupled with government-mandated mortgage incentives for low-income homebuyers, unscrupulous government employees, and real estate firms, conspired in "scaring" many white families into selling their houses. Those houses were then marked up and sold to predominantly minority families for a profit. Meanwhile, the exodus of white families resettled in brand new communities just a few miles away.
"Historically, the implementation of the Section 8 voucher system revolves around Spanish Lake," said Morton. "The economic decline of the area comes mostly as a result of failed federal government policies. Spanish Lake was racially resegregated."
Many of the interview subjects in Spanish Lake were culled through Facebook by the film's director, who himself was born and raised there. The project sparked local media interest and raised $20,000 in pledges via a successful Kickstarter campaign. (http://www.kickstarter.com/
Spanish Lake is currently wrapping up post-production and has confirmed screenings as early as November. In St. Louis, it will be played at the prestigious 2012 St. Louis International Film Festival.
Tbe trailer for Spanish Lake can be found on YouTube: