This is my inspired conversation with the brilliant director Giorgio Angelini about his illuminating documentary, Owned (watch the trailer!). The film is compelling and also quite the history lesson, both about housing, and the deep-seated and systemic racism that seems to permeate everything in America. Giorgio and I touched on a variety of issues and he was a joy to interact with here.
Giorgio Angelini came into film from a longer, multi-faceted career in the creative arts. After touring in bands like The Rosebuds and Bishop Allen for much of his 20s, Giorgio enrolled in the Masters of Architecture program at Rice University during the depths of the 2008 real estate collapse. It was during this tumultuous time that the seeds for Giorgio’s documentary debut, Owned, began to take shape.
Awarded a research grant to photograph the abandoned McMansions of Inland Empire, California, what Giorgio ultimately encountered was an environment far more perverse and disturbing than he had initially anticipated. Thousands of square miles once replete with thriving orange groves, burnt down to make way for a new commodity—conditioned square footage. With access to cheap money dried out, the charred orange groves sat alongside these half-built McMansions. Commodities in limbo. It was clear there was a larger story to tell.
Following graduate school, Angelini began working with the boutique architecture firm, Schaum Shieh Architects, where he designed a wide array of projects. From an exhibition at the Venice Architecture Biennale to the White Oak Music Hall in Houston, Texas, which received an AIA design award in 2017.
Focusing on film now, Giorgio launched his own production company, Section Perspective Films. A nod to his intersection between architecture and film. Giorgio also served as the executive producer for the feature film My Friend Dahmer (2017) and directed a documentary-short for celebrated performance artist Mary Ellen Carroll entitled My Death is Pending…Because.
Giorgio is currently in production for his next feature documentary film he’s producing with animator Arthur Jones about memes and online radicalization.
The United States’ postwar housing policy created the world’s largest middle class. It also set America on two divergent paths — one of imagined wealth, propped up by speculation and endless booms and busts, and the other in systematically defunded, segregated communities, where “the American dream” feels hopelessly out of reach.
Owned is a fever dream vision into the dark history behind the US housing economy. Tracking its overtly racist beginnings and its unbridled commoditization, the film exposes a foundational story that few Americans understand as their own.
In 2008, the US housing market became the epicenter of an unprecedented global economic collapse. In the years since, protests in cities like Baltimore have highlighted the stark racial disparities that define many American cities. The crash of suburbia and urban unrest are not unrelated — they are two sides of the same coin, two divergent paths set in motion by the United States’ post-war housing policy.
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