In November 2021, Block Cinema screened Property (1978) by filmmaker Penny Allen. In Property, Penny Allen turns her lens to the eccentric residents of a bohemian neighborhood in Portland, Oregon. The film, a critically under-seen gem of 1970s independent filmmaking, delivers an economic critique of urban renewal to warm, satirical effect. Property revels in the joy and chaos of community organizing when a group of neighbors and friends facing eviction attempt to collectively purchase a block of homes but find themselves wading deeply into the bureaucracies of credit scores and co-signers. Property was made available courtesy of Penny Allen and Mary X Distribution
To mark this screening event filmmaker Penny Allen sat down with Malia Haines-Stewart, Block Museum Associate Film Programmer for a conversation on this work and her practice.
About Penny Allen
French-American director PENNY ALLEN’s first feature Property, made in Portland, Oregon, was a prize-winner at the first Sundance festival in 1978. Mala Noche author Walt Curtis played a community organizer in the film, and the young Gus Van Sant recorded sound and discovered Walt’s book, which he later adapted for his own first feature.
In 1981, Penny Allen finished her second feature Paydirt, the story of wine growers who grow marijuana to finance their vineyard. In 2008, she finished The Soldier’s Tale, a prize-winner at the 2009 festival Visions du Réel in Nyon. In 2013 came Late for My Mother’s Funeral, a feature about a family adrift after the death of their mother, an Algerian smuggler. And also The Didier Connection, a documentary short about a little French boy arriving in Portland.
Allen is also a writer (A Geography of Saints, Metaphors for Change), author of photo strips (War is Hell, La Guerre c’est l’enfer), and she worked on environmental issues from 1987 to 2002. Earlier, she was a social worker, a university instructor, a journalist, and a community organizer in land-use planning