HUB Footwear has chosen artists Haas & Hahn as the subject of the company's first documentary in the series Challenge the Obvious. H&H are the painters behind the transformation of the buildings in the Brazilian slums (favelas), and who brought the same kind of approach to Philadelphia's Germantown Avenue. This film puts the Philadelphia project into a larger context that shows how, in many ways, the area around this part of Germantown Avenue is equally embattled as the slums of Rio.
There's a big emphasis on the neighborhood's violence; the introduction to the city starts with a newscast and the invocation of the nickname Killadelphia. One guy—who says he's from Beirut, by which he means Philadelphia—says, "Drugs, violence, teenage pregnancy—you name it, we got it." (The same man also confesses confusion as to where, exactly, the "Badlands" are—which just goes to show that the neighborhood name game is totally hopeless.)
But the film inspires. One of the painters, Latasha, says she got involved partly because she was heartened to know it was neighborhood people doing the work. But there was also something else about the project that appealed to her—something less concrete. "I want to be able to do things that I never, like, like, uh I never..." she can't quite put it into words. "A lot of things, I feel like it's a lot of things I never got to do," she continues. "I was never like privileged to do a lot of things, so there are a lot of things that I want." She's not talking about material things; she longs for something more, even if she can't say exactly what that is. Haas & Hahn are making a way for Latasha and people like her to have more.