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They wanted to change the American dream. At Home in Utopia is the story of three decades, two generations, and one cooperative apartment house built in the 1920s by immigrants, factory workers and Communists.

 

"At times the mixture of courage and naivete is enough to break your heart."

Ty Burr, The Boston Globe
Synopsis: 

A home of one’s own: that’s the American dream. But what happens when the dreamers are immigrants, factory workers, and Communists?

In the mid-1920s, thousands of Jewish immigrant garment workers managed to catapult themselves out of urban slums and ghettos by pooling their resources and building four cooperatively owned and run apartment complexes in the Bronx. They believed that owning one’s home went a long way toward controlling one’s fate.

At Home in Utopia focuses on the United Workers Cooperative Colony – also known as the Coops – the most grass-roots and member-driven of the Jewish labor housing cooperatives, where many of the residents were Communists or sympathetic to the communist movement. Beginning as a stalwartly secular East European Jewish working class enclave, they were part of an international movement the power of which blows minds today.

In the 1930s they opted to bring their passion for racial justice home, by racially integrating their own cooperative house, with unexpected consequences. An epic tale of the struggle for equity and justice across two generations, the film tracks the rise and fall of one community from the 1920s into the 1950s, paying close attention to the passions that bound them together and those that tore them apart. Along the way, At Home in Utopia bears witness to lives lived with courage across the barriers of race, nation, language, convention, and sometimes even common sense.

Reviews

"This is a fascinating film about the importance of one special place that historians,  union organizers, civil rights activists, and community organizers must see. It is also a significant documentary about the history of housing in New York City."

Dolores Hayden Professor of Architecture, Urbanism, and American Studies, Yale University

"This beautiful film not only recovers a nearly forgotten radical workers’ community and a culture of collective ownership, but it reminds us what is possible when we organize.” 

Robin D. G. Kelley, Gary B. Nash Professor of American History, UCLA

“AT HOME IN UTOPIA captures the voices and lives of extraordinary union leaders and activists whose stories were in danger of being lost forever. This inspirational film takes you back to a time when unions meant more to members than the 8 hours spent on the job.  Today's furious debates over the housing market, the scope of the financial panic which is upon us, the role of the government in our economic life, and the agency of the human spirit in the face of calamity make the Goldman/Brodsky effort especially relevant--and especially satisfying."

Jeff Crosby, President, North Shore Labor Council, Lynn, MA

“AT HOME IN UTOPIA brings back to life a lost world of American radicalism. Through the history of a cooperative housing project founded by New York Jewish communists, it reconstructs two generations of political activists who sought not only to build a new society but to live out their ideals then and there. Sympathetic but clear-eyed, it shows a side of the American past most people have no idea ever existed.”

Joshua B. Freeman Professor of History, Queens College and the Graduate Center, City University of New York