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By Merle Bertrand | March 16, 2007

2007 SXSW EMERGING VISIONS FEATURE! Many viewers would argue that the ordinary people in “Fish Kill Flea” are its stars, for lack of a better word. These viewers have a point. For without the gritty but proudly defiant folks shopping at and/or barely eking out a living at the indoor/outdoor flea market now occupying the decaying husk of the Dutchess Mall, there would be nothing to see in this melancholy mediation on progress but the discarded shell that progress leaves behind.

Others might think the old mall/flea market is the star. Like the aging woman and her retiree mother selling bongs and the hustler pawning last millennium’s hottest electronic gear, the proud old Dutchess has fallen hard since her glory days in the mid 1970s, but by hosting the rag-tag flea market, she’s doing what she can to survive.

The correct answer is that both sides are right. In fact, one would not survive without the other. True, there aren’t many smiling faces amongst the flea market regulars. Their vacant stares as they wander aimlessly around this trailer park ebay lend them an air that’s as haunted and joyless as their cheap paneled surroundings.

Then again, without even this trickle of hardscrabble humanity, the old Dutchess would have no one to warm those paneled walls at all.

The collaborative team of Brian Cassidy, Aaron Hillis, and Jennifer Loeber skillfully weave their candid, not always flattering interviews of the regulars with archival stills from happier times to make this wistful, thought-provoking rumination on the cost of progress. What’s even more commendable is that they do so in an utterly non-judgmental way…which is something that most viewers of “Fish Kill Flea”, myself included, probably can’t claim.

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