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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

UCLA Adds Spanish Lake Documentary to Class Syllabus

Posted By on Wed, Jul 23, 2014 at 8:00 AM

A Spanish Lake resident talks about his hometown in the documentary. - VIA
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  • A Spanish Lake resident talks about his hometown in the documentary.

A Spanish Lake filmmaker's poignant documentary about his hometown's rapid decline is gaining traction at universities across the country.

The University of California, Los Angeles is the first school to add the newly released Spanish Lake to a class syllabus. Students will watch the film for the course Urban Planning M275: Community Development and Housing Policy, during the second week of classes, which focus on the role of the state in housing.

Producer Matt Smith says several other schools, including the University of Southern California, University of Memphis, California State University, Northridge and Occidental College have asked to screen the film and do Q&As with students.

See also: Spanish Lake, Documentary on St. Louis White Flight, Will Play Another Week at the Tivoli

In the film Spanish Lake, Phillip Andrew Morton takes an unflinching look at the impact social engineering and white flight had his hometown.

The unincorporated township grew into an idyllic, white, middle-class community in the post-war years, but without a mayor or city council, Spanish Lake residents couldn't push back against the federal officials scouting new sites for high-density urban housing. Poorer black families started moving in, launching a mass exodus of white families to St. Charles County -- part of a nationwide social phenomenon known as "white flight."

The film was so popular this summer at the Tivoli Theatre that its run was extended by several weeks. Producers say they're now in talks with Wehrenberg Theaters to bring the film back for more showings.

Follow Lindsay Toler on Twitter at @StLouisLindsay. E-mail the author at

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