Hanson Hosein makes independent films. Not just the medium, but also the movement, focusing his lens on the growing population stepping away from corporate consumer culture. Independent America: The Two-Lane Search for Mom & Pop revealed communities shifting from the big boxes to their neighboring businesses. But it was Hosein's second documentary, Independent America: Rising from Ruins, which brought his camera to New Orleans in 2008 to capture the "local" revival three years post-Katrina, when corporations weren't exactly racing to set up shop in what they viewed as a vacant city, leaving local businesses on their own. A year after filming, with the growing economic crisis and credit crunch, Hosein sees a now-more-than-ever need to support locals.
"We thought when we did the first (film) it was all about the death of local businesses, but what we were finding is people beginning to renew their interest in local," he says. "(With Ruins), I saw New Orleans as a model to the rest of the country: When disaster strikes your community, you better hope you supported your locals because they're the ones who are going to come back. ...The big boxes outside your community won't come back until they can make a profit."
That profit is now linked to clever marketing — the "organic" trend, using viral marketing a la YouTube, and now through "localwashing," a tactic used to draw consumer interest through a deceptive co-opting of a term that, especially in New Orleans, is dear to the small-business community.
"Local — what does it mean anymore? It's up to the true local movements and local businesses to continue and hold on to what this all means," Hosein says.
Hosein says local grassroots movements and organizations like New Orleans-rooted Stay Local! are vital to keep the local conversation going in communities with big-box options.
"The money you spend in a local business gets multiplied through the community far more effectively than money you spend at a big box," he says. "It's really important [consumers] understand that the money stays in the community."