Screening of Owned and Q&A with Giorgio Angelini

An overhead view of a suburban neighborhood with many houses, all with roofs in different shades of gray.

Event Description

Owned unravels the complicated, painful, and often disturbing history of housing policy in America, shifting perceptions about what the idea of home means.

The screening will be followed by a Q&A with Director Giorgio Angelini. Join us on this page for the screening, beginning at 6:30 pm, and join us on Zoom for the Q&A, beginning at 8 pm. You must register to attend the Q&A portion. Scroll down to the bottom of this page to register.

Country: USA
Running Time: 83 min
Language: English

The United States’ postwar housing policy created the world’s largest middle class. It also set America on two divergent paths — one of imagined wealth, propped up by speculation and endless booms-and-busts, and the other in systematically defunded, segregated communities, where the American dream feels hopelessly out of reach.

Some ten years after the last housing collapse and well into a perceived upswing, the election of Donald Trump and urban uprisings in places like Baltimore suggest that there’s a far more fundamental problem with housing policy in America. And we haven’t even begun to recover.

Owned is an incisive look into the dark history behind the US housing economy. Tracking its overtly racist beginnings to its unbridled commoditization, the doc exposes a foundational story few Americans understand as their own.

“Home ownership to me means freedom—strictly. The more and more I evaluate this world, the more and more I understand: when you don’t own anything, you are nothing.” That’s how Greg Butler, a young black house flipper, sums up his view of the American dream.

In 2008, the US housing market became the epicenter of an unprecedented global economic collapse. In
the years since, protests in cities like Baltimore have highlighted the stark racial disparities that define many American cities. The crash of suburbia and urban unrest are not unrelated — they are two sides of the same coin, two divergent paths set in motion by the United States’ post-war housing policy.

The prevailing narrative is that the migration from American cities that began in the 1950s, often referred to as “white flight,” was caused by the degradation of city centers and the growth of suburbia. But this was neither a matter of preference, nor a natural self- segregation.

After World War II, the US government sought to provide housing for returning veterans and their families, while enabling them to build wealth through homeownership. Postwar policies spurred a decades- long construction boom and enabled millions of Americans to buy homes — and they benefited white people exclusively. So racial segregation determined how communities grew. Government policies directly subsidized white America, while denying opportunities to black people and other minorities.

Through the stories of a retired New York City cop, an eccentric Orange County realtor, and an aspiring real estate developer in Baltimore, Owned explores the promise of postwar housing policies, the systematic oppression in America’s “Chocolate Cities,” and the communities they have created. The film suggests that ultimately, these communities have more in common than they might suspect.


Giorgio Angelini’s first feature film, Owned, is an extension of his multi-faceted career in the creative arts. After touring in bands including The Rosebuds and Bishop Allen for much of his 20s, Angelini enrolled in the Masters of Architecture program at Rice University during the depths of the 2008 real estate collapse. It was in this tumultuous time that the seeds for Angelini’s documentary debut, Owned, began to take shape.

Awarded a travel grant to photograph the abandoned McMansions of Inland Empire, California, Giorgio encountered an environment far more perverse and disturbing than he had anticipated. It was clear there was a larger story here.

Following graduate school, Angelini began working with the boutique architecture firm, Schaum Shieh Architects, where he designed a wide array of projects, from an exhibition at the Venice Architecture Biennale to the White Oak Music Hall in Houston, Texas, which received an AIA design award in 2017.

Electing to focus his efforts full-time on film, Angelini launched Section Perspective Films in 2016.

While directing Owned, Angelini helped to produce the indie break-out hit My Friend Dahmer (2017) and directed a documentary short for celebrated performance artist Mary Ellen Carroll entitled, My Death is Pending… Because (2017).

Angelini is currently producing his second feature documentary, Feels Good Man, a story about Pepe the Frog, memetics, and the rise of far-right youth culture in America.

Follow Giorgio on Twitter.

How to Join

1. Visit this page at 6:30 pm to view the film.

2. Have a Zoom account. Members of the Harvard community who have not yet set up their Zoom account can follow the instructions here. Guests without a Zoom account can set one up for free at

3. Register to attend the Q&A here. Once you have registered, you will be provided with a link to join the Q&A via Zoom at 8 pm. This link will also be emailed to you. Please make sure the email you use to register is the same email connected to your Zoom account.

Anyone requiring accessibility accommodations should contact the Public Programs Office at (617) 496-2414 or [email protected].