Rosario Dawson is hoping to mend a few broken friendships with her new movie musical RENT - because it will remind former family friends of the tough times they all shared.

Like her character MIMI in the new film, Dawson grew up among a poverty-stricken community in New York's lower east side, and she fondly recalls the times when they all pulled together to help each other out.

But, as the neighbourhood went through a renaissance and property boomed, her bohemian friends started to behave like the yuppies who were buying property in the area.

Dawson explains, "The film is so important for so many people and it will remind people of past times because New York's lower east side is so gentrified now.

"When we all got water and electricity and the plumbing in, people closed their doors and all the generosity that once existed was gone. We used to help each other because we literally had nothing. That all stopped.

"A lot of big issues cropped up because people just forgot about their idealism. I hope that some of the people I grew up around, who were vital and important to me, see this film and remember how it used to be.

"I don't talk to a lot of these people now, but I respect what they did. They were young idealists and maybe things didn't turn out the way they wanted them to but they had the courage to try."