It's great to have been awarded a City Artist Corps Grant, designed to stimulate NYC's "creative resurgence" this Fall. Mine will fund a series of three public screenings + community conversations (October 16, 23, 30 @ 7pm) in Elmhurst-Jackson Heights Queens, which was the pandemic's NYC epicenter, at Terraza 7, which was the heart of the cultural resistance to that scourge by sustaining the arts in the center of city's most socially vulnerable and culturally diverse neighborhoods, across the Time of Covid. Each event will feature one of my docs –– Between Neighborhoods, Small Kitchens, and The Actor in His Labyrinth (premiere) –– each of which contemplates this part of the world, focusing in different ways on immigration as the social context of this area's evident resilience and the city's reliance on its transnational diversity for its cultural as well as its economic sustainability and cosmopolitan identity. I will also preview a brief samples of my new video essay underway –– Olmsted and Moses & Al and Me –– about the intersection of personal and public histories across NYC, which I'm very excited to do! Thanks to the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs, the New York Foundation for the Arts, NYC Mayor's Office of Media and Entertainment (Made in NY) , as well as Freddy Castiblanco, owner and artistic director of Terraza 7. Details about each screening to follow here and Terraza 7 .
Of course, you never know what will happen when documenting. Consequently, it's super cool when something super compelling happens unexpectedly –– and you capture it. We had one of those magical moments in July, when SLF summer intern Rabei Javaid, and I were out shooting observational footage/scouting future shoots for my new essay film project, Olmsted and Moses & Al and Me (which deserves its own post, eventually, when it's time). In front of the Crown Heights apartment building where I was born, an unanticipated, initially awkward, encounter became the source for this teaser that contemplates the place of place in connecting people across decades, in a place that connects Brooklyn across centuries. Thank you Joe Taylor for your generous contribution and Rabei for keeping the camera running, so well!
Check out this new teaser for Our Neighborhood, my documentary underway about Washington's secret and semisecret production of TV propaganda for Latin America across the 1960s. The film grows from my original research as well as my published scholarship. Amos Damroth worked with me on the teaser's editing and Gaspar González of Hammer and Nail Productions consulted on its form as well as on the entire doc. Amos also works at Pickerel Pie Entertainment where Dewey Thompson and Chris Torella supervised the shooting of interviews sampled above. If you would like to make a tax-deductible contribution to Our Neighborhood's completion, you can –– and please do! –– via the Center for Independent Documentary.
Discussing Small Kitchens with friends, new as well as old –– from across Queens, NYC, the USA as well as across the Atlantic and the Río Bravo –– was very cool. (The above photo, e.g., was sent to me by Marcos and María Elena Aguila who watched in Cuernavaca, México.) Here's most of the postscreening conversation, moderated by Jeran Halfap of the Queens Historical Society.
Viewing a film in person with other spectators on the kind of (large) screen the filmmaker intended to show their work is irreplaceable; yet, the expansion of streamed viewings and (more importantly postscreening Q&A's) necessitated by (and perfected during) Covid times, demands that this digital dimension continues postcovid as a supplement (not substitute) for onsite events, because it virtually enlarges interaction across space in real time. We need to think about how to do this, better and better, going forward.
I'm excited to screen Small Kitchens –– my new doc that contemplates work and food between a Nepali restaurant and a Mexican food cart, a few blocks away from each other under the 7 train, on the Jackson Heights-Elmhurst border along Roosevelt Avenue, in Queens –– at the Queens Historical Society in January. Completed just before this most global part of New York City became the epicenter of the the global pandemic, Small Kitchens' examination of labor and culture is now also a time-capsule of life just before Covid-19 changed everything here, and everywhere. You can register to attend the even online at the QHS link, above. There will be a Q&A after the screening, to which I look forward.
It's become a Summer ritual, visiting Josh Glick's Global Documentary Media course at Columbia. This year it was via zoom. But I've never learned more about my own work than I did from these superb students' discussion of Between Neighborhoods and Small Kitchens. Current events, between Covid-19 and the protests George Floyd's killing generated, enhanced our conversation about documentary art, Queens, and the world, from across which these students beamed in. It was all very cool and very rewarding. (And thanks for the picture.)
My documentary about the interborough and international histories that orbit Robert Moses's Unisphere in Queens, can now be streamed VOD for either individual or institutional (e.g., classroom) rental or purchase. It seemed like a good time to do this, while cooped up during this Corona Crisis, which provokes thinking about immigration in Queens and the limits of modernization as Covid-19 ravages and Trump threatens the globally diverse neighborhoods around Unisphere and around Seven Local Film.
At work on a new doc that chronicles the passion of Sebastián Ospina, as the Colombia-born actor promotes and performs in NYC the one-man play he wrote about Simón Bolîvar, the Great Liberator of South America's north. The Actor in His Labyrinth expresses how Ospina's life journey –– which has traveled from Cali to NYC, from Colombian TV star to itinerant theater actor –– viscerally manifests itself in his identification with Bolívar's peripatetic life, intense loves, and inspirational aura. Stay tuned for teasers.
We had a great rough-cut screening and conversation about Small Kitchens at Terraza 7 on December 14th; the film's first phase was supported, in part, by a New Work Grant from the Queens Council on the Arts, funded by NYC's Dept. of Cultural Affairs.
Good Night and Good Luck, Director George Clooney (USA, 2005) 93 min. Followed by a talk back with Seth Fein
Description: Democracy in America Film Series Humanities and Films at the Whitney, supported by the Barbakow Fund for Innovative Film Programs at Yale)
Terrific time talking doc with students in Josh Glick's Global Documentary Media seminar at Columbia, 10 June 2019.
Very excited to welcome Bill Morrison to speak to my Film History course this Semester after we screen his amazing Dawson City: Frozen Time. It's open to all.