In the late seventies and early eighties, South Williamsburg was one of the poorest neighborhoods in New York City. Largely Puerto Rican and Dominican, it was troubled by drugs and violence, full of abandoned real estate, and badly under-served. Los Sures, a documentary from 1984 by Diego Echeverria, skillfully represents the challenges of this time, while also celebrating a community that was connected, coherent and full of culture.
For the past year, documentary artists in the Collaborative Program have taken this now-undistributed film as a starting point, treating it as an archival document, experimenting with different ways to explore the immediate neighborhood which UnionDocs has been part of since 2005.. Ultimately, the group is creating a constellation of new projects that annotate, challenge, update and spiral off from the original film.
Questions arise: From one of the worst ghettos in America to what? How do we understand and represent the unique stories of a specific place? How can we capture the diversity contained in a square mile of Brooklyn blocks? As the globe becomes increasingly urban, and local identity becomes increasingly fractured and contentious, UnionDocs proposes that place-based storytelling includes multiple voices, multiple layers on a deep map, and multiple pathways for an audience to discover.
This special preview event will include an outdoor screening of a selection of these projects along with live performative elements and a gallery installation. It provides an early look at a broad-scale project that will be developed over three year-long cycles with three different collections of artists. Plans anticipate an iterative release of the project in the form of a multi-faceted interactive documentary, to culminate in late 2014, exactly thirty years after the release of Echeverria’s original film.
Of Memory & Los Sures by Laurie Sumiye, Andrew Parsons
A hybrid animated documentary film using oral histories of longtime residents of Los Sures (“the South Streets”), a neighborhood in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. The film weaves their stories, reflecting unique glimpses into collective memory of a place undergoing rapid changes. Through these explorations of urban space, the film unearths fragments of history and culture, and recreates those memories through video, photography, archival documents and animation
Couchsurferz by Emma Brenner-Malin, Josh Solondz, Stephanie Chang
Selections from a 12 part cycle. 30 minutes
A journey into the homes of friends and strangers, in search of significance in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Sleeping on assorted couches, the surferz document the physical environments of their overnight stays, as well as the persons residing within them. Throughout the course of a year, the surferz explore relationships between themselves, their hosts, and the spaces they inhabit, as well as issues of representation, subjectivity, and agency in documentary filmmaking.
Selections will also be presented in a 3 channel video installation.
Before After by Daniel Terna, Michael Kugler
We got to know this neighborhood by exploring it through a series of filmed experiments and encounters in the mostly Latino and Jewish communities. The camera is considered as a compass that gives direction to a variety of inquiries. Guiding our interactions with the neighborhood, both in terms of physical space and its inhabitants, we found ourselves approaching the neighborhood as one big playground.
The short sequences in this piece are the result of unexpected encounters with people, images, and local rituals. Objects were used as props to facilitate interventions with spaces and communications with people. The title, Before After, references a photography storefront sign along Lee Avenue in the heart of the Jewish neighborhood, and it reminds us that deciding when something is “over” or “finished” is easier said than “done.”
Of birds and boundaries by Annie Berman, Laura Mayer, Matt Yoka
A filmmaker’s search for the Williamsburg’s Eruv (a string the defines the boundaries of the Chasidic neighborhood and redefines public space as a shared private space) leads her to ‘Marty,’ an anonymous Chasid who volunteers to help with research. The result is the development of an unexpected relationship, a cross-cultural exchange between two unlikely collaborators.
The Sauce by Ashley Panzera, Rosa White
As the residents in Los Sures change, so does its sound track. The old Latin rhythms echoing through the neighborhood, now blend with the sounds of indie rock music. The Sauce explores the rich history of New York Salsa and the continuation of its tradition of blending musical art forms, taking risks, and bridging cultural gaps. So, grab your timbalas and sample the flavors of the neighborhood.