Filmmaker and poet Stephanie Gray has been filming the city since 1998. From June 12 - 14, she's having a three-day retrospective at Anthology Film Archives. On June 14, her experimental films of lost places, like Zito's Bakery and the Cheyenne Diner, will be the focus, accompanied by live musical performance and her own poetry.
I asked Steph to tell us about her work:
"I made the films to preserve what is fading from NYC authenticity and from our memory due to hyper-gentrification. I picked places that were closing soon or places that evoked a certain kind of NY character. Of course, not all places have I gotten to film. The music and poetry allows for viewers to move into their own reflection of these disappearances.
These authentic mom-and-pop places often disappear when we are not looking. Each and every one of these places holds a piece of a real and not hyper-manufactured NYC.
Gertel's and Five Roses Pizza got some attention but not as much as other places. These were special shops, sometimes unsung in the grand scheme of things. Stand outside one for a long period of time and see what happens when the regulars go in. It's a certain kind of neighborhood dance like what Jane Jacobs wrote--the 'neighborhood ballet' of the truly alive and authentic city streets.
Because we walk by the city so fast, or are on trains underground or buses or sometimes too busy to notice, I want to call attention to the inner-stories of these places, and make people think about what those inner-stories were, even if we don't know all the information. What about the shopkeeper who let you pay the next day or who shared cupcakes with you (both have happened to me), or holds your keys for when you get locked out? Zito's bakery had a small part of a wall filled with keys of neighbors. Some places I didn't film. Sometimes a place--it's hard to explain--feels too sacred to even film and I don't film it. I may take pictures or get its reflection in another film for another place. Sometimes it's best to just let people's memories be and not document everything.
The music and poetry go with the films as an opening, as an avenue (no pun intended) for the viewer to enter more fully these vanished places on their last days. Sometimes just a silent film might feel cold or wanting. By providing a meditation in music or film I hope it leads the viewer to thinking further on how unique these spaces are and what we gain by having them in our neighborhoods.
I'm always a little sad when some places just really disappear with hardly any commotion. That was the feeling I had when buying the last four bagels at Jon Vie pastries. There were people there, but not a lot or what I expected. It was New Year's Eve. It was obvious the shop meant something to many people and the owner was beloved in the neighborhood. But it was sad leaving the shop with the few that were there and peeking in backwards and seeing the routine of a shop closing up, like in slow motion.
I want people to think about those moments, after the doors close, the final movements in slow motion."
View the invite on Facebook