Same Streets, Different Worlds
WITH FILMMAKER JEM COHEN
One of the least noted aspects of the Occupy Wall Street phenomena is the way in which it utterly transformed the urban landscape, taking once unremarkable “privately owned public spaces” and transforming them into truly public “agoras” — vibrant, unpredictable, open-air gatherings that cut across socioeconomic barriers and made for some of the liveliest “street theater” New York City had ever seen. Occupy insisted on the importance of the street as a place for raw, spontaneous, uncomfortably democratic interaction.
Cohen’s observational newsreels featured soundtrack music by Guy Picciotto (Fugazi). They were neither propagandistic nor judgmental, and were instigated as a rapidly realized series shown in a New York movie theater during the heyday of the Occupy movement.
Years earlier, along the same few blocks of lower Manhattan, Cohen filmed two massive tickertape parades — symbolically charged takeovers of New York streets with very different resonance.
Shown together for the first time, the evening’s shorts explore how the immediacy of street photography/cinema can also unearth and preserve secret histories whose meaning evolves in surprising, unforeseen ways.
Directed, filmed and edited by Jem Cohen: Gravity Hill Newsreels
(12 short films, total running time 64 minutes, 2011-2012) NYC Weights and Measures (2005, 16mm film, 5:30 minutes) Little Flags (2000, Super 8 film, 6 minutes)