The second screening of Stranger Than Fiction's summer season comes from the small screen. Two episodes from season two of the Sundance Channel's Brick City were shown back to back and I can see why the STF programmers chose to show this theatrically. Thom Powers (Artistic Director at STF) said in his introduction to the episodes he felt this series was filmed so beautifully that it would work well for cinema. He's right, Newark looks beautiful whether the sun is hitting tops of government buildings at just the right time of day, or whether it's illuminating an abandon old brick apartment structure, both are filmed with the same amount of care and artistry. It's apparent there are some Jersey folks on the film crew. Brick City provides an up close and personal look two sides of its community. The city's government, who's individuals, Mayor Cory Booker and Police Director, Garry McCarthy, provide a look at the big picture as they struggle to make change under the pressure from Newark citizens and the constraints of a shrinking budget. The real intimate picture, however (Check out Jayda and "Jiwe") comes from a few of those citizens, who strive day-to-day to make ends meet, while trying to improve their existence and make a future in a city that at times appears to be a fast sinking ship. The drama is real and the access into everyone's lives is remarkable.
This film carries several themes including race and class in America and as the series Executive Producers and Directors Mark Benjamin and Marc Levin mentioned in their Q&A, we loose more Americans on our own soil than we have in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, yet there seems to be a less of a concern about this.
Another film I recently saw is Player Hating: A Love Story by filmmaker Maggie Hadleigh-West (beautifully edited by Kim Connell and Laurie MacMillian). An incredibly intimate look into the lives of street and gang life from the Albany Housing Projects in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. Player Hating is much more though. It too brings to light the often unaddressed issues of race and class in America through the lives of ten men.
The Brick City series is available on iTunes. Player Hating: A Love Story is available for purchase through Indiepix.