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Fast Foreword: The Editor's Column, November 2005

By Tom White

Dear Readers,

When it was suggested by many of our supporters to produce an issue devoted to the sights, sounds and smells of New York City, we took a giant leap--3,000 miles--knowing that to encompass within these pages a metropolis with such a rich and storied documentary tradition would amount to, at best, a noble attempt. But nonetheless, here it is: our look at the center, or birthplace, of so many cultural industries, so vital to the documentary form--network television, cable...even the film industry got its start in the New York metro area over a century ago before packing up and moving westward.

So, in this issue, we talk to New York-based filmmakers, cable executives, theatrical distributors and exhibitors about what it is that makes New York the center of gravity. What is it about New York that lends itself its true sense of independence, innovation and invention? What makes New York a conducive place to thrive, independently of the industry out in LA? Thanks to Belinda Baldwin, Simone Pero-Audi, Andrea Van Hook and Susan Morris, respectively, for exploring these questions with those who responded.

We also look at a couple of NYC Boroughs--Brooklyn and Queens--that, in their scruffier, slightly-more-affordable-than-Manhattan status, have forged their own distinct identities, with festivals, facilities, institutions and, of course, vital documentary communities. Michael Galinsky and Lynn Lane, residents of those respective boroughs, foraged their turfs for reports on what gives Brooklyn and Queens their special docu-flavors.

Two filmmakers who have long made New York their professional and spiritual home are Albert Maysles and Marc Levin. Maysles' latest film, The Gates, made with Antonio Ferrera, documents conceptual artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude's long road to realizing their stunning, miles-long ribbon of saffron that coursed through Central Park this past winter. Barbara Rick, who collaborated with Maysles on her film In Good Conscience, talks to him about working with Christo and Jeanne-Claude over the course of three decades and six films.

Levin learned at the feet of the Maysles brothers, as an apprentice during the editing of their epochal Gimme Shelter. His latest work, Protocols of Zion, begins and ends in New York, in the roiling aftermath of 9/11, when the national conversation, in the backdrop of war, jihad, fundamentalism and faith, took a troubling and divisive turn. The divisions and camps have become more pronounced and defined, and Levin journeyed to communities both in New York and across the country to try to understand where we are in this smaller, less forgiving world.

Four years ago, 9/11 jolted New York and America into the 21st century. But this year, it was nature's turn to wreak havoc, as Hurricane Katrina exposed the stark realities of the continuing race and class fissures, exacerbated over the past four years, in American society. Over the next few months, we expect that documentary filmmakers will be on the forefront trying to make sense of the many repercussions--social, cultural, economic, ecological, political--of this stunning tragedy, and we will be monitoring their efforts. 


Yours in actuality,

Thomas White