MyBlockNYC Education Foundation has made filmmakers out of 1,500 New York City kids—and this army of young filmmakers have, in turn, produced films that give insight into the lives and the struggles of the next generation of New Yorkers.
Sony videocameras were distributed in 28 public schools across all five boroughs, and the students were tasked with a very personal assignment: to show what life is like on the streets where they live.
Some of the films are light-hearted and fun, or illustrate an iconic aspect of the city: Jade Minott from the Bronx Leadership Academy produced a portrait of a very special beauty parlor in the Bronx in her documentary, "Jamaica in the Bronx," and Sarawat Juthy's "Jackson Heights" is a visual affirmation of the oft-referenced diversity so distinctly "New York" that a single city block can show a kaleidoscope of cultures and ethnicities, and the myriad opinions and experiences that come with them.
Others illustrate the struggles young New Yorkers face, whether in avoiding violence on the streets of their neighborhood, or recovering from the devastation of Hurricane Sandy.
In "My Familia," Kassandra Luyando, a student at the Bronx High School for Visual Arts, shows how her father's music has afforded a respite from the violence, even sense of safety for her and her family, in the day-to-day experience of living in the Fordham area of the Bronx.
The devastation Hurricane Sandy wrecked on the Rockaways has hardly been overlooked, but the experience is made palpable in Ivan Gamba's "Rockaway Beach," a chronicle of the hardship and hope in his neighborhood as the community works to rebuild and recover.
Manning recounts the facts of the crime in a clear, steady voice using police terminology as the camera is trained on the door of the apartment where the murder took place.
Then, as the camera pans right and down a short corridor, he says: "This door is not that far from my own door, which is right down this hallway past the elevator."
Manning's film is just one example of what these videos accomplish: they are snapshots that can afford New Yorkers a sense of the disparate realities experienced across the five boroughs, in housing projects and beauty parlors, on city streets and storm-battered beaches.
Check it out
MyBlockNYC has made an interactive online directory of the films produced as part of the program: users can search films by location, age of filmmaker, topic, even the time of day or season it was made. Schools interested in participating in the program can email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Follow Danielle Tcholakian on Twitter @danielleiat