Notes on the cinematic career of Rutgers University, Newark

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These images come from The Once and Future Newark, a short 2006 documentary produced at Rutgers University, Newark, and featuring Dr. Clement Price leading an historical tour of the city. I can’t even feign critical distance here, so I won’t try; in addition to being the official city historian of Newark, Clem is a friend and valued colleague (a telling story: when I arrived at Penn Station for my on-campus interview, he picked me up in his car, bought me coffee, and burned me a DVD of a local documentary! This was a guy who was appointed by President Obama repeatedly to serve on important historical committees, going out of his way for someone he might never even see again! Seriously, an inspiration). He’s been in Newark since 1968, and knows more about its history than anyone alive. Continue reading

Scenes from a screening in Newark

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Friday was the debut screening of the Newark Movie Mixtape, and it was a real delight: perfect setting, in the lovely Riverfront Park (where Planning Director Damon Rich and Riverfront Coordinator Chris Caceres are doing some really innovative programming, from yoga to Zumba to house-music dance parties to boat tours), a great engaged crowd who seemed to dig the clips (our one cheat, a Whitney Houston music video not shot in Newark but inescapably connoting it, drew some serious applause), and the visual resonance of Newark scenes on a big screen with the actual city skyline in the background.

A decent portion of the crowd stayed the whole, somewhat long duration, too–2 hours, 8 minutes in the final cut! I’d love to tweak and revise this slightly and screen it again sometime, though it might be hard to make cuts; the only real dud, to my mind, was a long and reeeeaaaaaalllllly dull melodramatic romance scene set in Port Newark in Matt Cimber’s 1968 kitchen-sink drama Single Room Furnished. I also got a few fantastic suggestions from people in attendance, including an episode of Sesame Street (!) I hadn’t known about. I’ll have to think it through; in the meantime, some cool (IMHO) shots from the screening:

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poorly lit action shot of my rambling introductory comments!

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father of our mayor!

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Newark Plays Itself: The Newark Movie Mixtape (2014), THIS FRIDAY IN NEWARK!

Here is something very exciting: a project in which I was involved (as co-curator, with Damon Rich, Planning Director and Chief Urban Designer for the City of Newark), screening this Friday (Sept. 12) at Riverfront Park in Newark, at sunset:

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It’s a series of clips, highlighting and celebrating Newark’s robust, surprising cinematic history. There are a variety of angles from which one might approach this: the simple pleasure of seeing Newark represented while sitting in a park in Newark; as a really neat visual essay on the evolution of the city over the course of a century (clips range from the 1890s—Thomas Edison pioneered the cinema right next door in West Orange, and filmed in Newark—through the 21st century, with the most recent coming from 2014); as a local version of Thom Andersen’s masterpiece of the essay-film form Los Angeles Plays Itself, minus snarky Didion-baiting narration; or just as an excuse to come check out the ongoing Newark Riverfront Revival.

I don’t think the expectation is that audiences will sit in rapt, quiet attentiveness as per normative bourgeois narrative filmgoing (at least, before texting destroyed it), but rather hang out, picnic, stroll around, comment, enjoy themselves. I don’t really know what to expect, but I’m excited about this, and hope people show up to check it out. There are at least a few clips I’m pretty sure you’d be hard-pressed to see anywhere else.

There’s a blog post with a “track listing” of sorts here (and also directions to the easily-accessible Riverfront Park), though I’d personally prefer to go in cold myself—there is, hopefully, a rhythm and logic to the ordering, but it’s definitely not temporally linear, so it swerves from the 1890s to the 1990s to the 1970s, which should be enjoyably unpredictable. It’s all done in a DIY spirit of just getting people together to have a good time and revel in cinematic spectacles of Newark, so as long as that happens, I’ll consider it a success.

Big shout-outs to Damon Rich for being the driving force here, Chris Caceres at the Riverfront Revival, my awesome Chancellor at Rutgers University, Newark, Nancy Cantor, for supporting ambitious if experimental forms of civic engagement, the History Department at RU-N for support, and Samantha Boardman for going way above the call of duty as editor. Hope to see people at the screening.