Newark’s Greatest Film at Fifty: Troublemakers (1966)

 

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These are scenes from the documentary Troublemakers, which I would declare, without any hesitation, the greatest film to come out of Newark. It’s many things at once: a vivid, tangible portrayal of life in the struggling Clinton Hill neighborhood; a clinical examination of what happens when “an interracial movement of the poor” moves from theory (read the 1963 document co-authored by Tom Hayden, who led the Newark Community Union Project that’s featured in Troublemakers, here) to practice; an expose of the structures and political systems that maintain inequality in America; a rare and valuable archive of black women’s activism; and a stark analysis of the dead end reached when democracy breaks down. It is, to my mind, one of the great films of the 1960s, one of the clearest expressions of a Left cinema in America, and also a striking, visceral depiction of Newark. Better than any other film or writing, it explains why the uprising of July 1967 took place.

The only reason that I haven’t blogged about Troublemakers during my three years of Newark film-blogging is that I had greater designs, of writing a scholarly journal about it. I’ve done archival research in Newark, Wisconsin, and NYU, and interviewed its filmmakers, Robert Machover and Norm Fruchter, as well as several members of NCUP and the film crew. So, I do still hope to develop that into something more substantive.

But for the moment, this supersedes it: we’re doing a screening at Rutgers-Newark to mark its 50th anniversary, with Frucher and Machover there for a discussion!

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To my mind, this is a MAJOR film event, and I’m thrilled to be involved Continue reading

Radical Cats of the Cinematic Revolution

To my great chagrin, I’ve been too busy to post anything lately. I intend to rectify this soon, but in the meantime, I have collaborated on a tumblr about cats in radical film, with the esteemed Hannah Frank and Mary Rizzo.

We define radicalism pretty broadly, but no amount of semantic contortion could allow me in good conscience to include the crappy milquetoast 2011 comedy Butter (whose main political thesis seems to be, “har har, people in Iowa are fuuuuuuuuny, LOL!”)–which is a shame, because it does have one great cat image, in the form of a butter sculpture.

So, exclusive to this here blog, behold:

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If anyone out there on the interwebz has radical cinematic cat suggestions, by all means please share!