Almost a year ago, last spring, I wrote about documentary filmmaker Eric Schachter’s work-in-process, Harlem USA, though, at the time, he rejected the title of director because he believed that his film "was directed by the people that it is about."
Later that summer in London and Montreal, Schachter held, in effect, two test screenings to gauge audiences reactions to an early cut of the film, and he said that the experience gave him a totally new perspective on what he created, but not in the way you would expect.
The test audiences felt that the film was too divisive, and that there weren’t other voices in the film which reflected those of financially well-off newcomers to the neighborhood who look at Harlem as a place of opportunity and the beginning of a new life.
But Schachter eventually came to realize, thanks to their comments, that they were essentially missing the point and that they overlooked “the quintessential knowledge that comes from being black in this little island in America that our friends in London and Montreal were unable to grasp and that I then tried to report more forcefully. It is a knowledge that transcends glorious fantasies about a battle to be won”.
As a result he re-edited the film to reflect instead “just a love for a way of life lost, a time to be recorded and remembered and an immense respect for the collective wisdom of a people who had once had a homeland and a culture to call their own, smack in the middle of the biggest and richest city in America”.
He now feels that his new version of his film “pleases and speaks faithfully for the people in it and tends to offend those who need to believe that everything is always getting better”.
And now the film is ready to be shown to the very people his film is about, when it makes its New York premiere in Brooklyn this Sunday May 12, starting at 7PM, at the Cobble Hill Theatre, located at 265 Court Street (Subway F to Bergen Street or Subway G to Carroll Street).
Here’s the new trailer for the film: