Anyone who’s spent some time on Bedford Ave. in Brooklyn knows that the Williamsburg thoroughfare can sometimes seem like a sort of atemporal circus village, complete with curled-up handlebar mustaches, unicycles, and people strumming on tin can banjos. Over the last fifteen years, the hipsterfication of a neighborhood once known as “the killing fields” has reached such unprecedented levels that it seems to have actually transported itself into a parallel universe — one in which the Puerto Rican community that for decades called its streets home never actually existed.
But while many current residents may assume that the working class Hispanics roaming the streets are merely there to sweep up, an ever-shrinking but proud Puerto Rican community still lays claim to the area of South Williamsburg historically known as Los Sures. And somewhere living amongst them is a house full of documentary filmmakers from all over the world who comprise the nonprofit Union Docs Center for Documentary Art.
But rather than a group of artsy hipster types who were priced a little further south than they would have liked, Union Docs has shown itself to be deeply engaged with the history and culture of its neighborhood, uplifting otherwise marginalized stories and showing the rest of the city what it really means to be a “good neighbor.”
By far their most ambitious project to date, Union Docs has spent the last five years getting a multi-platform, multimedia project called Living Los Sures off the ground. Taking as its centerpiece a recently rediscovered 1984 documentary by Diego Echevarría called Los Sures, the folks at Union Docs went beyond a mere frame-by-frame restoration of the decaying film stock and decided to supplement the throwback feature with a few extra goodies. First is an interactive website that will use each shot of the film as a launching pad for a tapestry of photos, videos and oral histories of the old neighborhood, second is a series of short docs that supplement Los Sures with a narrative of resilience and cultural continuity in the often difficult reality of 21st-century New York City.
Living Los Sures has thus far garnered praise and admiration from institutions like the New York Film Festival and the Brooklyn Museum, but they’re not quite there yet. You can play a part in its realization. Check out the project’s crowdfunding page at Kickstarter, donate, and show that you care about preserving the Latino history of la gran manzana for generations to come.
Explore both the Living Los Sures project and the Los Sures neighborhood…
A Brooklyn Barrio: Living Los Sures
Saturday, June 6, 2015
3pm Get Legit: A pop-up school of local experience.
6pm Park Hangout: Food, music, dominoes, and more.
8pm Outdoor Screening: New short films about Los Sures.
10pm After party: Live music, backyard drinks, and DJs.
Visit UnionDocs.org for details. Join the Facebook event.