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January 7 - 9, 2005

A Tribute to Pacific Street Films

Childhood friends Steven Fischler and Joel Sucher founded Pacific Street Films in 1969 while studying under Martin Scorsese at NYU. While filming undercover agents who were suspected of showing up at protest rallies, Fischler and Sucher themselves were harassed, photographed, and arrested. This experience became the basis for their first documentary Red Squad, completed in 1971. Since then, they have directed and produced a series of non-fiction films known for illuminating and exploring modern American social history.

This program is co-presented with the Boston Jewish Film Festival. Boston Jewish Film Festival members receive discounted admission when presenting their membership cards.

Program notes adapted from the Museum of Modern Art and The Cinema Guild.


January 7 (Friday) 7 pm -- Director in Person
January 8 (Saturday) 9:30 pm

Red Squad

Directed by Steven Fischler, Joel Sucher, Howard Blatt and Francis Freedland
US, 1972, b/w, 45 min.

This investigative (but frequently humorous) film documents the surveillance activities of the New York City Police Department's Bureau of Special Services, known as the Red Squad. The film pitted Fischler and Sucher against the forces of both the police and the FBI's surveillance units, which were ever-present at the many anti-war demonstrations in the early 1970s. While documenting events at a protest rally, the two filmmakers became the subject of police surveillance and eventually amassed a hefty FBI file.

Anarchism in America

Directed by Steven Fischler and Joel Sucher
US, 1982, color, 75 min.

A colorful and provocative survey of anarchism in America, the film attempts to dispel popular misconceptions and trace the historical development of the movement. The film explores the movement both as a native American philosophy stemming from 19th century American traditions of individualism, and as a foreign ideology brought to America by immigrants. The film features rare archival footage and interviews with significant personalities in anarchist history including Murray Boochkin and Karl Hess, and also live performance footage of the Dead Kennedys.

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January 9 (Sunday) 7 pm

The Other Half Revisited

Directed by Martin Toub
US, 1996, color, 59 min.

More than 100 years ago, through his journalism and his influential book, How the Other Half Lives, photojournalist Jacob Riis dramatically portrayed issues of homelessness, poverty, crime, public health, and race relations in America. This video provides a desperately needed historical perspective on the plight of America's "other half" today. The film combines Riis's original photos—including his recently restored magic lantern slides and text as read by the actor Fritz Weaver –with the social vision of contemporary award-winning photographers, including Margaret Morton, Eli Reed, and Fred Conrad. Using archival footage and photos, the video retraces Riis's original odyssey through New York City's slums to explore the similarities and contrasts between the 1890s and the 1990s.

Frame Up

Directed by Steven Fischler, Joel Sucher and Howard Blatt
US, 1974, color, 34 min.

Examining the case of Martin Sostre, a black Puerto Rican bookstore owner in Buffalo, New York, who was framed on drug possession charges in 1967 and sentenced to prison, this film shows how the American justice system can be abused for purposes of political repression.

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January 8 (Saturday) 7 pm -- Directors in Person
January 9 (Sunday) 9 pm

From Swastika to Jim Crow

Directed by Lori Cheatle
US, 2000, b/w and color, 60 min.

Françoise repeatedly returns to Berlin in search of her daughter who disappeared years ago. She is accompanied on these trips by her compassionate husband who stands by her despite the hopelessness of her quest. One day she encounters Nina, a vulnerable young woman who lives in a group home for troubled teenagers. Nina feels utterly alone save her relationship with Toni, a friend at the shelter with whom she experiences a fleeting moment of intimacy. Françoise is struck by the uncanny resemblance between Nina and her lost daughter and hopes she can bring resolution to her endless pursuit. Director Christian Petzold composes a mosaic of three women - their inapproachability, their transitoriness, their longings.

Free Voice of Labor: The Jewish Anarchists

Directed by Steven Fischler and Joel Sucher
US, 1980, b/w and color, 55 min.

Between 1900 and WWI, participants in the Jewish anarchist movement worked to build trade unions and organize schools, as well as to sponsor lectures, discussions, dances, and a wide range of cultural events. Using interviews with participants in the movement, archival photos and newsreel footage, excerpts from old motion pictures, and Yiddish songs and poems, this film paints a dramatic portrait of immigrant life in the U.S. as seen through the eyes of the sweatshop workers who made up the Jewish anarchist movement.

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