A Quick Trip Through the 2019 Preservation Film Festival
January 16, 2020 | Josie Naron, Former Jeffe Fellow
If you attended any of the 2019 Preservation Film Festival’s ten events over the course of April, the phrase “five-borough film festival” may sound familiar. But it bears repeating: For the third iteration of the Archive’s Project Preservation Film Festival—and for the first time ever—screenings were hosted in all five boroughs. Through a diversity of screenings and venues, from Astoria to Staten Island to Upper Manhattan, creative, insightful, and often provocative discussions about preservation emerged all across the city.
In a whirlwind of a month, the Preservation Film Festival featured ten events in total. The Archive Project dug through its photo archives from the month to provide a snapshot into each of the ten fabulous gatherings.
- On the film festival’s opening night at Beyer Blinder Belle, a crowd of preservationists and film fanatics met, mingled, and enjoyed director Vivian Ducat’s short film Stonefaced, starring Robert A. King, FAIA. Both King and Ducat gave short introductions to the film, and the audience enjoyed the violin stylings of thirteen-year-old prodigy Pilar Winter Hill.
- In celebration of the 50th anniversary of the decision to preserve the United Palace of the Spiritual Arts, Executive Director of the United Palace, Mike Fitelson, led a tour through the “Byzantine-Romanesque-Indo-Hindu-Sino-Moorish-Persian-Eclectic-Rococo-Deco” interior of the theater. Many guests stayed to enjoy a day of 2001: A Space Odyssey–themed festivities, including a film screening and a special appearance by star Keir Dullea.
- For the Preservation Film Festival’s first-ever event in Queens, the Archive Project took a trip out to the historic Zukor Theater at Kaufman Astoria Studios for a screening of Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House (1948). Those who journeyed out to Queens enjoyed a post-screening talkback led by Executive Director Brad Vogel and Archive Project founder Anthony C. Wood.
- Brooklynites had their day as recent documentary Battle for Brooklyn (2011) raised questions of eminent domain, displacement, and development at the Atlantic Yards site. Preservationists and urban advocates Katia Kelly, Ron Shiffman, Norman Oder, and Daniel Goldstein presided over a spirited discussion following the film.
- NYPAP board member and quiz show maven Susan De Vries commanded a packed house at Noho’s B Bar for the fifth annual installment of Preservation, She Wrote. After audiences enjoyed a Murder, She Wrote episode filled with zoning fraud, murder, and innuendo, De Vries led a highly competitive round of trivia based on the episode, with pencils, prizes, and donated gift packages from local sponsors up for grabs.
- In one of the festival’s most unique screenings, the Coney Island Museum hosted the Archive Project’s showing of Little Fugitive (1953). The pioneering independent film provided a poignant look at the Brooklyn of yesteryear and sweeping shots of the Coney Island Boardwalk. Mary Engel, daughter of the filmmakers (Morris Engel and Ruth Orkin), also made a surprise appearance, delighting the crowd with her unique insights.
- Phil Myrick, CEO of Project for Public Spaces, led a discussion at the J.M. Kaplan Fund on journalist and urbanist William “Holly” Whyte’s influence on public space. Interspersing the discussion with clips from Whyte’s The Social Life of Small Urban Places (1980) gave many new insights into the form and function of public spaces today. Legendary historic preservationist Kent Barwick also shared his observations on Whyte’s work and its implications for preservation.
- Nathan Kensinger’s short film, Managed Retreat (2018) screened to a packed-to-the-gills full house at the National Lighthouse Museum on Staten Island. Featuring the voices of expert panelists — Paul Lozito, Jacky Keogh, and Kensinger — and many local residents, the ensuing discussion offered a spirited, poignant glimpse into the impact of Superstorm Sandy for many coastal communities in Staten Island.
- A vibrant crowd came to the BronxArtSpace for a screening of At Home in Utopia (2008), a documentary detailing the rise and fall of the “Coops” (United Workers Cooperative Colony) social housing project in the Bronx. Featuring a discussion led by current cooperative housing residents and drinks from a local Bronx distillery, it was one of the month’s liveliest gatherings.
- Finally, the 2019 Preservation Film Festival closed in grand fashion at the TWA Lounge, inspired by Eero Saarinen’s TWA Flight Center at JFK Airport. Toasts were made, glasses were clinked, speeches were given, and the Archive Project celebrated a month of spectacular preservation programming.