+ -

This Is a History of New York

Jem Cohen

USA, 1988
23 minutes, Colour, sound
Available formats: SD digital file / DVD / Digibeta tape

A ‘history’ of New York City from Prehistoric Times through the Space Age, illustrated entirely with documentary street footage.
The film-maker made a wide-ranging study of the radically different worlds within the five boroughs. Divided into seven sections, the film/video concentrates on the interaction between street life and architecture. The Prehistoric Period, for example, was filmed largely around abandoned waterfronts of Brooklyn, The Age of Reason captures a Wall Street perched ominously before the ’87 crash.
Occasional commentary is provided by the street people: preachers, homeless persons, various survivors – and integrated into an intricate soundtrack of music (ranging from Gregorian Chant to Gabriel Cohen’s original compositions) and ambient sound.
While the film-maker’s intent was to make an accessible street document, on a broader level the film inquires if the so-called Great Ages of Man might not co-exist here and now, before our very eyes. – J.C.