Welcome to the Hot Seat, where we interview people involved in real estate, architecture, development and design. Introducing Christopher Allen, Founder and Artistic Director of UnionDocs, a nonprofit center for documentary film based in Williamsburg. We talked with Allen about UnionDocs’ ongoing collaborative project Living Los Sures, which chronicles the culture, history and stories of Williamsburg’s Southside. You can check out a video installation with some of the project’s short films at the Ildiko Butler Gallery at Fordham University’s Lincoln Center campus. They’ll also screen some of their short films on September 19 at 7 pm, during the Southside Connex street festival in Havermeyer Park.
Brownstoner: What neighborhood do you live in, and how did you end up there?
Christopher Allen: We live in Clinton Hill. We moved there last year after living in Williamsburg since 2002. We found a place that we liked, and rent was going up in our building and it didn’t feel like it was a good deal anymore.
BS: Can you talk about the beginnings of “Living Los Sures”?
CA: We’ve been involved in a restoration project with the New York Public Library to restore and rerelease a film from 1984 called Los Sures by Diego Echeverria. That film we’ve been working with for four years — it’s inspired about 30 documentary projects made by people in our studio. Over 50 people have been involved in creating short documentaries about the neighborhood today over the last four years. We’re also doing a participatory platform where we’ve split the film from 1984 into different shots and we’re splicing in longtime residents of the neighborhood talking about places in the film.
So the project is three parts: the participatory website, called Los Sures Shot by Shot. There are 30 short documentaries, produced by our collaborative fellows. One of the characters from the original documentary, we’re updating her story as she sells her apartment and leaves the neighborhood. It’s an interactive documentary called 89 steps. She’s considering leaving the city and moving out — and the film follows her as she goes through that process, and we learn a little bit of history about the building she’s lived in for 40 years.
That’ll be launched at the New York Film Festival September 27.
After the jump, Christopher talks about gentrification on the Southside, Sternberg Park and how rezoning has shaped the neighborhood.