About Harlem USA, the film
Montreal writer and film-maker Eric Schachter began visiting Harlem some years ago, filming the chess players in St Nicholas Park. He quickly realized that the story, as in so many places in the world, is the story of gentrification and dispossession, aggravated by the historical legacy of race in America. A story coloured by the fact that Harlem had been a world, an explosion of creative energy, a special moment in the history of African Americans and of Western urban and cultural history.
From a project that began with the chess-players of St Nick’s, and moved by degrees into the documenting of a social upheaval, the film grew eventually into something richer and stranger: a tribute to a remarkable people, people we see here not primarily as types or as victims, but as articulate, charismatic, intelligent agents and witnesses.