This is a copy of a recommendation from Seth Shugar, Professor of English Literature, at Marianopolis College in Montreal, originally posted on April 28, 2014, supporting Eric’s submission of his film, Harlem USA, to the East End Film Festival:
To Whom It May Concern,
Please screen Eric Schachter’s important, beautiful and poignant documentary Harlem USA in your film festival. I’ve had nothing to do with the film itself, aside from being a viewer of it, but it’s a phenomenal film on a vital subject that urgently needs to be discussed. The film has a beautiful overall aesthetic and a cast of interviewees who are incredibly passionate and fascinating and articulate. There’s no shortage of naive and idealistic and wistful sentiments uttered in the documentary, but there’s also an extraordinary amount of insightful philosophy and street wisdom and sociology of the stoop, and incredible faces and images and visual poems to gaze at while it’s all getting broken down. Also hovering in the background throughout the film is an atmosphere of impending doom that gives the film itself the quality of a eulogy, lending all of its ephemera an added poignancy and value, like the photograph of a person about to be shot, or a crumbling heritage building that’s about to be destroyed. One of the things I like best about the film is that it shares the same qualities as the individuals it features: it has a DIY (do-it-yourself) feel and it’s full of lush urban poetry. The film-work is also striking: splinters of sunshine, folded hands, fire-escapes in soft or deep focus, whip pans, sharp reflections against blurry buildings, smoke from mouths and BBQs, etc. The pacing is great too, lyrical and loose, yet tight at the same time, with no lulls and many diverse threads (chess, class, gender, racism, mobilization, drugs, gentrification, education, etc.) picked up and woven in and then dropped before being picked back up again. All in all, it’s a beautiful, profound and important film (and not just for Harlem) that simply needs to seen and screened. It caused a great stir when it was first shown here in Montreal, sparking a passionate and lively and much-needed debate amongst the audience members.
Professor of English Literature