Much has been written about the changing face of Harlem in sweeping generalities, often using the word gentrification. But when you put a magnifying glass on the map, you begin to see that the changing face of Harlem has many faces – specific faces of talented people who share their passions. At the top of the list is Albert Maysles, director of Grey Gardens whose passion is Documentary Film Making and his gift to Harlem is The Maysles Documentary Center.
Maysles Documentary Center was founded by Albert Maysles in 2005 as a nonprofit organization dedicated to the exhibition and production of documentary films. His objective was to show documentaries that are tied to the neighborhood he calls home: Harlem. The cinema has a packed calendar every month and in addition, the Center also offers educational, after-school and summer programs, a filmmaker’s collaborative for adults, internships, a junior filmmaker’s program and much more. It is the only independent film house north of Lincoln Center in Manhattan dedicated to exhibiting documentary films and video. It is also available for other filmmakers to rent and for community events, such as last year’s New York City debut of the documentary, Dîner en Blanc: the World’s Largest Dinner Party, which Maysles collaborated on.
With a lengthy list of documentaries to his credit, Albert Maysles is probably best known for Salesman, Gimme Shelter, and Grey Gardens. We were on hand at a screening of Grey Gardens during the 6th annual weekend-long meditation on the legacy of Albert and David Maysles’ to view Staunch! A Grey Gardens Celebration VI.
If you haven’t seen it, let us set the stage. The documentary is set in East Hampton at the home of the reclusive cousins of Jackie Onassis, Edith Bouvier Beale ‘Big Edie’ and her daughter Edith ‘Little Edie.’ Delightfully and wildly eccentric, the documentary takes you into their everyday lives, including the few people that they allow to surround them. One in particular is a young man named Jerry Torre, who did odd jobs for them and became a close friend.
Each screening is followed by a Q&A discussion between the audience and those involved in the making of the film. This particular evening, we were treated to a panel consisting of Albert Maysles, Jerry Torre (all grown up) and Jessica Green, Director of Maysles Cinema, and others.
While Maysles is indeed a larger then life figure, in person he is unassuming and unintimidating. The organization is made up of a small group of talented people that include his son and two of his three daughters. The suggested donation for admission is $10 or you can become a Member and have the benefit of attending as many screenings as you like for an entire year. They are located at 343 Lenox Avenue, near 127th Street (#2/3 to 125th Street).
Keep a close eye on their Website, Twitter or Facebook because 2015 will be the 40th Anniversary of Grey Gardens and we heard lots of screenings and festivities are in the works!
For more in Harlem, check out the Harlem Courthouse and this mural of “La Grande Jatte” in Hamilton Place.
Get in touch with the author @AFineLyne