Sunday, September 13, 2009

9-13-09: New York: A Documentary Film

I finally watched the last DVD of the epic documentary film New York by Ric Burns. It's quite a monster at 14.5 hours, but it is absolutely worth every dripping second of history and insight for those interested in the city's wonderful history. At various points in my life, I have considered taking a course at a local college in the city's history. I've taken bus tours (one last summer in fact) to learn more about the city. I wrote a term paper in college on The Tammany Society. I walked down the streets during Summer Streets last year just to see the buildings from a new view. I am simply fascinated with the city.

Despite being from the Boston area originally (and firmly maintaining my allegiance to Boston sports), I spent most of my childhood and young adulthood in southern Connecticut, about an hour outside of New York. I've been there countless times, and each time I try to get something new out of it. I always succeed. I think it's just so great to be able to hop on a train (even now I live a few minutes' walk from a train station in Derby, CT that will get me to Grand Central in 90 minutes) and end up anywhere you want to in New York. You don't have to worry about traffic or driving or parking or anything. It's just so nice.

The film starts off in the beginning, back in the Dutch colonial days, and continues through to the end of the 20th century. It came out in 1999, so I think it's eerie to think that, despite all the changes they show in the film, it's changed that much more in 10 years.

There are various public figures that they describe which also fascinate me. Whether it was a member of Tammany Hall, an activist, a mayor like Fiorello LaGuardia, an infamous city planner like Robert Moses (who was hated by many despite his vast contributions to the city), or a group of people, you just can't believe they were all part of a single story. In a single place. It's just amazing. And the way Burns and the great, great contributors tell the story is almost uncanny in its movement and flow. They describe tragedy and glory and poverty and wealth in ways that make you think which actually helped to shape the city's history more.

Do yourself a favor. Watch New York: A Documentary Film (I used Netflix), then go into the city on a weekend. You'll enjoy it. I plan on doing that very thing.

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