The new Cinema Conservancy Screening Series, a program of Artists Public Domain (APD), showcases films representing the history of American Independent Cinema, in its many forms. All screenings will be presented free to the public, accompanied by special guests,and take place at venues across New York. The series will highlight the significance and diversity of American Independent Cinema, presenting a varied selection of narrative, documentaries, experimental and uncatagorizable film work.
Jake Perlin, the director of the Conservancy Program will present a 16mm film projection of the 1980 documentary Tighten Your Belts, Bite the Bullet and moderate a discussion with: Filmmaker Marty Lucas; NYU historian of twentieth-century American politics Kim Phillips-Fein, and Felice Kirby and Paul Veneski of the Northside Town Hall Community and Cultural Center, formerly the People’s Firehouse. The film focuses on the 1970s twin fiscal crises in New York City and in Cleveland, and the very different responses to each by the cities’ then mayors Edward Koch and Dennis Kucinich.
In New York, the film traces the political and economic history leading to the default threat of the 1970s, and the creation of the Emergency Financial Control Board. It looks at what the effect of these developments were – cuts in city services with a devastating impact on city workers and residents, particularly in Williamsburg’s North Side, a neighborhood of community activists who occupied their neighborhood firehouse when it was faced with closing (documented in Newsreel’s great People’s Firehouse #1).
The film contrasts New York’s political response to the crisis with that of Cleveland, where Mayor Dennis Kucinich, stared down and battled the attempts of banks to gain control of public utilities in exchange for not bankrupting the city.
Writing about the film for the Soho News in 1981, Jonathan Rosenbaum: “I would be horrified indeed if New Yorkers were deprived of another chance to look at Tighten Your Belts, Bite the Bullet, which should be made available on every street corner…the most intelligent,powerful, and informative rabble-rousing leftist film that I have seen in years.”
Over thirty years later, Tighten Your Belts, Bite the Bullet, is a reminder of the battles of yesterday, and a chance to consider what has changed, or not, in the intervening decades. The film provides an interesting compliment to the current Queens Museum exhibition, Do you want the cosmetic version or do you want the real deal? Los Angeles Poverty Department, 1985-2014.
Directed and Produced by James Gaffney, Martin Lucas and Jonathan Miller. Photographed by Kevin Keating and Robert Achs. Edited by Mary Lampson, Martin Lucas, Marci Reaven and Judy Rabinowitz. (1980, 48 mins, 16mm print from Icarus Films, New York)
1981 New York Film Festival
1982 Cleveland Film Festival
About Artists Public Domain
Artists Public Domain (APD) is a non-profit organization that is committed to sustaining the integrity of American independent film, past and present. APD supports independent cinema through production, preservation, releasing, and education. www.artistspublicdomain.org.
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