The power of film is undeniable, and at this year’s Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts, first time filmmakers from the Philadelphia community are proud to show off their short documentaries, highlighting the areas they call home.
This Monday, April 11 audiences will have the opportunity (at 6:00pm and 10:00pm) to view these pieces of history at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts. The eight documentaries, planned, taped, and edited by groups of neighbors will be shown by Scribe Video Center, a non-profit media arts center in the city that aims to “explore, develop and advance the use of video as an artistic medium and as a tool for progressive change.”
The budding filmmakers were trained by scholars and filmmakers through Scribe’s Precious Places Community History Project.
Precious Places became an outlet for Philadelphians, and those of the surrounding region, to record stories about the public places that define their neighborhoods. It is important for residents to preserve the memories of a community, especially since most of them are undergoing significant change. Through film, a community’s memories are artfully preserved for all to enjoy. Along with preserving community memories, the project has allowed residents to learn and express themselves.
One documentary highlights an 80-year-old community garden in La Mott which faces the possibility of being sold to developers. Through the film, residents communicate their desires to preserve this precious spot, and how great a loss it would be if it no longer existed.
Shown along with these Precious Places documentaries will be a specially commissioned video by director Louis Massiah about the career of pioneering musician James Reese Europe. The film will draw attention to familiar spots close to Philadelphia history, including former theatres along South Street, the Victor Talking Machine in Camden, the Wanamaker Mansion and the Academy of Music.
Check out the documentary about the filming process for each filmmaker here!
Complete line-up of documentaries after the jump!
- Eden Cemetery Produced by Friends of Historic Eden Cemetery: As a sacred burial space for African Americans, the rich history of the cemetery and those interred there must not be forgotten.
- Former Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity House Produced by the Calhoun Family and Philadelphia Alumni Chapter of the Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc.: The house at 1007 Belmont Avenue was a cornerstone for its neighborhood and the city during 50 years of civil rights struggles.
- High School Park Produced by Friends of High School Park: After a fire destroyed a former high school in Cheltenham, neighbors came together to restore the site’s native ecosystem.
- Historically Black Neighborhood of Swarthmore Produced by HBNS Precious Places Team: A community remembers the characters and traditions that have shaped their neighborhood since the Great Migration.
- King’s Highway Bridge Produced by Friends of Pennypack Park and Holmesburg Civic Association: The oldest road bridge in continuous use in the United States has carried traffic over Pennypack Creek in Holmesburg for over 300 years.
- La Mott Community Garden Produced by La Mott Community Garden Group: La Mott’s colorful history is remembered as neighbors fight to save their 80-year-old community garden from developers.
- The Lazaretto Produced by Lazaretto Preservation Association of Tinicum Township: Neighbors, historians and descendants of immigrants who were held at the Lazaretto reflect on the former hospital’s years as a quarantine facility.
- Nile Swim Club Produced by Nile Swim Club: Facing discrimination at the local swimming pool, African Americans in Yeadon built a new, non-segregated swim club in 1958.
- James Reese Europe: Before leading an African American military band in France during World War One, James Reese Europe recorded with Camden’s Victor Talking Machine Company and performed at venues across the region, popularizing ragtime, syncopated rhythms and the precursors to jazz.