Tag Archives: documentary

East of Liberty Screening on February 2


Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh and Eleventh Stack are celebrating Black History Month by highlighting books, music and movies by African American Artists. We also have a ton of great events and programs for children, teens and adults. You can view all of our Black History Month posts here.

Although the changes to the demographic and socioeconomic makeup of East Liberty have been coming for quite a while — the Whole Foods has been there for 14 years! — the rate of change seems to be increasing exponentially these days. It can feel as though every week brings a new large scale real estate development or business moving into the neighborhood.

The north- and west-facing windows of the the office that I work in, located on the second floor of our East Liberty branch library, have proven to be a good vantage point to watch some of these changes unfold. In the two and half years since my department has occupied this space, we’ve seen the vacant 1909 YMCA converted, at great expense, into a boutique hotel; a Jordan Monahan mural that had become something of a neighborhood icon painted over as a new tenant occupied the old Novum Pharmaceuticals building; and, at the Penn Plaza apartments across the street, tension has grown between tenants of the apartments and the owners of the development who wish to evict them so that they can further develop what has become a very valuable piece of real estate.

Watching all of this change from an office window is one thing, but to really understand a neighborhood, you have to talk to the people who live there. Filmmaker Chris Ivey has been doing just that from the early days of the redevelopment of East Liberty. As he describes on his website:

“I was hired to document the tearing down of the high rises. At the same time I interviewed some of the residents who lived in the high rises and they weren’t happy at all because of the spectacle that was before them. They were really angry. It was their home, it was where they used to live, some for 30 years or more. Even though in many ways it wasn’t the best place to live it was all they had and to see strangers having fun by shooting paintballs at the block left them furious.”

Over the past decade, Ivey has been working on a film series called East of Liberty. So far, the series includes “A Story of Good Intentions,” which follows residents who were displaced from the high-rises that were demolished to make way for much of the new development; “The Fear of Us,” which highlights the experience of business owners who are fighting to remain open as new businesses emerge to appeal to a changing demographic; and “In Unlivable Times,” which is about youth culture.

Chris Ivey will be screening “In Unlivable Times” at CLP – East Liberty on February 2nd, starting at 6pm. This film, which portrays inner city youth in their own voices speaking about their experiences and dealings with neighborhood violence, will be shown in its entirety with time for a discussion after.

If you cannot make the screening, the library does have copies of the film series available for checkout, but I will say that it will absolutely be worth the effort to come out if you can. Ivey’s next film, “Youth Rising,” is currently in production, and as this recent Post-Gazette piece by Diana Nelson Jones shows, he and his work have a way of bringing people out to have meaningful discussions about very difficult subjects like race, class, displacement and neighborhood violence, which means that it will be well worth coming out on a cold Tuesday evening in February to watch it with other community members.

The screening will be on the second floor of CLP – East Liberty, at 130 S Whitfield Street, starting at 6 pm. The film is approximately 55 minutes long, and discussion will follow.

Here’s a link to the event on Facebook. We hope to see you there!


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Kumu Hina: a Place in the Middle

Please join us at the Main Library on Tuesday, June 16th at 7 PM for a special free screening of the award-winning documentary Kuma Hina: a Place in the Middle.

Kum Hina banner, used with permission.

Kumu Hina is a powerful feature documentary about the struggle to maintain Pacific Islander culture and values within the Westernized society of modern day Hawaiʻi. It is told through the lens of an extraordinary Native Hawaiian who is both a proud and confident māhū, or transgender woman, and an honored and respected kumu, or teacher, cultural practitioner, and community leader.

Imagine a world where a little boy can grow up to be the woman of his dreams, and a young girl can rise to become a leader among men. Welcome to Kumu Hina’s Hawai’i. During a momentous year in her life in modern Honolulu, Hina Wong-Kalu, a Native Hawaiian māhū, or transgender, teacher uses traditional culture to inspire a student to claim her place as leader of the school’s all-male hula troupe.

But despite her success as a teacher, Hina longs for love and a committed relationship. Will her marriage to a headstrong Tongan man fulfill her dreams? As Hina’s arduous journey unfolds, her Hawaiian roots and values give her the strength and wisdom to persevere, offering a new perspective on the true meaning of aloha.

ReelQ logoThis screening of Kumu Hina will be co-hosted by the Pittsburgh Lesbian and Gay Film Society. Come join us!

Can’t make it on Tuesday? You can still borrow Kumu Hina from our LGBTQ collection.

– Amy E.

(Kumu Hina logo, description, and trailer used with permission.)


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Abraham Lincoln Brigade: Little-Known American Heroes

Please welcome Eric, who works at the Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, to the Eleventh Stack team rotation. To learn a little more about him, as well as our other contributors, visit the About Us page.

Relatively few folks know anything about the Spanish Civil War, or the significance of the Americans who volunteered to be a part of the fighting in the 1930s as a part of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade. Before the Second World War, another fight against fascism was happening in Europe. Luckily for you, dear Eleventh Stack reader,  the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh has a number of fantastic resources on this little-known bit of wildly interesting and very important American history.

Cecil D. Eby delivers a solid, interesting and highly readable history of the Lincoln Battalion in his book Comrades and Commissars: The Lincoln Battalion in the Spanish Civil War. His work gives a good sense of not only the events that preceded the war itself, but also the entry of the International Brigades, and the American volunteers who went to Spain on their own to fight fascism.

Madrid, 1937: Letters of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade From the Spanish Civil War is a wonderfully personal glimpse into the lives and thoughts of the plumbers, students, teachers and poets who made up the Lincoln Brigades. This collection, edited by Cary Nelson and Jefferson Hendricks, is at once a powerful emotional connection to the Spanish Civil War, but also an important historical collection!

Maybe you’re thinking, “Okay, this is kind of interesting, but I’m not sure I want to commit to sitting down and reading a big ole history book on a war I’ve never even heard of.”  I say, fair point! How about a couple of fantastic films on the subject, then?

The Good Fight: The Abraham Lincoln Brigade in the Spanish Civil War is a fantastic documentary featuring some narration by none other than the legendary Studs Terkel. It provides an excellent overview of the conflict as well as personal input from members of the Lincoln Brigade. With plenty of footage and stills from the 1930s in Spain, this film gives an excellent sense of not only what occurred but also what the Americans involved thought about it. Likewise, Into the Fire: American Women in the Spanish Civil War is an excellent film that traces a solid sketch of the events of the conflict while focusing on the role of American women in the  Lincoln Brigade. It is a beautiful, heart-wrenching, fascinating film.

Learn about these truly unsung heroes of American history and what they faced when they returned to the States following their service. Whether you are already a student of history or just interested in a little-known, but important, chapter of the American experience, check out these titles!


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A Sense of Place

There are certain films that are dear to me, not due to plot or characterization, but more because they so effortlessly capture a sense of place—the way a particular landscape or cityscape looks in a given time and place. There are many fine films capturing New York in the seedy 1970s, including Taxi Driver, Saturday Night Fever, Annie Hall, Dog Day Afternoon, and The Warriors. For a glimpse at the Bronx and other parts of New York circa 1981, the great documentary Style Wars can’t be beat.


Just last weekend I ran across an odd and fascinating film called On the Bowery that reaches even further back into New York’s checkered history. Filmed in 1956, the director spent months on the Bowery (known as New  York’s skid row at the time) drinking with its inhabitants, and then writing a screenplay with said inhabitants that would reflect their day-to-day life. For this reason, the film plays like a fictionalized documentary, and is largely without plot or character arc. For most of the film’s 65 minutes, men wake up in some hazy late-afternoon time, head to the bar, and then drink until they fall asleep on the street—or if they’re lucky, in a flop house. There are maybe only one or two women glimpsed in the film’s entirety, and only one scene I can think of where people eat actual food (as opposed to drink). It’s a rarely screened film that has just made its way to DVD after being restored, and is touted by none other than Martin Scorsese as, “a milestone in American cinema… On the Bowery is very special to me… Rogosin’s film is so true to my memories of that place and that time. He accomplished his goal, of portraying the lives of the people who wound up on the Bowery, as simply and honestly and compassionately as possible. It’s a rare achievement.” I imagine Mr. Scorsese is probably right, and this probably is one of the most honest portrayals of what life was like in down-and-out New York around this time; for this reason I would recommend giving the film a try, even if it can be hard to watch at times.

Another favorite “place movie” of mine is Jim Jarmusch’s Mystery Train, but I’ll save that film for a future post. How ’bout you? Do you have a favorite film about a specific place or city?



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Hummerland shout-out!

That's about right.

That's about right.

Today the Film & Audio Department received a phone call from Ms. Suzanne Newman, the director of Hummerland, the documentary that we’re showing tonight as part of our Real to Reel Documentary Film Series. How randomly cool is that? I think that she’s as happy as we are that we’re able to show her movie in our library.

So if you have a chance, stop by tonight at 7 to watch Hummerland, and let us know what you think! We’ll pass your comments on to Ms. Newman.

And if you are tragically unable to attend (perhaps because a Hummer has taken the last five available parking spaces in our lot), just request the movie and watch it on your own!

– Amy

P.S. Thanks to kballard for the lovely photo, made available through a Creative Commons license.

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Labor Day reading, watching, and listening

Labor Day is coming up on Monday, and it’s hard to not love a holiday that’s devoted to the appreciation of workers (that’s us!).  According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s page on the history of Labor Day, we’ve been celebrating workers on the first Monday of September since 1882, and the day has been recognized by Congress as a federal holiday since 1894.  That’s over a hundred years of celebrations for us working stiffs!  You might already be familiar with the books Working and Nickel and Dimed (both excellent books), but there are also lots of other books, DVDs, and CDs in the library’s collection that capture the spirit of the holiday.  Below are a few of my picks.

  • Harlan County U.S.A.: This documentary about a Kentucky coal miners’ strike in the 1970’s is tremendously moving, and after seeing it for the first time it quickly became one of my favorite films.  The film shows the hostile conditions that the workers are dealing with, and the strikers and their families face threats, bullying, and even murder, often while simultaneously battling poverty and black lung.  As if the story itself weren’t gripping enough, the soundtrack features lots of classic bluegrass and labor songs. 
  • Without a Net: the Female Experience of Growing Up Working Class, edited by Michelle Tea: This collection of essays is about the working poor, from the point of view of women with a working class background, rather than journalists writing about a phenomenon. The essays cover a range of topics, from making ends meet to the affect poverty has on women and girls.  Tea has also written about her own experiences on the subject in her memoirs Chelsea Whistle and the graphic novel Rent Girl
  • Waiter Rant: Thanks for the Tip– Confessions of a Cynical Waiter, by The Waiter (Steve Dublanica): Written by the author of the blog Waiter Rant, this book will strike a chord with anyone who has ever waited tables and will prove enlightening to those who haven’t.  Some of the strangest experiences of my life took place during my own stint in the restaurant industry (some too outlandish to recount here!), and this book certainly relates some similar stories.  You’ll enjoy this book whether you’ve worked in restaurants or just eaten in them. 
  • Rivethead: Tales from the Assembly Line, by Ben Hamper: The author worked as a riveter for General Motors in Flint, Michigan, during the 1970’s and 1980’s, and here relates his experiences on the job. He doesn’t pull any punches in his descriptions of blue collar life on the assembly line, and if you’re a fan of Michael Moore’s Roger and Me, you’ll also find this to be an interesting read.   
  • Classic Labor Songs from Smithsonian Folkways: Music has been used to inspire workers, praise unions, and protest poor conditions throughout the history.  In this collection you’ll hear many well-known labor songs from greats like Pete Seeger, Hazel Dickens, and Woody Guthrie, as well as several lesser-known songs. 

I could keep going, but the list above should keep you busy over the long weekend.  If you’re interested in more books, films, or music on the subject, try looking up the terms “labor unions” or “working class– United States” in our online catalog.  Or check out the American Folklife Center’s web site to find even more books and music.


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