On Saturday, volunteers from the Scribe Video Center and the Roxborough/Manayunk community set up a huge white projector screen inside the Galilee Baptist Church in Roxborough to show the 14th annual Street Movies film festival.
The West Philadelphia-based film school partners with local community organizations every summer to present outdoor short film festivals around the city, but bad weather forced the community to move this year’s festival from Pretzel Park to the Galilee church on Roxborough Avenue.
According to Monica Peters, the Programming Director for the Scribe Video Center, the filmmaking organization “gives communities the tools that they need to document their own histories.”
Offering more than 45 filmmaking classes a year, Scribe’s mission is to “create media works that comment on the human condition and celebrate cultural diversity” according to its website, Scribe.org.
For their “Precious Places” series, which was shown on WHYY last March, Scribe students spent five years creating documentaries about unique neighborhoods and locations throughout Philadelphia. The films help to promote community involvement.
“Producing a documentary video is a chance to honor the local experience, and to become the author, not just the subject of your neighborhood’s history.”
As the audience arrived, the Florence Broddus Faith Band performed on the church’s stage, partially hidden by the huge projector screen, while people danced in the aisles to funky brass renditions of songs such as “Living in America.”
Jos Duncan, a filmmaker and longtime member of Scribe, acted as emcee for the night, in order to facilitate discussion about the locally made documentary short films.
Introducing herself to the 25-person audience, she reminded them that each Street Movies program “is customized to meet that community’s vision or need.”
Scribe “works with each of the communities and each of the organizations that it is partnering with to figure out what the community’s needs are and what they want to address, what they’re values are.”
Joy Hatcher, the president of the Coalition of Concerned Citizens for Central Manayunk, worked with Scribe to determine what movies were shown Saturday night.
The first film shown was from the Precious Places series, released in 2007.
“The Manayunk Club,” an 11-minute film sponsored by the Manayunk Neighborhood Council, tells the history of the old social club which burned down in 2001, through the narration of community members.
The film begins by panning across a landscape photo from 1910, finally falling on the Manayunk Club perched atop a hill overlooking the city.
Neighbors, such as Bill Braumsberg, nostalgically recall youthful memories of the club.
“They had ten cents a beer. Great beer, best you could ever get,” he said.
Dan Neduscin remembered the big staircase that led up the Manayunk Club’s porch which overlooked the Schuylkill River and the neighborhoods below. He also addressed, and shot down, the rumor that he was responsible for burning down the club, in order to build apartments.
In the background, Anne Gallagher sang “Take Me Back to Manayunk, Manayunk, Manayunk/ That’s where I long to be/ With the friends so dear to me….”
Ending the movie with a slideshow of scenes from the neighborhood, the narrator says, “when we lost the Manayunk Club we lost more than a building. We lost a thread in the social fabric of our community. The Manayunk Club was much more than a social club. It was a symbol of our connection to our neighborhood and to one another. I wonder, what will provide the connection to the next generation.”
Other movies included, “Standing on the Promises of God”, a film about a very old black church in the Northeast, “The Connection: Black Love Lives” featuring interviews with African American couples, “Porches” which featured informal discussions with elderly people as they sat in front of their homes, “Yesterday’s Today” a feature film about a high school girl coping with the violent death of her best friend, and two animated African folk tales, “The Legend of Ngong Hills” and “Child and Firefly”.
In the discussion following the films, Duncan asked what community values the audience would pass on to future generations.
For Joy Hatcher, “community is an exchange of ideas,” and Manayunk’s diverse ethnic history has strengthened those communal bonds.
Hatcher, who was born in Manayunk in 1958, praises her hometown, saying “this neighborhood taught me there is such a thing as community. I’m finding out, as I get older, how rare that is.”
The next Street Movies screening will be held at the Mill Creek Playground for the West Philadelphia community.