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51 Birch Street

NOW ON DVD

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"One of the most moving and fascinating documentaries I've seen this year... Mr. Block has put his parents’ life, and his own, into this film with such warmth and candor that it may take more than one viewing to recognize it as a work of art."


– A.O. Scott, NEW YORK TIMES

Art Schultz (age 48)

I attended my first ever independent film screening Saturday night at the Flicks in Boise, Idaho.  Mostly out of curiosity, partially because of my involvement as a board member of the PIX Theater Foundation, in Nampa, Idaho and the Foundation’s desire to include independent films as part of it’s future venue. And partially out of response to a write up about this particular independent film in the Idaho Statesman.

The film is called “51 Birch Street”, filmed, documented and narrated by Doug Block.

Never having previously attended an independent film screening, or the Flicks, I truly had no expectations.  Except that being a “Documentary”, I expected to be snoozing before the end.

My first surprise was that the film was sold out when I got there.  Fortunately they put me on the waiting list and I was able to get a seat.  The theater setting was actually quite intimate holding roughly 200 people.  Seating, lighting, visual, and audio was all very comfortable.

My next surprise was that before the film started, representatives from True West Cinema Festival, Priddy Brothers Entertainment, and Doug Block, the writer and director himself, introduced the film.  They shared short stories about the history of how the film is doing internationally and how it arrived in Boise.  Doug Block spoke about what inspired him to compile years of videotaping family interviews and put them into a documentary.  John and Ed Priddy spoke on how they traveled from New York to Jerusalem, and back again before the pieces came together to produce the film.  As I sat and listened, I felt like I was with friends and family cheering the successes of a loved one.

And then the film began.  It immediately drew me in.  Doug Block did an amazing job narrating and progressing through the film, documenting his parents and his parents relationship, documenting himself and his two sisters relationship to his parents, documenting himself and his relationship to his wife, and to a small degree his relationship to his children.  The film caused me to reflect upon my own memories of my parents, and those issues in my life that were never resolved before their passing.  Fortunately the theater was dark and those around me could not see me wiping my eyes.

Without going into detail, what we may learn from the film is that what may seem like the perfect marriage, the perfect parents, the perfect family, may not always be as it appears.  But can anyone really define “perfect”?  In the end, I took away the message of unconditional love.  That though we may not understand why our parents did (do) the things they did (do) but we love them anyway.  Life is way too short to harbor bitterness.  Mr. Block is very fortunate to have been able to come to resolve with his parents by putting it all into a film and sharing it with the rest of us.  Many of us may not be that lucky.

When the film was over, Doug Block came out and answered questions from the audience regarding what we had just witnessed.

Following the film was an open house fundraiser at the location of True West Media Art Center, with proceeds going to True West Inc., an Idaho 501(c)3 non-profit organization (similar to the PIX Foundation) where folks could discuss the film further with each other, the producers, and the writer.  I was truly impressed.  I can envision this venue at the restored PIX Theater.  I believe Nampa is ready to get behind this growing sense of culture.

So what did I learn from Doug Block’s film?  Marriage and relationships are a “Leap of Faith” and very difficult to maintain.  The ups and downs are just part of the adventure!

Comments

Thanks for sharing your reaction, Art.  It was a wonderful trip to Boise - Lori and I love working with the Priddys and it was nice to be able to support their efforts with the Center. 

And it’s always great to know that the film resonates out in the heartland, even with folks like you who literally never see independent films or documentaries. 

Hope the experience makes you want to see more of them.


By: Doug Block, on Dec 19, 2006

I would like to know where this movie played when it appeared it Chicago.  I would have loved to have seen it, but will wait for the DVD.  I heard about it on NPR and was intrigued by the story, and how real the presentation was.  I can’t wait to see it.


By: Cindy Matre, on Mar 01, 2007

I am very interested to see the movie . Thanks for sharing with us such an interesting post.
Document Imaging Software


By: Document Imaging Software, on Jan 25, 2009

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