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Filmmaker

 

Documentary Features

 

 
 
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Begging Naked

No other film so vividly documents one woman's descent into the hell of mental illness and homelessness as Begging Naked.

What started as a quirky interview of a struggling artist turned into a heartbreaking odyssey spanning a decade as Karen Gehres documented her friend's disintegration.Fifteen-year-old runaway Elise Hill crossed the George Washington Bridge intoNew York City and walked into a world of addiction and prostitution. Miraculously, Elise turned her life around and fulfilled her life-long dreams to study art. She supported herself by working as a jewelry maker and artist for the next fifteen years.

As the stress of being a street vendor began to compound, Elise decided to return to the sex industry as a stripper in 1994.   Attempting to integrate dancing with her art, Elise brought her easel up on stage as part of her act and painted her fellow dancers and customers.

When Guiliani's Disneyfication of Times Square shut down the various midtown strip clubs, the wages of strippers plummeted, leaving many of them destitute.  After years outside the job market, Elise is unable to adapt in the working world.  Unable to pay her rent, her landlord begins eviction proceedings.  She attends court hearings staving off eviction for a time, but in July 2001 we witness her final eviction from her home of 20 years. 

From her first night sleeping on the sidewalk in front of St. Thomas' Church, Begging Naked documents Elise’s decline, her frightening conflict of identity and her day-to-day struggle for food and shelter. By Fall of 2003, we see Elise living in Central Park. At the age of 41, despite everything she is still creating art, weaving baskets out of telephone wire and assembling clothes from donated materials.

This is a story of survival and self-undoing. Against an unforgiving backdrop of homelessness and madness, Begging Naked shows the endurance of the human spirit at its most extreme.

 

 
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Astor Barber All-Stars

With so many NYC Institutions dropping like flies, due to skyrocketing rent,one barber shop remains. Since 1939, Astor Barber has been cutting hair with pizzaz and is still one of NYC's most loved institutions. Get your hair cut from cradle to grave...literally! 

The Vezza family, their loyal customers and over 50 stylists working at Astor will show why this 3 generation family owned business attracts 'em all. It’s a story of endurance and a family, it’s employees and customers that stuck together against the odds in NYC. 

 
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One-Armed Bandit: A Family Affair

How can the chance to hit a jackpot lead to breaking the bank?

Although millions of Americans struggle to make ends meet, many head to the casino for a chance to turn their luck around. Today, there is no need to travel to Las Vegas or Atlantic City for a gambling fix. Casinos have sprung up in people's back yards all across America.I have unique access to and perspective on this issue. I am from a family of gamblers and I'm not immune to the pull of the casino. I will be able to explore this without condescension or cliche. It's an especially fascinating subject right now, given the economy. Why do American working people choose to spend their money this way? What is it about the experience and the environment (risk, chance, excitement not found elsewhere, glamour) that appeals to them? What drives them? How is this different from their normal routine? Is it addiction or just escape? Are there consequences? There are complex motivations to be uncovered here.