Monday, August 23, 2010

"The Bungalows of Rockaway"

There was a movie premiere in Rockaway last night: the final cut of the documentary “The Bungalows of Rockaway” was shown at Fort Tilden. It rained torrentially, and I was late, so I didn’t stop at the cash machine, and to make the price of admission ($20, to benefit the Rockaway Music and Arts Council) I had to borrow ten dollars from the film’s director, Jennifer Callahan.

I’d seen two earlier cuts of the documentary, and I liked what they did with the final version. It has green-and-yellow illustrations that loosely impose the structure of a storybook, and lighthearted music that celebrates the word “bungalow.” (It means “in the Bengal style”; a bungalow has a pitched roof and a porch.) In addition to archival footage (including Uncle Julius, a.k.a. Groucho Marx, on the beach) and interviews with historians and residents, the movie has a villain (Robert Moses). What brought the audience to the point of hissing, though, was the announcement in mid-film that the management of the Breezy Point cooperative had refused to admit the filmmakers.

Jennifer and the producer, Elizabeth Logan Harris, came to my bungalow a few years ago with a cameraman. As a newcomer to Rockaway, I had no stories of olden days to tell, but I’ve never altered the appearance of the bungalow, so they shot some of its architectural details. Naturally, I watched for my home, which appeared for about three seconds: a shot of the auxiliary kitchen, panning from refrigerator to cathedral ceiling and down to the sink with the mirror over it that is too high for me to see anything in (it’s for tall guests). The narration at that point was about the simplicity of the bungalows.

There was a reception afterward, during which I tore off to the bank in the rain so I could repay the ten dollars I’d borrowed from Jennifer. The filmmakers are hoping that “The Bungalows of Rockaway” will be shown on Channel 13 on September 16th.

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