Blissville ...An Investigation DVD
This is a video about a remote corner of Queens, NY. Blissville is the former name of the tiny triangle
bounded by the Newtown Creek, the Long Island Expressway, and Calvary Cemetery (the largest
cemetery in the US in terms of number of burials). In addition to the world’s largest fortune cookie factory,
there is a factory with the exclusive rights for making replicas of the Statue of Liberty, a sushi factory,
an Afghan bakery, and a giant car crusher. Through street interviews we investigate the origin of the name
of Blissville, and the character(s) of the town.
We learn of a nearby Romani village in the 1930’s. It was the largest gathering of Romani in the US,
with the people actually building houses. They were Ludar from Romania, noted for training bears for
circuses including the WPA Circus. The village was condemned and razed to make way for highway
access to the 1939 World’s Fair. The video features an interview with a woman who grew up in the village
and who remembers having to move when she was 6.
The structure of the piece is in chapters to facilitate the breadth of subjects. I think of the form
as a hybrid docu / poem with purposeful and incidental visual diversions. Many of the images are lyrical,
metaphoric, and often humorous, collected in affordable video and presented in a non precious but sculptural way.
Accompanying music ranges from subway musicians, to rare finds. Some music contrasts with the imagery –
as in the use of the Chinese version of Loch Lomond, juxtaposed with the car crusher facility.
The video is not so much a mourning of things past, nor a nostalgia, although both those elements are present.
It is more about the resiliency of community. It is also about a community remarkably rich in nationalities
and ethnic backgrounds, many of the people on the first rung of immigration; and it is about residential neighbors
living in close proximity with active industries. With development threatening from all sides it is not to be idealized
by any means, it is a precarious dynamic mix.
The purpose of the video is to engage the viewer in their own daily visual tapestry, and to engender interest
in local stories and empathy through a humanist window.