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Sep 27, 2014 at 7:30 pm

Living Los Sures Launch at the 2014 NYFF Convergence

Part of the 52nd Annual New York Film Festival's Convergence. Filmmaker Diego Echeverria in attendance, along with a number of the main people in the film from 1984.


Saturday, September 27th at the Film Society of Lincoln Center

1:30p – Living Los Sures (Interactive Presentation and Launch)

Produced by UnionDocs, 2014

Using Echeverria’s 1984 documentary Los Sures as a starting point, Southside-based UnionDocs has created Living Los Sures, a massive mixed-media project that defies easy categorization. Composed over the course of four years and pulling on the talents of over 30 different artists, Living Los Sures paints a picture of a neighborhood from street level, an ever-evolving mosaic of people and places captured through film, audio, and now an online participatory experience. With the premiere of two new elements—89 Steps, a continuation of the story of one of the original characters from Los Sures, and Shot by Shot—that invites people to share their personal stories inspired by the shots and locations of the original film—the UnionDocs team will take audiences through the process of building this unique documentary storyworld.

8:00pm – Los Sures (Screening and Interactive Presentation)

Diego Echeverria, USA, 1984, 16mm, 66m

Diego Echeverria’s Los Sures skillfully represents the challenges of its time: drugs, gang violence, crime, abandoned real estate, racial tension, single-parent homes, and inadequate local resources in Brooklyn’s Los Sures neighborhood. Yet Echeverria’s portrait also celebrates the vitality of this largely Puerto Rican and Dominican community, showing the strength of their culture, their creativity, and their determination to overcome a desperate situation. Nearly lost, this 16mm film has been restored, reframed, and remixed by Southside based UnionDocs just in time for the 30th anniversary of its premiere at the New York Film Festival.




Marta Avilés can barely remember a time before she called Los Sures home. In the late 50s, Marta’s mother found refuge for her family in this Brooklyn Latino community after leaving their village in Puerto Rico and enduring homelessness and hunger elsewhere in New York. As a single mother with a family of her own, Marta fought hard to stay in Los Sures, cooperating with other tenants to wrestle their building away from a negligent landlord. During this time, the late 70s and early 80s, Los Sures was known as one of the worst ghettos in America. Marta faced many challenges while raising five children there, but always felt the dignity of owning a home in the neighborhood she’d known so well. Now in a new phase of her life and struggling to afford the rapidly gentrifying city, Marta must decide to stay or go.

89 Steps is an interactive experience that visits Los Sures and lets Marta tell her story as she contemplates leaving the past behind and confronts the possibility of finding a new home. The project follows the tradition of character-based approaches to documentary, but uses the web as medium that offers new ways of immersing the audience. As the viewer explores, Marta’s voiceover reacts, providing guidance, description, facts and responsive anecdotes. A linear set of scenes introduce important elements in Marta’s narrative, as she grapples with the decision to sell the sixth floor walk-up apartment she has lived in for 40 years, move out, and potentially relocate to suburban Florida. The viewer is offered an immediate relationship to Marta’s dilemma and a deeper understanding of the pressures and incentives that force individuals in many rapidly changing urban environments to give up their homes and longstanding communities.89 Steps is a chapter from Living Los Sures, an expansive documentary project about the Southside of Willamsburg, Brooklyn.





Shot By Shot is an interactive historical record that remixes Echeverria’s film with memories, images, videos and stories gathered through the participation of long-standing local residents. Each individual shot of the film from 1984 contains people, places or things that go unmentioned in the narrative, but offer the jumping off point for a side story, a personal memory, or an intriguing update. UnionDocs is currently working with the local community to gather these stories from the people who lived them, offering details and additional imagery that expand the significance of these brief moments from history, abstracted from their functional role as supporting sequences in the narrative.

Over the past six months, the UnionDocs team has interviewed dozens of people to create content for this platform, examining specific shots and recording both oral histories and video. This material is edited into discrete short stories and illustrated with vernacular photography collected from members of the community. More material will be added over time, allowing the project to grow as more stories come to light. Viewers of the website will be able to submit potential stories for inclusion. The final website will allow every visitor to navigate through the film shot by shot, with relevant stories attached.



In the late 70s and early 80s, the Southside of Williamsburg was one of the poorest neighborhoods in New York City. In fact, it had been called the worst ghetto in America. The 1984 film Los Sures by Diego Echeverria skillfully represents the challenges of this time; drugs, gang violence, crime, abandoned real estate, racial tension, single parent homes, and inadequate local resources. Yet, Echeverria’s portrait also celebrates the vitality of this largely Puerto Rican and Dominican community, showing the strength of their culture, their creativity and their determination to overcome a desperate situation.

Nearly lost, this 16mm film has been restored for theatrical exhibition just in time for its 30th anniversary and become the point of departure for an expansive documentary project, called Living Los Sures. This multi-platform work reframes the neighborhood today through an impressive collection of new short documentaries, updates the film’s narrative through an interactive feature called 89 Stepsand remixes Echeverria’s film Shot by Shot with memories and stories gathered through the participation of longterm local residents. The resulting portrait brings together the remarkable past and present of a very unique place, and offers a rich and collaborative study of an urban community striving for sustainability against displacement and forces of gentrification.


Living Los Sures was initiated and directed by UnionDocs Founder, Christopher Allen. It is a production of UnionDocs (UnDo), a nonprofit Center for Documentary Art that was born in the Southside of Williamsburg, Brooklyn and has operated there for nearly a decade. Through four year-long iterations of the UnionDocs Collaborative Studio, over 40 artists fellows have worked together on research and short documentary productions for Living Los Sures.Though the film was nearly lost, it has been lovingly restored for theatrical exhibition just in time for its 30th anniversary with the support of The Reserve Film and Video Collection of the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center.



Friday, September 19th at 7:30pm: UnionDocs and El Puente, with support from NYFF and Rooftop Films, host a free outdoor screening in the Williamsburg’s scenic Havemeyer Park on Kent St and South 4th St. The program will highlight some of the best short documentaries produced over the past four years for Living Los Sures. More info here.

Saturday September 13th and 20th, 1:00pm – 600pm: UnionDocs will be participating in the 3rd annual Southside Connex, on Havemeyer between Grand St. and South 4th in Williamsburg, on behalf of El Puente.

closed until October 5th, 9:00am – 9:00pm: Experimental selections from Living Los Sures are currently on view Fordham University’s Ildiko Butler Gallery


Sep 27, 2014
7:30 pm

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