“I’m a Jew from the Lower East Side of New York City who has never been to prison. So why did I care? For starters, the book in my hand. I was reading about this very current and domestic human rights crisis, so well researched in Alexander’s book, so beautifully articulated – but I was lacking the personal stories. I wanted to hear it from the folks who were living it.”
– Fury Young
UnionDocs presents four short films with Fury Young—a poet and activist who intertwines music, poetry, filmmaking, politics, and history—to examine themes and processes leading to his ambitious Die Jim Crow project, a music album by incarcerated and formerly incarcerated black songwriters from across the country. Recently released as an EP with a forthcoming LP, Die Jim Crow is an eclectic concept album inspired by Pink Floyd’s The Wall, R&B, hip hop and more. With an accompanying book (available at the event), it is a growing multimedia project about racism and the de facto “New Jim Crow” laws which disproportionately target black people for mass incarceration and surveillance.
Waiting for Godot in San Quentin (a work in progress) (1988) is a short documentary by John Reilly, founder of Global Village and New York’s first documentary festival. As the title suggests, it follows the production of Samuel Beckett’s play with an all prisoner cast, demonstrating how art can resonate within the prison system (and briefly featuring well known poet, Spoon Jackson, a collaborating musician on Die Jim Crow).
E=MC2 (2006) was directed by Young when he was sixteen living in the Lower East Side. It is an utterly unclassifiable experimental film about various forms of entrapment, as well as a stunning document of a furious young mind suggestive of Polanski, Lynch and Aronofsky run amok in the inner city. Young’s short 16mm documentary, Pridgen (2009), elegantly switches gears to portray Alexander Pridgen, a man confined to a wheelchair after a colorful life as bodyguard to Muhammad Ali, numbers runner for the Harlem mafia, drug dealer and user, and father of several children. Finally, behind the scenes footage of the Die Jim Crow recording process with B.L. Shirelle showcases Young’s current use of video diary to move from filmmaking as a primary form of expression to a tool for music and activism, while retaining his uniquely personal style.
Waiting for Godot in San Quentin (a work in progress)
Produced and directed by John Reilly
23 min / 16mm to DVD / 1988
28 min / MiniDV / 2006
13 min / 16mmtoHD / 2009
Recording Die Jim Crow
9 min / iPhone / 2016
Conversation and special performances to follow.
Fury Young is a musician and poet whose biggest passion is the concept album, Die Jim Crow. For several years, Young aspired to be a filmmaker until his gears shifted to music and activism and eventually, Die Jim Crow. He took on the idea in 2013 after reading Michelle Alexander’s book, “The New Jim Crow”. It was this historical knowledge mixed with Fury’s personal experiences with friends who had been to prison that led to him taking on the project. Originally from the Lower East Side, he lives and work in Brooklyn.
James N. Kienitz Wilkins (programmer) is a filmmaker and artist living in Brooklyn. His work has been presented at international film festivals and venues including the New York Film Festival, Rotterdam IFF, CPH:DOX, MoMA PS1, Edinburgh IFF, Migrating Forms, and many more. Past movies includes the experimental documentary feature, Public Hearing (2012), and the short, Special Features (2014), which won the Founder’s Spirit Award at the Ann Arbor Film Festival 2015 and a Grand Prix at the 25 FPS Festival 2015. He is the 2016 recipient of LICHTER Art Award from the LICHTER Filmfest Frankfurt International.
Purchase Die Jim Crow EP: https://diejimcrow.bandcamp.com/album/die-jim-crow-ep