Growing up in the 60’s and 70’s in the largest affordable housing cooperative in Brooklyn, Cassandra Bromfield’s world was artfully framed by her mother’s Super-8 camera. A schoolteacher with many creative talents, Cassandra’s mom documented the exuberance of her neighborhood’s public spaces, showcasing the lively pool, the packed playground, and the graffitied handball court. Children and teenagers gleefully performed in front of her Bolex.
Passion to create was passed from mother to daughter, as was the lease on the affordable apartment. Cassandra still lives in the same place, working as a fashion designer during the day, sewing her clients’ visions, and as a filmmaker at night, assembling documents of her own life and environment with footage shot by her mother. When Cassandra posts her edits online, she notes the lack of comparable footage from the time of other black families, much less footage shot by black women. She believes that her mother’s intent behind the camera was to show that the lives of the people around her, people who might otherwise be forgotten, mattered.
By exploring this rich, overlooked archive alongside Cassandra’s candid narration, Into My Life pays a moving tribute to the work of this mother-daughter duo, the community present in their neighborhood, and the power in creative self-representation. This project is a part of Just to Get By, a UnionDocs Collaborative Studio Production.
- Fri, Apr 20 – 7:00 PM, REGAL Battery Park Stadium 11
- Wed, Apr 25 – 10:00 PM, REGAL Battery Park Stadium 11
- Fri, Apr 27 – 6:30 PM, Cinepolis Chelsea
- Sat, Apr 28 – 6:30 PM, Cinepolis Chelsea
- Mon, Apr 30 – 8:30 PM, Innis Town Hall
- Tues, May 1 – 1:00 PM, Scotiabank Theatre 7
- Sat, Jul 14 – 7:30 PM, New Design High School
This project initially focused on the Lindsay Park Co-op as a means of exploring affordable housing in New York City. As soon as we met Cassandra Bromfield and viewed her extensive archive, we realized that attention needed to be paid to her trove of materials and the work she continues to do to preserve her legacy and that of her mother, M. Elaine Bromfield, a school teacher and amateur documentarian. Documentation of black domestic life from the 1960s onwards is rare enough, archivally speaking; and documentation of the subject by a pair of black female filmmakers is even more extraordinary. Beyond the archival material itself, however, Cassandra’s relationship to her mother, her mother’s legacy, and her own identity as part of this continuum resonated with all of us personally and as filmmakers. In developing Into My Life, we sought to pay tribute to two amazing women, the films that they made, and the relationships that they had with each other and with their cameras.
Formally, we decided to use Cassandra’s own voice to guide the film, allowing her to narrate our exploration of her archive and discuss her history of filmmaking and that of her mother. The piece is really by and for Cassandra; her collaboration and her archive were both fundamental in informing the structure of the final product. By placing the archival material in conversation with contemporary footage shot with Cassandra in her home, we also sought to highlight the current state of Lindsay Park and showcase Cassandra’s life as it stands now, in her mother’s absence. Highlighting her work as a fashion designer allowed us to establish connections between her filmmaking and her professional pursuits while also underscoring her mother’s continued influence. Although Cassandra is the keeper of these 8-mm films, she is also much more than that; by having Cassandra tell her story in her own words and show us her life as she lives it today, we sought to bring her archive into the present and present her in all her glory.
— IVANA HUCÍKOVÁ, SARAH KEELING, GRACE REMINGTON
Ivana Hucíková is a documentary filmmaker from Bratislava, Slovakia, where she graduated from the Academy of Performing Arts in 2015 and shortly after co-founded a collective of young documentary filmmakers, Mirakl, o.z. Her thesis short documentary film “Mothers and Daughters” was distributed by KineDok and screened in more than 60 venues in numerous countries of Europe. She was a development producer of an upcoming feature length documentary film, “Yours Sincerely, Social System”, which was awarded the IDFA Forum Award during the East Doc Platform 2017 in Prague. In 2017, she was one of the Fellows of the UnionDocs Collaborative Studio in New York, participated in the IDFAcademy 2017 in Amsterdam and was selected as one of the Fellows of the MADE in New York 2018 Fellowship. Ivana is currently working as a freelance documentary director, editor and cinematographer both in Europe and the US.
Sarah Keeling is an artist and filmmaker, creating documentary films and interdisciplinary projects. She was a 2017 fellow in UnionDocs’ Collaborative Studio, where she co-directed two short documentaries and she is the recipient of a 2018 fellowship at IFP’s Made in NY Media Center in support of her upcoming documentary series. Her work has been shown in venues such as David B. Smith Gallery, CO; ISEA2015, Vancouver, BC; Queens Museum, NY; Visual Studies Gallery, University at Buffalo, NY; The Last Billboard, PA; and the West Virginia University Arts Museum, WV. Sarah earned a BFA from Carnegie Mellon University in 2014.
Grace Remington is a producer who has worked in documentary film and television in the United States, Mexico, and Peru. She worked as the archival producer for “Abstract: The Art of Design,” an eight-episode documentary series directed by Morgan Neville, Richard Press, Chai Vasarhelyi, and Brian Oakes that debuted at Sundance prior to streaming on Netflix in 2017. She also worked as the archival producer on “Year Million” (National Geographic, 2017) and is currently working as a supervising archival producer on an in-production Netflix series and as a story producer for an upcoming Discovery special.
Co-Directors: Ivana Hucíková, Sarah Keeling, Grace Remington
Cast: Cassandra Bromfield
Producer: Grace Remington
Cinematography: Ivana Hucíková, Sarah Keeling
Archival Cinematography: Cassandra Bromfield, M.Elaine Bromfield
Editor: Ivana Hucíková
Assistant Editor and Sound Recording: Sarah Keeling
Executive Producer: UnionDocs
UnionDocs Collaborative Studio Director: Jen Heuson
UnionDocs Artistic Director: Christopher Allen
Supported by New York Council on the Arts, National Endowment for the Arts, New York Department of Cultural Affairs, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Office of City Council Member Antonio Reynoso, Abelcine & Canon
UnionDocs Collaborative Studio
Into My life is a production of the 2017 UnionDocs Collaborative Studio. Since 2010, UnionDocs Center for Documentary Art has guided select groups of documentary fellows in our Collaborative Studio Program through a 10-month production cycle. Coming from a wide diversity of backgrounds and countries, the CoLab has been an invaluable experience to meet other collaborators, enact ideas, and expand as a filmmaker.
From 2015-2017, the UnionDocs Collaborative Studio worked on multi-platform production JUST TO GET BY. This project highlights the creative solutions and difficult choices that individuals in NYC make every day to survive in the city, at a time when 50% of the population lives near or below the federal poverty level. The project brings attention to the difficult choices and resourceful solutions this underrepresented population must make in order to survive the city today.
JUST TO GET BY developed ways that the authorship of documentary can be shared with the subjects. At the same time, fellows were encouraged to develop work across perceived boundaries of social class, age, and race. Projects are not intended to be “outsider artist” biographies or portraits, rather each short documentary produced offers an attempt to break with the conventions of documentary. They are negotiations of the problematics of representation and portrayals that blur the relationships between the filmmaker and those who are living just to get by.