UnionDocs, a center for documentary art based in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, breathed new life into the 1984 documentary film Los Sures. The film, directed by Diego Echeverria, was transformed into a massive multimedia project called Living Los Sures. Two new chapters of the project, 89 Steps and Shot by Shot, premiered at the New York Film Festival Convergence in September.
89 Steps continues the story of Marta Avilés, one of the original subjects from Los Sures, taking viewers on a journey from her point of view. Shot by Shot asks residents of the neighborhood profiled in the original film to share their memories.
The new project has been four years in the making and has relied on the talents of more than 40 documentary artists from UnionDocs and more than 100 members of the Los Sures community. Living Los Sures portrays a neighborhood as an ever-evolving mosaic of people and places captured through film, audio and online participatory projects.
The project showcase came at the same time as the 30th anniversary screening of Los Sures at The New York Film Festival. The film examined the challenges that the Brooklyn neighborhood faced in the mid 1980s, including racial tension, economic struggles, crime, drugs and violence, but it also celebrates the vitality of this mainly Puerto Rican and Dominican community, showing the strength of their culture, creativity and determination.
In the interactive documentary game 89 Steps, Marta tells 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 narration, but uses the web to immerse viewers. Audiences explore the story through Marta’s voiceover. Scenes introduce important elements in Marta’s narrative, as she grapples with the decision to sell the sixth-floor apartment she has lived in for 40 years. Viewers quickly empathize with Marta’s dilemma and develop an understanding of the pressures and incentives that force individuals like her in gentrifying communities.
Shot by Shot remixes Echeverria’s film with memories, images, videos and stories gathered through the participation of local residents. Each individual shot of the film contains people, places or things that go unmentioned but offer the jumping off point for a side story, a personal memory or an intriguing update. Christopher Allen, the founder of UnionDocs, said Living Los Sures has 326 shots and (so far) 434 stories connected to them. Allen said more material will be added over time, and the project will continue to grow as more stories come to light. Viewers of the website will be able to submit their own stories for inclusion.