When Maplewood director/producer Marc Levin got word that his friend Forest Whitaker was interested in coproducing the documentary Brick City, which begins airing September 21 on the Sundance Channel, he had one question: Why would the Oscar-winning Whitaker, a native of South Central Los Angeles, want to do a film about Newark?
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Whitaker remembers the conversation but fails to see why his decision was such a stretch. “What you have in Newark is violence, people challenged by poverty, disenfranchised people,” Whitaker says. “These are national issues, issues we see everywhere.”
The two men and co-producer Marc Benjamin did not shrink from those issues.
In five one-hour installments, Brick City, filmed mostly from May to November 2008, unflinchingly takes on Newark’s gang warfare, urban deterioration, social hierarchies, and, pointedly, its politics.
When Levin first sat down with Mayor Cory Booker to discuss the project in 2007, he mentioned The Wire, the acclaimed HBO drama that trained a watchful eye on the inner-city struggles of Baltimore, as an inspiration. “He said, ‘I respect that, but I don’t want this to be a downer. I want there to be hope,’” Levin says. At the close of the meeting, Booker recommended a book, A Prayer for the City, by Buzz Bissinger. “We read it,” Levin says. “A vision started to take shape.”
That vision, as reflected in Brick City, is gritty and realistic. In addition to the everyday challenges facing Booker and police director Garry McCarthy, Brick City follows the personal tribulations of inactive Blood member Jayda Jacques as she battles past demons to try on a new role: mentoring Newark youths and maintaining a family with her Crip boyfriend, Creep Evans, a “retired” gangbanger. Amid the darkness, light shines through. For that, Whitaker credits Booker.
“Cory is one of those people who believe anything can be accomplished—that you can manifest the world you want,” Whitaker says. “He’s bringing sparks of hope to Newark, shedding light. For me getting involved with this was a way to help him to accomplish even more.”
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TUESDAY, MAY 28
A five-course Cakebread Cellars wine dinner will be held at Highlawn Pavilion, Eagle Rock Reservation, West Orange. 6:30 PM; $150, includes tax and service. Reservations: 973-731-3463.
The Jersey Shore has come a long way since Hurricane Sandy. Nowhere was that more evident today than Belmar, where Governor Chris Christie cut the ribbon on the town's new $8 million boardwalk.
A young woman, a book, a cup of coffee and a temptation under glass..
Elegant, balanced, light to medium in body, high in acidity, wonderful with food. It sounds like a lovely white wine, right? Think again. How about the red wine camouflaged as a white wine?