It could be questionable entertainment to watch a documentary about housing, but viewing Winter at Westbeth will have you dreaming of plenty more than just decor. The city film exhibits just how a building becomes more than just an address, it becomes your soul. The small budget documentary lets you spend the afternoon in New York, drifting to a place many call home. Director Rohan Spong and producers Lizzette Atkins and Adam Farrington-Williams have brilliantly presented a narrative of New York through the eyes of a special few living in Westbeth Artists Housing.
The narrative begins by indulging in the history of Westbeth and how it evolved to non-profit housing for artists in the 1970s. Being filled with a creative community, each apartment door is adorned and personified by its occupant. The documentary lets you take a peek into three special doors of the longest residents.
Edith Stephen a film director, Dudley Williams a dancer and Ilsa Gilbert a poet, reveal their life journeys living through creative careers in Westbeth. The audience shares love, laughter and tears as if looking through a relative’s photograph album, remembering their lives with them. A small insight into big life moments like Edith’s political dance movements, Isla surviving breast cancer and Dudley defying race inequality.
The cinematography matches exceptionally to the captivating story lines. This is done by creatively drifting back and forth through old vision of past videos and photographs. Making what’s happening on screen very personable with the audience as they share the moment with the three Westbethteers.
True intimacy was the overall most thrilling component of the documentary. Even the subtlest moments were highlighted, making a huge impact on the viewing experience. When Dudley lit a cigarette, you could hear each crackle of the tobacco as if he was right beside you.
It is also magnificent that in scenes you can see a nod to the city film genre through the dispositif; where creative direction puts constraints on how they shoot in order to benefit the production. This creates an intimate moment between the residents and the audience when being interviewed in the confinement of their small apartments.
Winter at Westbeth will find a home amongst your heart. You will start asking for more insight into the lives bloomed through the New York abode. After 80 minutes of laughter a smile will continue to prevail, taking the life experiences learnt from Dudley, Edith and Isla with you.
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