New York City holds an undeniable allure, which is why the city and its residents have been the subject of several documentaries. For people who love NYC and enjoy documentaries, the combination of a documentary that exposes life in New York City is a match made in heaven. Below are five documentaries that will give you different glimpses into what life is like in NYC.
1. Paris Is Burning
This 1990 documentary might be more dated than the rest, but Paris Is Burning is a cultural icon that continues to be relevant to this day. This documentary offers a glimpse into the drag ball scene in New York City of the 80s. In a time where being black or Latino, gay or transgender, and a drag queen could get you ostracized by society, this film delves into the one place these individuals could find community: the ball world.
2. 16 Acres
Without a doubt the worst tragedy to strike the United States in modern times, 9-11 left New York City with a painful question: what to do with Ground Zero. The 2012 documentary 16 Acres details how politicians, companies and private interest groups used the space as a tool for their own conflicting agendas, stagnating the reconstruction process for years. Ultimately, they must compromise to create the memorial that the American public needs.
3. Brooklyn Castle
Brooklyn Castle is a 2012 documentary that gives a window into the power of inspiring teachers and extra-curricular programs in helping students succeed. The documentary deals with an inner-city middle school in Brooklyn called Intermediate School 381. In this middle school, more than 65% of students live below the poverty level, but what makes them stand out is that their chess team is one of the best in the country. Although budget cuts threaten the team’s hard-earned successes, chess empowers these students to pursue opportunities that they might not otherwise have dreamt.
4. Doin’ It in the Park: Pick-Up Basketball, NYC
This 2012 documentary gives another look at inner-city life, this time from the perspective of outdoor basketball culture. Doin’ It in the Park explores the passion of the players involved as well as how the ubiquitous presence of pick-up basketball in New York City has shaped the city, its players, and its professional league.
5. Class Divide
New York City is also a city of extremes, as this 2016 documentary on hypergentrification demonstrates. Class Divide focuses on the intersection of West 26th Street and 10th Avenue in Chelsea, Manhattan. In this neighborhood, extreme wealth and extreme poverty collide along that single intersection, culminating in the construction of an elite private school. As the intersection continues to gentrify, low-income residents dream of being able to attend the school where tuition costs $40,000 a year, but face the reality that increasing housing costs will one day force them from their homes.