AUSTIN FILM FESTIVAL 2009
By Don Simpson | October 20, 2009
Director: Shan Nicholson
In the late 1970s, New York City was devastated by economic problems. The city crumbled and burned, literally, as the plethora of vacant buildings caught fire or otherwise fell to the ground. Up from the rubble came one of the most creative (and self-sufficient) movements in the history of the United States (if not the world). Concurrently, the music scene introduced the world to punk rock, no wave, new wave, post-punk, avant-garde, and hip hop; while from the art scene arose Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring and a plethora of graffiti artists; and the club culture brought us new forms of expression through dance. Most importantly, racism was all but erased during this time – as black, brown and white artists were able to interact with and learn from each other with no tension.
Produced, directed and edited by Shan Nicholson, Downtown Calling brilliantly intertwines film footage and still photos from the period with talking head interviews of many of the major players reminiscing about the glory days. There is a lot of great footage of live performances, art openings, and night clubs.
We are reminded by Downtown Calling that the most troubled and trying times have historically created the best art. The New Yorkers of the 70s created something amazing out of virtually nothing. They thrived off the atmosphere that most outsiders viewed as apocalyptic. The economic turmoil wound up making one of the most expensive cities in the world, a playground for poor artists. So if you are worried about the destruction of Wall Street or the plummeting housing market, just think of the affect this current economic downfall could have on the creative world.