“The Kids Grow Up” Opens on October 29 at Angelika Film Center – My Second Interview with Doug Block


The Kids Grow Up – trailer from Copacetic Pictures on Vimeo.

Doug Block with daughter Lucy (now a college senior) and wife Marjorie, in 1994 photo

On October 29, Stuyvesant Town filmmaker Doug Block’s exceptional new documentary “The Kids Grow Up” will open at the Angelika Film Center. “The Kids Grow Up” is a beautifully made, compelling portrait of Doug’s daughter Lucy. The film is about her last year of high school and primarily concerns how Lucy’s imminent “leaving the nest” for college on the West Coast affected Doug and his wife Marjorie. “You can get all sorts of help when it comes to raising a child,” Doug says in the film’s opening narration, “But nothing prepares you for letting her go.”

Doug explained that the film was actually finished a year ago and has played the film festival circuit prior to its October 29 opening. “We have the prime real estate. We have the Angelika” Doug said, reflecting on his good fortune of being able to open the film at the prestigious art house on Houston Street. He is, however, realistic about the nature of film distribution warning, “If we don’t perform really well we’re out of there. So it all does come down to the opening weekend.”

Doug will be at the Angelika to do post screening Q&As over the weekend. “I will be there ushering people and wiping their seats down, shaking their hands, asking if they want popcorn. We’ll make them feel very welcome,” Doug explained, with a laugh. “You do what you can,” he continued in a serious vein, “But at a certain point all you can do is control what you can control, which is make the best film you can, put it in the hands of the best people to get it out there and hope that critics respond and then audiences come out.”

Doug explained that when he makes a film he is very aware of his responsibility to deliver a quality product for which people will go to the trouble and expense to see. “It’s one thing if you make something for TV or if you’re making something that primarily will be seen at film festivals, but if you have certain ambitions to have your films play in theatres…the shoe’s been on the other foot for me. I go to movies all the time. I want a good movie that’s entertaining and feels like it’s worth spending money on. That’s the part I can control. I try to make a movie people will want to see. So far the response has been great…but you never know how critics will react. You never know if you’ll get attention. There will be the usual 20 movies opening that week and we’re one of them and how do you stand out? That’s what the challenge has been lately.”

In comparing his work to the wide variety of documentaries currently in theatres, such as “Waiting for Superman” (about the state of education) or “Count Down to Zero” (about nuclear proliferation) Doug explained that, “My documentaries surely aren’t about saving the world. They’re maybe about understanding the world, understanding what makes families tick. I’m just out to tell a story in the same way narrative filmmakers are trying to tell stories…Families are fascinating and I have a feeling there’s a lot more films to be made about families, whether my own or others.”

The theme of families echoes Doug’s previous film “51 Birch Street” (2005). “51 Birch Street,” was a documentary that looked beneath the surface of Doug’s parents’ seemingly happy marriage. The film also dealt with Doug’s adult relationship with his emotionally undemonstrative father. What Doug has been able to do so brilliantly with both “51 Birch Street” and “The Kids Grow Up” is take personal subject matter and present it in a manner that is dramatic and universal. “I felt like I was really onto something really interesting about families and about the whole transition period as a parent whose kid is going off which is so little talked about and written about and certainly filmed about.”

“The Kids Grow Up” follows Lucy’s life from the time she was just a few years old. “Lucy spent her whole life growing up in Stuyvesant Town,” Doug explained, reflecting on the experience of shooting in Stuyvesant Town over the years. “There’s something very interesting about the look of Stuyvesant Town. On the one hand it looks really urban, but it looks vaguely suburban too. It’s got the greenery, its got the trees and the kids playing, but it’s an apartment project, which says ‘city.’ It’s an interesting setting that I don’t think too many films have used…Our kids grew up in the city, and yet it’s not quite of the city, its almost a little bubble on its own. Stuy Town to me is its own city. It is its own little bubble within the city that I always found quite interesting, a great place for a kid to grow up. It’s been great being there.”

Doug concluded, “If people come away from my film with a new understanding or appreciation of their parents, or parents for their kids, that’s doing a lot…People are coming out of “The Kids Grow Up” saying ‘I want to call my kids. I want to call my parents, or I want to get a Flip video camera and I want to start video taping them.’ They want to hold onto the time. I do think people come away from the film with an appreciation for how quickly time goes by, particularly when you have kids, that they’re like little peanuts one day and then you blink and they’re off to college.”

About unpaidfilmcritic

Up until 2009 Seth Shire spent nearly two decades in the New York film industry as a post production supervisor of feature films. Highlights include working on the films of Martin Scorsese, James Toback and Spike Lee. Since leaving the film industry Seth has expanded into new and varied areas where he has found a great deal of satisfaction. Seth currently teaches in the Sociology Department of CUNY Queens College. His courses include "Mass Media and Popular Culture," "Introduction to Sociology," and "Sociology of Cinema" where he is a very popular teacher. Seth is also the film critic for "Town & Village," a Manhattan weekly newspaper, a position he has held for the past six years. Seth gives back to his community through volunteer teaching at Manhattan's "The Caring Community," a center for senior citizens, where he teaches a very popular course on documentaries called "The Golden Age of the Documentary. In the fall of 2010 Seth taught "Critical Reading and Writing" at Parsons School of Design. He has also taught "Cinema Studies" at the New York Film Academy. Seth lives in Stuyvesant Town, in Manhattan.

Posted on October 23, 2010, in Documentary, New. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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