APD’s Cinema Conservancy program is excited to announce the World Premiere of the restored Stations of the Elevated (1981), a 45-minute independent documentary directed, produced and edited by Manfred Kirchheimer. Shot over the course of 1977 on lush 16mm color reversal stock, the film weaves together vivid images of elevated subway trains crisscrossing New York City’s gritty urban landscape. With a complex soundtrack that combines the ambient sounds of the city with the music of Charles Mingus and Aretha Franklin, the film is an impressionistic portrait of and tribute to a New York that has long since disappeared.
On Friday, June 27 BAMcinemaFest will present the world premiere of APD/Cinema Conservancy’s new restoration of Stations of the Elevatedon the Steinberg Screen at the BAM Harvey Theater. The event begins with a live performance by legendary jazz ensemble the Mingus Dynasty, the original Charles Mingus legacy band. The first band Sue Mingus organized after Charles’ death in 1979, this acclaimed orchestra continues to interpret Charles Mingus’ more than 300 compositions, and will perform as a prelude to Kirchheimer’s jazz-inflected documentary.
The first-ever documentation of graffiti on film, Stations of the Elevatedcaptures the height of the 1970s graffiti movement in New York, featuring the work of early legends including Lee, Fab 5 Freddy, Shadow, Daze, Kase, Butch, Blade, Slave, 12 T2B, Ree, and Pusher. In a period when the graffiti covering New York’s subway system was largely dismissed as vandalism, with mayor Ed Koch threatening “if I had my way I wouldn’t use dogs, but wolves [to keep writers out of the train yards],” Kirchheimer explored graffiti as a form of self-expression and a reaction to New York’s social and economic conditions, an artistic counterpoint to the “legalized vandalism” dominating the city’s visual landscape in the form of corporate advertising. Juxtaposing the colorful imagery of ‘tagged’ cars with shots of carefully hand-painted billboards depicting hamburgers and bikini-clad women, Stations of the Elevated forces audiences to ask: “What is urban art, and what role does it play in the daily life of a city?”
The film premiered at the 1981 New York Film Festival, but lacking appropriate music licenses, Stations of the Elevated was never theatrically released in the United States. In the 30 years since its completion it has been rarely screened, developing a cult amongst cinephiles and jazz- and graffiti-lovers. After two years of working to secure appropriate licenses for its soundtrack, APD’s Cinema Conservancy program will finally make this crucial cultural document and cinematic experience available to the public in 2014 with a theatrical run.
Filmmaker Manfred Kirchheimer (b. 1931) immigrated to New York with his family as a child, escaping Nazi Germany to settle in Washington Heights. After studying at Hans Richter’s Institute of Film Techniques at the City College of New York, he spent many years working in the film industry while self-financing his own independent films. A long-time professor at the School of Visual Arts, Kirchheimer has documented New York with an observant, sympathetic eye for decades, in films including Claw (1968),Short Circuit (1973), Bridge High (1975) and We Were So Beloved (1986). He is also the director of TALL: The American Skyscraper & Louis Sullivan (2004), Spraymasters (2008), Art is…The Permanent Revolution (2012) and the recently completed Canners (2014).
APD is thrilled to be bringing this new restoration of Stations of the Elevated to fresh audiences; look out for details about the film’s theatrical run in the coming months.
Stations of the Elevated (Running Time: 45 minutes)
An Artists Public Domain/Cinema Conservancy Release, in association with agnes b., of a Streetwise Films Production
Produced, Directed, Photographed, Edited by: Manfred Kirchheimer
Music by: Charles Mingus “Amazing Grace” sung by Aretha Franklin
with James Cleveland and the Southern California Community Choir
Featuring Art by: 12 T2B, Blade, Butch, Daze, Fab 5 Freddy, Kase, Lee, Pusher, Ree, Seen, Shadow & Slave