Tuesday, 25 March 2008

Local lives in New York

A new American short film about small shops and communities in New York has caught our eye. Twilight becomes Night cuts right to the heart of the matter. Shot by film-maker Virginie-Alvine Perrette, its message is: “Each time a neighbourhood shop closes its doors for the last time, something vital is lost forever….Local businesses are vanishing at an alarming rate, but trends are not destiny. Through individual commitment and community activism, a neighbourhood can save a neighbourhood store”.

(You can see a short excerpts on http://blogs.wsj.com/independentstreet/2008/02/20/want-to-save-the-corner-store-show-em-the-money/?mod=googlenews_wsj and on the film’s own website http://www.twilightbecomesnight.com/)

As anyone who has wandered through the back streets of NYC and any of its 480 neighbourhoods will attest to, the plethora of independent shops is quite extraordinary. The film has catalogued some of these, with wonderful quotes. “You have to live the life of the people” says one store owner. “People involved in the community feel an attachment to me and I feel an attachment to them”. They talk about the ecology of the block, forming friends and webs of meaning that makes life rich and possible. It’s not just about money, it’s about life. The film-maker even interviewed a neuro-scientist talking about the importance of community life to your emotional well-being – we all need to live in an area where we feel safe and secure. Could it be any more obvious? So you take a cheap flight to NY, taking advantage of the cheap dollar and shop for clothes on Fifth Avenue. But where will you find those vintage jeans, ‘60s records, the repairer of pens or Italian delicacies? In the ‘hood, of course.

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