Friday, May 01, 2009

Last Stop Kew Gardens

I'm looking forward to seeing the documentary "Last Stop Kew Gardens".

Novelist and filmmaker Robert Lieberman knows the neighborhood well: he grew up the child of German refugees in this tightly-knit New York community with its German-style delis and Viennese bakeries. Refugees came here from across central Europe, but they all spoke German. As a child, Lieberman desperately wanted to leave, embarrassed by his old world parents; eventually, moving to Ithaca and marrying a blond Swedish woman.

Years later, he wrote an article about his childhood in Kew Gardens, and was surprised to receive a flood of responses from around the world. The film details the old neighborhood, and the graduates of P.S. 99, who grew up there. P.S. 99 had its own strange cultural richness: Paul Simon and "Arty" Garfunkel played in the talent show, Jerry Springer admits in the film that he would never make his show if his parents were still alive, Robert Schimmel recalls his father, who survived a Nazi death march, telling him, "If you want to live, keep moving forward."

It's a fascinating story. In a way, all immigrant communities are incubators for these sort of hybrid cultures- a society without them would be culturally impoverished.

You can buy the DVD here.

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