Screening of "Decade of Fire"

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The Bronx Museum of the Arts

1040 Grand Concourse

New York, NY 10456

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Join us for a screening of "Decade of Fire" followed by remarks made by the co-directors/co-producers .

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Header Photo Credit ©1980 Perla de Leon

SHORT SYNOPSIS

In the 1970s, the Bronx was on fire. Left unprotected by the city government, nearly a half-million people were displaced as their close-knit, multiethnic neighborhood burned, reducing the community to rubble. While insidious government policies caused the devastation, Black and Latino residents bore the blame.

Through a rich seam of archival and home movie footage, testimonials from retired FDNY firefighters and brass, as well as Bronx historians and community organizations Banana Kelly and CASA, the documentary Decade of Fire, co-directed by Bronx native Vivian Vázquez Irizarry and Gretchen Hildebran, confronts the racially charged stereotypes that dehumanized residents of the South Bronx in the 1970’s, and rationalized their abandonment by city, state and federal governments. Vázquez Irizarry, in her role as the film’s central character seeks not only healing for her community, but to redeem them from the harmful mythology spread by the media that has continued largely unchallenged to this day.

Decade of Fire offers the emergence of a new narrative for the South Bronx and places like it across the nation.

PROJECT BACKGROUND

The concept for Decade of Fire began in 2002 as a curriculum for students at a South Bronx high school, where producer Julia Steele Allen and producer/director Vivian Vázquez Irizarry worked together. They noticed how young people carried the stigma of being from the nation’s most notorious “ghetto” but had little access to it’s history: what was the Bronx like before it burned? Who was responsible for the fires? What saved the borough from total annihilation?

The curriculum was rejected before it could be taught, for being “too radical.” But it began a dialogue between Vivian and Julia about the need for this story to be told, and told from the perspectives of the people who survived it, including Vivian herself.

They began work on the documentary in 2008 with filmmaker Gretchen Hildebran, determining that film would be the most effective way to share the story with a broader audience. Though the South Bronx sustained the most extensive fire damage—with 80% of the housing stock lost to fire from 1968-1978—the fires were not unique to the Bronx, or even to New York City, but the result of national policies and political trends rooted in pervasive racism.

Following the screening would be remarks by co-directors/co-producers Gretchen Hildebran and Vivian Vásquez, and producer Neyda Martinez.

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The Bronx Museum of the Arts

1040 Grand Concourse

New York, NY 10456

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