BAM Screens Indie Cult Classic "Stations of the Elevated"

On June 27 at 8 PM, the Artists' Public Domain (APD) Cinema Conservancy will premiere a newly-restored print of Manfred Kirchheimer's legendary 1981 documentary Stations of the Elevated at BAM Cinema Fest, on the Steinberg Screen at BAM Harvey Theater, 30 Lafayette Avenue in Brooklyn.

Kirchheimer's 45-minute indie documentary, shot in 1977 on lush 16 mm color reversal stock, weaves together vivid images of elevated subway trains crisscrossing the gritty New York City landscape and a complex soundtrack combining ambient city sounds with Charles Mingus and Aretha Franklin, in an impressionistic homage to a lost city.

The screening will be preceded by a live performance by legendary jazz ensemble Mingus Dynasty, organized by Sue Mingus after Charles’ death in 1979.  This acclaimed orchestra interprets more than 300 Mingus compositions.

Tickets went on sale May 14. You can buy tickets here.

The remastered (image and sound) film will be released this fall with other works by Kirchheimer.

When Stations of the Elevated was filmed in 1977, graffiti on New York’s subway trains was the obsession of both passengers and elected officials, who called it vandalism.  The careful HD restoration of Kirchheimer's film relives graffiti's edgy and dangerous early days -- before taggers were courted by museums, advertisers and celebrities.

One of the first documentaries about the graffiti scene, the film captures the movement at its height in 1970s New York, when old-school legends like Lee, Fab 5 Freddy, Shadow, Daze, Kase, Butch, Blade, Slave, 12 T2B, Ree, and Pusher were active.

When Ed Koch fantasized about setting wolves on taggers, Kirchheimer saw graffiti as self-expression and a reaction to the prevailing social and economic conditions in 1970s New York, when corporate advertising began to overtake public space and private lives. By juxtaposing tagged subway cars with advertising featuring hamburgers and scantily-clad women, Stations of the Elevated effectively examines the role of urban art in urban life.

Although the film premiered at the 1981 New York Film Festival, it was never released to theaters. And while it has developed a cult following among cinephiles, jazz fans and graffiti lovers over the past 30 years, it has rarely been shown. Now, its soundtrack fully licensed, the Cinema Conservancy is able to screen the film.

Filmmaker Manfred Kirchheimer (b. 1931) is a German immigrant whose family came to New York fleeing the Nazis. He studied film at CUNY and worked in the film industry while producing his own indie films. A long-time professor at the School of Visual Arts, Kirchheimer has documented the city for decades in films that include We Were So Beloved (1986), Claw (1968), Short Circuit (1973), Bridge High (1975) and Colossus on the River (1963).

Cinema Conservancy is the releasing program of Artists Public Domain, a New York-based non-profit production and distribution company that helps ensure the legacy and public availability of crucial works of American Independent cinema. Previous Cinema Conservancy releases include Jamel Shabazz Street Photographer, the John Hubley Centennial, Nothing But a Man, Little Fugitive, Northern Lights and The Color Wheel. APD’s recent productions include Towheads, Another Earth, and The Forgiveness of Blood.

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