“CHARM CITY”

April 18, 2019 at 5:00 am

After years of unparalleled violence, a diverse group of people are working together to reverse the deadly trend.

Aired on April 17, 2019.

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>>> A NEW INDEPENDENT LENS
DOCUMENTARY TITLED CHARM CITY IS
TAKING VIEWERS BEYOND TELEVISION
HEADLINES INTO THE FRONT LINES
OF BALTIMORE, MARYLAND.
ONE OF AMERICA'S MOST DANGEROUS
CITIES.
SHARING THE STORIES OF CITIZENS,
COMMUNITY ACTIVISTS AND
GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS DURING A
SOMEWHAT VIOLENT THREE-YEAR
PERIOD.
THE DOCUMENTARY GIVES AS YOU
POWERFUL PORTRAIT OF THOSE
SURVIVING AND FIGHTING FOR THE
VIBRANT CITY THEY CALL HOME.
TAKE A LOOK.
>> WE'VE GOT 171 DAYS LEFT.
THAT'S A STATE OF EMERGENCY.
>> WHEN I FIRST DECIDED -- HOW
COULD YOU, THE WAY THEY TREAT
US.
THEY ONLY WANT TO LOCK US UP.
>> I'M GOING TO HELP THESE YOUNG
MEN AND WOMEN.
>> CHARM CITY.
PREMIERS MONDAY.
ONLY ON PBS.
>> AND JOINING ME NOW IS THE
DIRECTOR OF CHARM CITY, MARILYN,
WELCOME TO YOU.
>> I WILL TELL YOU THIS.
THAT THE DOCUMENTARY IS ALL
THOSE THINGS THAT WE JUST SAW IN
TERMS OF GRIPPING AND SO
COMPELLING, A LOOK INSIDE OF THE
LIFE ON THE STREETS.
SO, THAT BEING.
LET ME ASK YOU.
WHAT IS IT THAT DREW YOU TO THIS
IN THE FIRST PLACE?
>> IT WAS LATE 2014.
WE WERE SEEING MANY HIGH PROFILE
DEATHS IN YOUNG AFRICAN-AMERICAN
MEN AND WOMEN.
WE WOULD SEE IT ON NIGHTLY NEWS
OR SOCIAL MEDIA.
THE DAY IN, DAY OUT FELT LIKE
WHAT WAS ELUDING US IN THESE
SNIPPETS.
WHAT IT DOES IS IT WE CAN BE
PATIENT AND STAND IN ONE PLACE
FOR A LONG TIME UNTIL WE CAN
BRING OUR CAMERAS INTO THESE
PLACES TO FIND OUT WHAT'S NOT
WORKING.
>> IT WAS A LONG PERIOD OF TIME.
>> THREE YEARS.
>> I WANT TO ASK YOU.
I SUSPECT PEOPLE WATCHING THIS,
WHO ARE NOT FAMILIAR WITH
BALTIMORE MIGHT BE SAYING, THIS
IS A LOOK INSIDE WITH VERY
DIFFICULT TIMES.
WHY WOULD IT THEN BE CALLED
CHARM CITY?
>> WELL, CHARM CITY IS THE NICK
NAME BALTIMORE.
IT WAS A 1970s CAMPAIGN TO TRY
TO BRING FOLKS BACK TO BALTIMORE
AFTER WHITE FLIGHT.
AFTER INDUSTRY LEFT.
WE WANTED TO NOD TO THE LOCAL
FOLKS, WE MADE THIS FILM FOR
THEM IN MANY WAYS.
THERE IS A NICKNAME, CHARLIE
CITY IF YOU'RE IN THE WHITE
NEIGHBORHOODS, AND HARM CITY IF
YOU'RE IN UNDERRESOURCED BLACK
NEIGHBORHOODS.
WHEN YOU SEE THE FILM, YOU WILL
SEE, IT WAS OUR WAY OF SAYING WE
UNDERSTAND THE IRONY HERE AND
WE'RE TRYING TO PAINT TWO
PORTRAITS FOR YOU.
>> TALKING ABOUT THREE YEARS FOR
ALL THIS.
YOU SPENT A GOOD DEAL OF TIME
WITHOUT CAMERAS ROWING.
WHY DID YOU TAKE THAT APPROACH?
WHAT WERE YOU HOPING TO LEARN
BEFORE YOU STARTED?
>> I THINK FIGURING OUT WHICH
WAY TO POINT A CAMERA IS THE
MOST IMPORTANT WORK WE DO WHEN
MAKING A FILM.
AND ONCE YOU BRING THE CAMERA,
IT DOES CHANGE EVERYTHING.
PEOPLE BEHAVE DIFFERENTLY BUT
THERE IS AN INTERMEDIARY BETWEEN
ME AND THE PEOPLE I WANT TO LOOK
IN THE EYE, WHO NEED TO LOOK ME
IN THE EYE TO UNDERSTAND WHAT IS
IT WE'RE TRYING TO DO?
WHAT ARE WE ASKING OF THEM,
THEIR LIVES.
SO SPENDING A LONG PERIOD OF
TIME, ANSWERING THOSE QUESTIONS,
ASKING THOSE QUESTIONS IS
PREFERABLE TO ME AS A DIRECTOR.
AND I THINK IT PUT US IN GOOD
STEAD.
WE DID NOT REALIZE WHAT
HAPPENED.
WE WERE ON THE GROUND FOUR
MONTHS BEFORE FREDDY GRAY'S
DEATH IN POLICE CUSTODY.
WHEN THE MEDIA DEFENDED, POINTED
AT THE CAMERAS, EVERYTHING IS
PLAYING.
WE HAVE BEEN HAVING
CONVERSATIONS.
THEN THE MEDIA LEFT AND WE
STAYED, MUCH TO THEIR SURPRISE.
THEY WERE SURPRISED WE WERE
INTERESTED.
AND I THINK THAT TRUST IS WHAT
YOU'RE SEEING COME THROUGH IN
THE FOOTAGE.
THAT THEY KNEW WHY WE WERE THERE
AND THEY KNEW WHY WE STAYED.
>> WHEN YOU TALK ABOUT THEY,
OBVIOUSLY DECIDING WHO WILL BE
YOUR FOCUS FIGURES, IF YOU WILL,
IN THE DOCUMENTARY SUCH AS THIS,
IS EXTRAORDINARILY IMPORTANT.
SO HOW DID YOU GO ABOUT THAT
SELECTION PROCESS?
>> SO WE DECIDED TO FOLLOW WHAT
WE CALLED FOR LACK OF A BETTER
WORD, THE POLICED.
PEOPLE WHO FEEL EXCESSIVELY
POLICED IN THEIR OWN COMMUNITY,
AND THE POLICE.
AND WE STARTED WITH A WIDE NET.
WE FILMED WITH A BUNCH OF
DIFFERENT FOLKS.
HOW DO YOU ACCESS THOSE STORIES
IS ALWAYS THE QUESTION.
>> AS YOU KNOW, SHOWING ONE
CAMERA CREW AND COVERING AN
UNFOLDING STORY, A CONFLICT OR A
TRAGEDY, PEOPLE DON'T ALWAYS
TRUST YOU.
YOU'RE AN OUTSIDER.
NOT ONLY AN OUTSIDER BUT ONE
WITH A CAMERA.
HOW DID YOU FIND YOU WERE ABLE
TO CREATE THE LEVEL OF TRUST
THAT IS APPARENT?
PEOPLE ARE SAYING THINGS TO YOU
IN YOUR CAMERA THAT THE VIEWERS
MIGHT FIND VERY SURPRISING.
>> YEAH.
THERE WERE MANY LAYERS WE HAD TO
DEAL WITH.
FIRST, SPENDING THE TIME.
LOOKING PEOPLE IN THE EYE.
ALLOWING THEM TO ASK QUESTIONS
WHEN YOU'RE THERE FOR THREE
YEARS, THAT'S A LOT OF TIME OFF
CAMERA AS IT IS ON.
MY TEAM, ME AND MY PRODUCER ARE
NOT FROM BALTIMORE OF WE'RE
ACTUALLY FROM NEW YORK.
WE BUILT AN ENTIRELY LOCAL TEAM
ON THE GROUND IN BALL.
WE REALLY HAD TO ANSWER TO THEM
AS OFTEN AS WE DID TO OUR
SUBJECTS ABOUT WHAT IT IS WE
WERE TRYING TO DO AND SAY IN
THEIR CITY.
AND THEY INFORMED OUR PROCESS
THROUGHOUT.
EVERYTHING WAS REALLY FLUID.
IT IS A SMALL TEAM.
WE COMMUNICATED ALL THE TIME.
AND OF COURSE, I'M A WHITE WOMAN
WORKING IN A TOWN, THE MAJORITY
OF THE FOLKS ARE
AFRICAN-AMERICAN.
SO WE WORKED CAREFULLY TO HAVE A
DIVERSE TEAM OF FOLKS, OUR
CO-PRODUCER, A CINEMATOGRAPHER,
AND OUR DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY.
IN FACT, HE SOLELY DECIDED WHEN
TO TURN THE CAMERA ON AND OFF.
SOMETIMES I'M LIKE, DID YOU FILM
IT?
HE DIDN'T.
BECAUSE HE DIDN'T LIKE THE
REPRESENTATION.
AND WE ACCEPTED THAT.
THIS WAS MANY PEOPLE'S STORY TO
TELL.
SO HOW DO YOU INVITE A COMMUNITY
AND TELL A STORY?
THAT WAS WHAT WE FOLLOWED.
>> WE WERE TALKING ABOUT IT A
FEW MINUTES AGO WHEN WE STARTED
ROLLING IN THIS CONVERSATION.
YOU SAW THE NOTION OF INVOKING
THE WIRE.
AND I TOLD YOU, ONE OF MY ALL
TIME FAVORITE SERIES, IT SHOWS
UP ON MOST LISTS AS THE TOP FIVE
DRAMAS EVER ON TELEVISION.
SET IN BALTIMORE.
HOW DID YOU FIND THE FOLKS THAT
YOU TALKED TO?
HOW DID YOU FIND THEM REACTING
TO THE NOTION OF THE WIRE AND
ITS DEPICTION OF BALTIMORE?
>> YEAH.
I AGREE.
IT IS ONE OF THE BEST SHOWS ON
TELEVISION AND IT ABSOLUTELY
CAPTURED THE ERA.
IT DID IT DRAMATICALLY.
IT WAS A NARRATIVE.
SO I THINK THE FOLKS FEEL LIKE
THEY'RE OFTEN LIVING THAT STIGMA
DOWN.
AND IT IS TRUE, WE WERE THERE IN
THE THREE MOST VIOLENT YEARS IN
HISTORY.
THERE ARE PARTS OF BALTIMORE
COMPLETELY UNIMPACTED BY THOSE
THINGS, WHICH IS TROUBLING IN
THESE CITIES WHERE THE HAVEs AND
THE HAVE NOTs IS REALLY ON
DISPLAY.
I THINK A LOT OF THE REASONS
FOLKS WANTED TO BE IN THE FILM,
TO CHANGE THE NARRATIVE.
SO ALEX LONG SAYS HE'S THE YOUNG
MAN TRYING TO PREVENT VIOLENCE.
HE SAID HE LEAVES BALTIMORE.
PEOPLE SAY DO YOU REALLY PUT
DEAD BODIES THERE?
THERE'S A WHOLE SIDE OF THE CITY
OF PEOPLE WHO WAKE UP IN THE
MORNING TRYING TO DO BETTER THAN
THE DAY BEFORE AND THAT'S WHAT
HE WANTED TO PUT ONSCREEN.
I THINK THAT WAS HIS REASON FOR
CONTINUING ON WITH US.
>> I CAN TELL YOU IT CAPTURED
THE DRAMATIC NARRATIVE OF
BALTIMORE.
THIS TERM CHARM CITY DEFINITELY
CAPTURES IT NOW.
>> GREAT WORK.
WE LOOK FORWARD TO SEEING THIS
OUT THERE.
THE REACTION PEOPLE HAVE TO IT.
>> ME, TOO.
THANK YOU FOR JOINING US.
NOR
FOR YOU OUT THERE, MAKE SURE YOU
CHECK YOUR LISTINGS FOR AIR
TIMES.

Mutual of America PSEG

Funders

MetroFocus is made possible by James and Merryl Tisch, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Sylvia A. and Simon B. Poyta Programming Endowment to Fight Anti-Semitism, Bernard and Irene Schwartz, Rosalind P. Walter, Barbara Hope Zuckerberg, Jody and John Arnhold, the Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Janet Prindle Seidler, Judy and Josh Weston and the Dr. Robert C. and Tina Sohn Foundation.

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