True/False Film: Stand Clear of the Closing Doors

When I read about Stand Clear of the Closing Doors online I was like "Ummm, he follows a dragon? Onto the subway? Uh-oh." Then I began watching this film and quickly let the preconceived images of Harry Potter fandom (are there even dragons in that? I have no idea...because I am a grown up!) fade away and make room for a truly accurate portrayal of what it means to live on the edges of New York City.

The reason this narrative was unique, and why it represents the real spirit of NYC, is that it deals with so many existences that hover on the fringes of society: the main character is an adolescent autistic boy named Ricky, his family illegal immigrants trying to find their rights while struggling for a better life, the family resides in the Rockaways where the beach meets the concrete (a place of increasing danger & tumult caused by climate change), the supporting characters are people who we do not see in films (the funky/angry/self styled teen girl forging her own path against her parents in the weird NY she chooses to live in, the employer of Ricky's mom who is a self-obsessed juice fanatic crooning on a piano as she dusts his marble), Ricky journeys through the subway system that is primarily an in-between space where life is suspended, invisibility feigned, and sometimes even a place where one's world is dramatically enhanced (If you ever want to hear the story about the homeless man who hung on my back on the F Train lemme know!). Shot in a digital hazy grey on the days leading up to the shattering Hurricane Sandy, the style of this film is an intense, near experimental collage of scenes from Ricky's viewpoint, the overwhelming sights & sounds he encounters, that are then mediated by scenes of a sweet, loving narrative that allows the progressive filmmaking to uphold a character's story instead of getting in the way of it (as is so often the case with "arty" film). Added to this delicate balance of progressive storytelling is a mix of on-site reality that exposes the failing systems, extreme diversity, and undying strength that define this great city.

The New York portrayed in this film is one that most people do not see, the gritty & fluid lives that settle just below the Disney-fied attractions and streamlined facades of commerce that so many visitors of the city choose to take in. But what makes this film truly beautiful is that its subject is an unseen contemporary NY that is all too aware of the near future one, one of rising flood waters and social issues that cannot be ignored for much longer (poverty, immigrant rights, resources for autism, decaying infrastructure etc.). Stand Clear of the Closing Doors really does embody a type of NY Neorealism and, much like its Italian neorealist predecessors, seeks to show the stories of the new American working class who have emerged in a time of sociopolitical upheaval. The surface story is one of emotions, everyday activities, the "simple" lives of families but the depths of the story quietly unfold like a vast subway map, displaying a network of looming fragility, questioning what will become of this metropolis, its people, and beyond. The only screening of this film I see on the horizon is in May in NYC, after having already played places like Tribeca Film Fest & Rooftop last year, but it is the type of film that embodies so many pertinent issues and in such a lush and accessible way that I hope it reaches much further shores! (UPDATE: 5/23/14 NYC Screening at Cinema Village, also see link to inquire about requesting a screening!)



Donna K. lives in the Midwest and on the internet. Mostly she writes about her interest in the offline world.