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Third Shift – by Anthony Simon

The memories of two workers who spent their lives at Domino Sugar, the soon to be demolished factory on the Brooklyn waterfront

15 – 20 | 2013 | Documentary | Observational | Urban | USA

In the late 70s and early 80s, Los Sures was one of the poorest neighborhoods in New York City. In 1984 Diego Echeverria directed a documentary about the challenges of residents living in the Southside of Williamsburg. His complex portrait celebrated the vitality of this largely Puerto Rican and Dominican community, showing the strength of their culture, their creativity, and their determination to overcome a desperate situation of drugs, gang violence, crime, abandoned real estate, racial tension, single-parent homes, and inadequate local resources. The film itself would likely have remained in obscurity if it hadn’t been for UnionDocs (UnDo), a Center for Documentary Arts, discovering and restoring a VHS tape and 16mm of Echeverria’s doc and distributing the film at the Metrograph. But not only.

Through a series of short films called “Living Los Sures,” UnionDoc explored the neighborhood which is in the midst of rapid change. Third Shift is part of this project and is about the Domino Sugar Refinery, an icon of Brooklyn’s industrial waterfront once producing more than half of the nation’s sugar and employing over 4,500 people. Helmer Anthony Simon’s slow meandering camera introduces us Francisco “Frank” Ortiz (machinist from 1970 to 1998) and Juan “Johnny” Mendez (assistant supervisor from 1986 to 2002), two former workers who still live only blocks away. By the end of 2014, much of the building will have been demolished for new high-density luxury housing, while the rest will be renovated for commercial use.

Frank and Johnny recall their days at Domino and visit the now derelict space that was part of their lives for 30 years. Third Shift captures the dramatic effects of gentrification and economic slow-down, but above all the burden and the value of memories.

Alessandro Zoppo

Alessandro Zoppo

Editor-in-Chief @ Good Short Films

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