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|Zeitgeist Films announces the US theatrical release of KOCH, a documentary by Neil Barsky.|
Ed Koch in the office of his campaign manager, David Garth, September 1977. As seen in KOCH, a film by Neil Barsky. A Zeitgeist Films release. Photo: The New York Post.
SANTA MONICA, CA.- Former Mayor Ed Koch is the quintessential New Yorker. Still ferocious, charismatic, and hilariously blunt, the now 88-year-old Koch ruled New York from 1978 to 1989a down-and-dirty decade of grit, graffiti, near-bankruptcy and rampant crime. First-time filmmaker (and former Wall Street Journal reporter) Neil Barsky has crafted an intimate and revealing portrait of this intensely private man, his legacy as a political titan, and the town he helped transform. The tumult of his three terms included a fiercely competitive 1977 election; an infamous 1980 transit strike; the burgeoning AIDS epidemic; landmark housing renewal initiatives; and an irreparable municipal corruption scandal. Through candid interviews and rare archival footage, Koch thrillingly chronicles the personal and political toll of running the worlds most wondrous city in a time of upheaval and reinvention.
Three-time New York City Mayor (19781989) Ed Koch is combative, funny and blunt. He is also intensely private. In Koch, first-time filmmaker Neil Barsky gives us a contemporary history of the world's greatest city, and an intimate portrait of the 87-year-old former mayor, as he confronts his own mortality and legacy. The film examines issues still relevant todayrace relations, homelessness, AIDS and gay rightsand provides a window into the trials and tribulations of the nation's most famous mayor in the world's most wondrous city.
Through candid and colorful interviews, rare archival footage and photographs, and verité footage, this new documentary takes the viewer on a journey back to a time when the city was beset by nearbankruptcy, high crime, graffiti and collective depression. It chronicles how Ed Koch gave the city its morale back, while engaging in exhausting confrontations with his critics.
Koch begins in the late 1970s, when New York was on the precipice of bankruptcy, dependent on the state and federal governments for its survival. Ed Koch is the master of street politics, and we watch him transform himself from a little-known liberal Congressman to a law-and-order mayoral candidate who cut deals with key constituencies to defeat the better-known Mario Cuomo. Joining his 1977 campaign was also Bess Meyerson, the former Miss America whose constant companionship during that campaign helped mute whispered rumors that Koch was gay.
Koch follows the mayor as he restores New York's fiscal health and rallies New Yorkers on the city's bridges during the infamous 1980 subway strike, only to embark on a racially divisive decision to close down Harlems Sydenham Hospital. Koch rises to become America's Mayor and see him defeated as his third term becomes mired in a municipal corruption scandal.
The film also delves into deeply personal issues, and examines the complex relationship Ed Koch has with his own identity and family. A lifetime bachelor who has always lived alone, we observe the mayor hounded by rumors of his personal life, and hear him explain in poignant detail why he has chosen to keep the details of his personal life private.
Koch is a portrait of a lion in winter as the onetime celebrity strains to remain in the spotlight. We watch the former mayor glad-hand at campaign stops, hobnob with political well-wishers on election night, appear on television and radio and speak in front of small groups. He puts on a stiff upper lip as he is snubbed by Andrew Cuomo, son of his bête noir Mario Cuomo, on election night. We see his spirits brighten at his Gracie Mansion birthday party when Mayor Bloomberg announces the renaming of the Queensboro Bridge in his honor. By the end, we come to realize that while Koch is mortal like the rest of us and cannot overcome the inevitability of old age, he will fight the fight to the end. Asked what, at 86, he still wants out of life, he answers plainly: More. Better.
The documentary is beautifully filmed in high-definition and filled with New York characters and life on the street. As we come to understand how the seeds of New York City's recovery were planted in his administration, Ed Koch emerges as the quintessential New Yorkerembattled and unapologetic. And while he is a man in many ways alone, viewers will come to see and hear what an enormous historical impact he had on the city.
February 17, 2013
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