Exploring the Bronx: A Look at the Evolution of Documentaries about New York's Most Iconic Borough

From Ric Burns' 1999 five-part series to Decade of Fire in 2017, explore how documentaries have provided an in-depth look at The Bronx's past and present.

Exploring the Bronx: A Look at the Evolution of Documentaries about New York's Most Iconic Borough

The Bronx, New York has been the subject of many documentaries over the years, each one exploring the area's unique history and culture. From the first five-part series in 1999 to the more recent Decade of Fire, these documentaries have provided an in-depth look at the borough's past and present. The first documentary series about the Bronx was produced by Ric Burns and James Sanders in 1999. It featured interviews with notable figures such as Rudolph Giuliani (then mayor of New York City during episodes 1-), former mayor Ed Koch, former governor of New York Mario Cuomo, former U. S.

Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, poet Allen Ginsberg, novelists Alfred Kazin and Brendan Gill, director Martin Scorsese, journalist Pete Hamill, former congresswoman Bella Abzug, historian Niall Ferguson, philosopher Marshall Berman, writer Fran Lebowitz, engineer Leslie E. Stern, tight-rope artist Philippe Petit, real estate developer (and future president) Donald Trump and author David McCullough. The series was edited in a traditional way for the first half but was later edited digitally on Avid workstations for the second half. The series was well-received by critics.

Caryn James of The New York Times praised it for its rich imagery and coherent theme but noted that its lenient length and pace tested the patience of even its most serious viewers. Frank Rich of The New York Times referred to episode 8 as “a beautifully made documentary in which we observe in minute detail the construction of the World Trade Center from its inception, so that we can once again experience the violence of its sudden destruction”. In 2017, a new documentary about the Bronx was released called Decade of Fire. This film focused on how New York City dealt with issues such as immigration, diversity, growth, economic change, climate change, social justice and governance during the 1970s.

It featured interviews with people who lived through this period as well as vintage footage from the 1950s when mambo music and Cuban rhythms were popular in the borough. The film also explored how Operation Bootstrap in the late 1940s and racist red lines and urban renewal policies of the 1960s led to massive budget cuts in New York City during the 1970s. This resulted in more than half of all fires in the Bronx going unmentioned in official records. Burns and Sanders are currently producing episodes nine and ten of their series about contemporary New York for broadcast. These documentaries will continue to explore how the Bronx has evolved over time and how it has been shaped by its unique history and culture.