Exploring the Arts and Culture Scene in the Bronx, New York Through Documentaries

This year marks 50 years since hip hop first emerged from The Bronx. To celebrate this milestone filmmakers have created documentaries that explore its impact on society. From Wild Style to Paris Is Burning learn more about these classic films.

Exploring the Arts and Culture Scene in the Bronx, New York Through Documentaries

Documentaries have long been a powerful tool for exploring and celebrating the vibrant arts and culture scene in the Bronx, New York. From Wild Style and Downtown 81, which blurred the line between documentary and narrative feature film, to Paris Is Burning, a 1990 American documentary film directed by Jennie Livingston, there are countless documentaries that have focused on the journeys of hip-hop artists and have unveiled the impact of hip-hop culture. To mark the genre's 50th anniversary, filmmakers have created documentaries that shed light on some of the most important names and events in hip-hop history. The classic Wild Style and Downtown 81 are interesting sociological profiles of hip-hop from the early 1980s. The first focuses on their home in the Bronx while the second looks at the downtown scene, where rap mixed with New Wave and art theory.

Paris Is Burning is a 1990 American documentary film directed by Jennie Livingston. Filmed between the mid-to-late 1980s, it chronicles New York City's dance culture and the African-American, Latino, gay and transgender communities involved in it. The film explains how words like house, mother, shadow, reading and legend take on new meaning when used in novel ways to describe the gay and drag subculture. In 2003, the New York Times reported that Paris Is Burning remains a highly cited and frequently used organizing tool for LGBT youth; a way for academics and students to examine issues of race, class, and gender; a way for young baseball participants to meet their cultural ancestors; and a portrait of several notable Americans, nearly all of whom have died since the production of the film.

Downtown 81

, beautifully shot in black and white, focuses on the abstract form of freestyle dancing that emerged in New York as a result of break dancing. With a look at 1981's New York, it stars real-life graffiti artists, musicians, rappers and dancers, and portrays hip-hop as a cultural phenomenon along with genres such as punk and new wave.

DJ Kool Herc

, born Clive Campbell in Kingston, Jamaica, was exposed to the culture of sound systems from a very young age.

These sound systems were an important entertainment platform in Jamaica's economically depressed communities. His music is fast-paced and receives waves of focused attention, recorded with sporadic bass drum beats similar to those of Evilgiane in SURF GANG and Cash Cobain's hyper-centered 808 patterns. In 1977, mired in a recession, New York City appointed Ed Koch as mayor who was even more aggressive in his efforts to restrict art. This year marks the 50th anniversary of hip-hop so naturally a wide range of exhibitions, street parties and concerts will be held in all five boroughs of New York City and across the country to celebrate its impact. The New York Public Library partnered with the New Victory Theater in New York City for a special edition of Dance Party NYC.