Decade of Fire

In the 1970s, maligned and neglected by the city government, the Bronx was on fire. Bronx native Vivian Vazquez exposes the truth about the borough’s sordid history and reveals how her embattled community chose to resist, remain and rebuild.
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Director: Gretchen Hildebran and Vivian Vazquez

Presented by: Vivian Vázquez

 

2018, USA, 75 minutes, Digital, NR

Language: English and Spanish

Filmmaker Q&A: Vivian Vázquez

An educator and facilitator, Vivian ran educational and youth leadership development programs at the Coro Foundation, Bronxworks, and is currently the director of community-school partnerships at the New Settlement Community Campus. Vázquez Irizarry managed educational youth development models in GED completion and college access programs across New York City. A former member of the National Congress for Puerto Rican Rights, she is a member of 52 People for Progress, a community organization that saved her childhood playground and revitalized the South Bronx for the last 35 years.

Program Notes

The U.S. didn’t always need armchair conspiracy theorists to rewrite reality—for most of the 20th century, it had TV news to do just that.

 

While block after block of New York’s South Bronx was destroyed by fire during the 1970s, gradually displacing nearly half of the borough’s 1.5 million residents, news headlines proclaimed junkies, vandals, landlords for profit, and tenants for revenge as to blame—but Decade of Fire sets the record straight. The film reckons that often-simplified (if not outright ignored) narrative of the borough’s destruction with the inconvenient truth of systemic discrimination, displacement and devastation that was to blame. The result is a film of untold insight, patience, and a scrutinous recounting that only comes from reexamining a catastrophic event that one has experienced firsthand.

 

“How could city government allow this to happen? Who was in charge? Why?” While asking elemental questions and drawing parallels between local and national policies, then and now, co-director and narrator Vivian Vázquez Irizarry draws on momentum-building historical hindsight and inside-out personal analysis of the neighborhood where she was raised. In so doing she and co-director Gretchen Hildebran draw a damning blemish from New York’s modern-day past back into the foreground.

 

With eye-opening archival footage (including home movies and vintage news broadcasts) that captures the ways that regulatory missteps and revisionist commentary could distort a close-knit community into redlined rubble, Decade of Fire reveals how history is most prone to repeating itself when we are blind to the faults in how it is retold. (Jared Earley)


OFFICIAL SELECTION

DOC NYC Film Festival
Maryland Film Festival


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The Maryland Film Festival takes place in and around the SNF Parkway Theatre at 5 W. North Avenue (at the intersection of North Avenue and Charles St.) in Baltimore's Station North Arts and Entertainment District.
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