Class Divide

One-hundred-fifteen steps is all that separates a public housing complex from a private school for Manhattan’s elite. Class Divide shines a light on people who live a stone’s throw apart but inhabit completely different worlds. New York’s Chelsea neighborhood, once a dilapidated industrial area, opened the High Line park in 2009, an effort by community activists to create a public commons and outdoor arts space on a former elevated train line. Its immediate and immense popularity was the catalyst for a gentrification that has far outpaced that of any other neighborhood in Manhattan. In a story of inequity that could easily take place in San Francisco, this film sympathetically follows the students at Avenues: The World School and the residents of the Elliott Houses tenement across the street. Despite grim statistics about poverty, the film is imbued with a sense of optimism as it shares stories of the children and families on both sides of the street. Avenues students grapple with their immense privilege; Elliott Houses residents dream of making money. But one is struck by the love and loss that they have in common. You will find yourself rooting for all of them, particularly Rosa, a sassy and honest fifth grader whom you will remember long after the film ends. —Stephanie Rapp
Marc Levin is a pioneer in the art of merging fiction and non-fiction filmmaking. He brings narrative and verite techniques together in his independent films, episodic television and documentaries. His dramatic feature film, "SLAM," which won the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival and the Camera D’Or at Cannes in 1998, received international recognition for its seamless blending of the real world with a narrative flow. Hollywood Reporter wrote, "Brace yourself for a slam-dunk of a movie, in an in-your-face cinema verite-style that makes Godard’s ‘Breathless’ seem like a cartoon." Levin and his documentary film partner, Daphne Pinkerson, produced 10 films for HBO’s groundbreaking "America Undercover" series, including "Mob Stories," "Prisoners of the War on Drugs," "Execution Machine: Texas Death Row," "Soldiers in the Army of God," "Gladiator Days," "Thug Life in D.C.," which won the 1999 Primetime Emmy for Outstanding Non-Fiction Special, "Gang War: Bangin’ in Little Rock," which won the Cable ACE Award for Best Documentary Special of 1994, and the sequel, "Back in the Hood: Gang War 2." "Street Time," a drama about the world of parole, produced by Sony/Columbia Tri Star, finished its second season having received critical acclaim for its authenticity and verite style. Levin produced the series and directed ten episodes. The show stars Rob Morrow, Scott Cohen, Erica Alexander and Terrence Howard. The Los Angeles Times called it "some of the most seductive television ever: vivid, distinctive, explosive storytelling." Levin’s most recent documentary feature, "Godfathers and Sons," was part of the highly regarded Martin Scorsese PBS series on the blues. Scorsese recruited an international team of directors with both feature and documentary experience -- Charles Burnett, Clint Eastwood, Mike Figgis, Richard Pierce and Wim Wenders. Variety called Levin’s show "the crown jewel in the Scorsese series." In the late 90s, Levin created a hip-hop trilogy with "SLAM," a searing prison drama, which starred Saul Williams, Sonja Sohn and Bonz Malone. "Whiteboys," a black comedy about white kids who want to be black rappers, starred Danny Hoch, Dash Mihok, Mark Webber and Piper Perabo. "Brooklyn Babylon," a fable inspired by the "Song of Songs," starred Tariq Trotter, Bonz Malone, and featured music by the legendary Grammy winners The Roots. In "Twilight Los Angeles," an adaptation of Anna Deavere Smith’s one-woman show, Levin fused a Broadway play with the documentary world of the LA riots. "Twilight" premiered at the Sundance 2000 Film Festival and was selected as the opening film of the International Human Rights Film Festival at Lincoln Center. In 1992, Levin directed Oscar nominee Robert Downey, Jr. in "The Last Party," a gonzo look at the Presidential campaign, weaving together the personal and the political fortunes of Downey and Bill Clinton. In 1997, Levin was awarded the prestigious Columbia DuPont award for "CIA: America’s Secret Warriors," a three-part series that aired on the Discovery Channel. In 1988 he won a national Emmy award as the producer/editor of "The Secret Government -- The Constitution in Crisis." From the mid-‘70s through the ‘80s, Levin teamed up with one of America’s most respected journalists, Bill Moyers. He directed "The Home Front with Bill Moyers," which was honored with the DuPont Columbia Gold Baton Award. His "Portrait of an American Zealot" was made part of the Museum of Modern Art’s permanent film collection.
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