Greg Samata came by bearing food from Charlie Trotters, ice cream sandwiches and his new documentary film FLOOD STREET. It's being reviewed or juried for SunDance currently. This is Greg's fifth documentry and he's been shown in both the Tribeca and Chicago Film Festival over the last 3-4 years.
Greg's FLOOD STREET makes me want to make film, tell stories, draw, write books, see the world, cry, re-find my institutional anger, send a check, pray for these kids, remember that they are just kids. The story hooks you early and I like these guys too much and you know you're not going to get away with that untouched. It's New Orleans after all.
There's a lot of ways to speak English and New Orleanians probably use them all incorrectly. There's one way to speak love and Greg's subject, Harry Simms, speaks love in every sentence. Harry is a dreamer who works his vision of running a boxing club for street kids in the lower 9th ward every day. Harry opened his doors when there were none, just his home,garage and a roped off ring on his side yard. But, slowly, out of pocket, he build a ring of plywood and rope, hung some heavy bags around and the kids would come by, settle differences, simply blow off some steam, some would train. All would learn a thing or two.
The young ones (9-11 yr.) looked like spiders entering an open space seeking prey and defying predator. All spindly arms and legs flying straight to the center enjoined in a blizzard of punches using gloves that are larger than their heads- throwing punches 'til the bell sounds- barely sitting, then going at it again with more spider furry.
By now, I love these kids. I love Harry. I love New Orleans and the sideways way that they get to something in New Orleans. Harry is New Orleans, in his case he's got a tightly focused and benevolent dream, he works it every day, but the urgency just doesn't seem to be there- even with his New Orleans style passion- a man with a mission- he's content to work the dream every day, if it gets "better" good, if doesn't get "better" good too.
To me this aspect of the film showed me the thing I've never understood about New Orleans- why don't I like the place? I think it's not so much that I don't like it, as it is I don't understand it and have no patience to try. It's not like I'm all balls-to- the-wall myself, but in New Orleans I don't know how they ever got the grass to grow. Ever time I see a picture of New Orleans today (2-years after the storm) I want to scream- will somebody p l e a s e p i c k s o m e t h i n g u p - a piece of trash a branch, just an old piece of paper or a dead branch- if those old cars are going to sit-around for 2-years on your street- wash them or grow flowers in them or something.
That's the old me.
After Flood Street, which is a small and simple story well told, I want to know why someone (agency, government, philanthropist, New Orleans oil/crawfish/shrimp/sugar/timber/dope/restaurant mogul didn't pick-up an end of this man's work- he'd give more than your money's worth no matter what the size of the gift- he did it every day, dreaming big but not going beyond his own working mans' pocket- seemed that in New Orleans darkest hour someone or something, could step to the plate for a man who touched so many lives every day before they ran off track- and that means in many cases hitting the re-start button before they're 11 years old. Greg's story is pure, simple, told through the dreams and failings of the human kind, inept governments, voracious political waste applied in a place legendary for Me-First. And in this story, the ones who still want to believe in Harry's dream- the little spiders sprinting to the center, both prey and predator- this is a great story of love and New Orleans and a simple man who'll bend over and pick something up.
Fine job my friend.