Damn New York - Documentary by Arturo Prins

2016 – Interview World Premier Philippines Film Festival : Damn New York

2016 – Interview in the World Premier and Philippines Film Festival

– What first inspired you to make this cinematic open letter to New York? Was it a deliberate decision to begin filming when you first landed?
It all began at the end of my trip in NY in 2011. I had gone there to paint, but I wanted to sink my teeth into the city with a movie. John Cassavetes, the great independent artist-film director, constantly came to my head, his movies, his thoughts, while I was reading his biography. His wild way to create, no matter what is the price to pay just to get to the bottom of things. In this mood I started to shoot, to get to the soul of this damn city, and discover that is lost. The atmosphere was there, its darkness, and people’s tiredness. And I began accumulating hours of recording indifferent neighbourhoods of Manhattan and Brooklyn, asking people from other places why did they tolerate to live in such a lousy and wicked city. Finally this year, while staying alone in Mahahual, a small Mexican coastal town in the Mayan Riviera, I decided to finish the editing. My mood was very detached of those traumatic months I lived in NY, 5  long years ago, so I completed this very intimate and intense unlove letter to NY that I was constantly postponing.

– The city becomes its own character, your companion, as the documentary unfolds. As the director, did you have a moral  or message in mind that you particularly want your viewers to take away from your film?
Companion? or enemy? I would say that New York is a monster. People love it at first sight, unaware of what is on the reverse, its dark side. Damn New York Is a response-research from a distant observation, images and words dismantling the myth of New York as an ideal place to live and be successful. A counter- visual letter homage. Damn New York could be the portrait of a disappointment, a city myth that slowly devours its inhabitants and demands from them, dazzled by the lights, a devilish contract that absorbs all their energy. Watch out!

– The cinematography mixes together handheld and static shots, black and white colouring. Why did you decide to have mixed media or composition?
As a painter and photographer, I’m interested in still images that stop the timeline, and returns the viewer time to contemplate, look and think… and even imagine… The game of stopping a picture and suddenly jump into the motion-picture enriches the viewer’s mind. Dioramas or slideshows are somehow vintage which fascina tes me… they never grow old; it’s the magic of photography and painting, its timelessness. When we were children, my father accustomed us to slide shows on his travels around the world. So we were travelling through a slideshow with my father’s voice in the dark telling us his experiences. In this movie my voiceover accompanies the viewer…

– This was a very intimate autobiographical project. How has finishing “Damn, New York” affected you personally?
The decision to start editing this film took me 5 years, can you imagine? I didn’t want to remember the psychological wounds I suffered there… so kept postponing it. I no longer care about that city; it’s the epitome of lost humanity, a factory that freezes men’s hearts. It is madness… madness for money. Watching the whole movie leaves me with a very bitter taste and on the other hand I put NY in its place; banished the altar, and its demon was exorcised…. it is no longer a mermaid’s song… now I know the face of
the inhospitable monster, its snobbism and materialism. It might seem an exaggeration… I invite you to go and test it… to live it… and then you come and tell me. I hope it doesn´t freeze your heart.