Author, filmmaker and twenty-year plus Fort Greene resident Nelson George walks around the area and through the life of his friends and colleagues, celebrating the creativity, hard partying and love stories of true a true black bohemia. “Brooklyn Boheme” was a street slang term people used, sometimes affectionately and sometimes not, to describe the folks who lived the area. Unlike the legendary Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s, which was largely a literary scene, the artists collected in these neighborhoods were as involved with newer means of expression (film, rock music, hip hop, avante garde theater, stand up comedy, photography) as with traditional African-American artistic pursuits (poetry, jazz.)
While there has been a lot of nostalgia, in documentaries and gallery exhibits, for the gritty downtown Manhattan of the ’80s, across the Manhattan Bridge in Brooklyn a college educated, ambitious group of neighbors overcame crack heads and crime to make the area a hip destination. George, in collaboration with documentary and commercial director Diane Paragas, explores why several generations of African-Americans settled in Fort Greene/Clinton Hill and how its been transformed in the last decade by gentrification.
Some of the most influential figures in black pop culture of this era called Fort Greene home at one point or another in the 1980s and ’90s, from Spike Lee to novelist Terry McMillian, from jazzmen Wynton & Branford Marsalis to hip hop icon Notorious BIG to neo-soul goddess Erykah Badu, and their work was very effected by the people they met and the strong sense of community they shared.
“Why did Fort Greene/Clinton Hill become such a talent magnet? What powerful art was made in its homes and apartments? Why did the era end?” These are the questions ‘Brooklyn Boheme’ will answer.
For George this is a very personal project. He moved into Fort Greene in 1985 and has been a participant in and catalyst for much of the community’s creativity, from investing in Spike Lee’s ‘She’s Gotta Have It’ to suggesting to Chris Rock he move into the area. George shot much of his 2007 feature length directorial debut, ‘Life Support’ for HBO, in the neighborhood.