The low-budget, New York-in-the-’80s movie that proves that silence is not all that golden, Charles Lane’s magnetic feature debut is long overdue for rediscovery. With an overlap to a more recent attempt to update silent film for a modern movie audience, Lane plays The Artist, a Chaplin-esque street portraitist whose hapless efforts at fitting into the odd world of sidewalk performance are made all the more troublesome when he finds himself caring for an abandoned toddler, played by Lane’s adorable daughter Nicole Alaysia. The Artist’s efforts to find the girl’s mother are quickly and continually confounded by the many oddball characters he meets.
Shot and released in the same year as Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing, Sidewalk Stories is a similarly vivid encapsulation of the race and class divisions that inform life on New York City’s streets. Lane’s version centers on the homeless perspective, made all the more visceral for being shot in black-and-white and silent apart from Marc Marder’s wide-ranging score and a brief moment spent listening to panhandlers. The result is an ingenious, spellbinding effort by a black artist to give a voice to those who have none.
Length: 97 minutes
Premiere: Special Screening
Director: Charles Lane
Screenwriter: Charles Lane
Producer: Charles Lane
Editor: Anne Stein, Charles Lane
Cinematographer: Bill Dill
Executive Producer: Howard M. Brickner, Vicki Lebenbaum, Chris Blackwell
Composer: Marc Marder
Cast: Nicole Alysia, Sandye Wilson, Darnell Williams, Trula Hoosier, Michael Baskin, Charles Lane
CHARLES LANE was born in 1953 and grew up in the public housing projects of New York City's South Bronx. While attending SUNY Purchase, his short A Place in Time won him a Student Academy Award. He later earned a Rockefeller Foundation Grant, NAACP Award and multiple festival honors for Sidewalk Stories.