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Comments and Feedback
Thanks so much for sending me your wonderful, strange and beautiful
video. I enjoyed it a lot. I think your style of video making
(informal, personal, open, respectful) and the subject matter worked
really, really well together.
And although it’s about this small, almost forgotten place, the video
slowly builds into something much larger (can I say universal?)
without losing sight of where you were and staying true to Blissville.
For me, your video was both a history lesson (but a very personal and
unique one, which for me is what brought the history of the place
alive) and a lesson in how to see. Starting out with something that
seems to be unremarkable and inaccessible, you slowly open the place
up to reveal something extraordinary and complex. But it was also the
slow accumulation of images and looks that went unexplained or the
words that were left unspoken that added to your video’s powerful
effect (a power softened by your humor and deftness). I especially
liked the way you introduced and handled the political undertones with
such a light touch (there’s not an ounce of heavy-handedness) making
them resonate more fully.
Thanks again for sharing your video. It was definitely worth the
wait. I even imagine that it’s a better video because of the history
of its own making.
I predict great things for Blissville – an Investigation.
Artist, Professional Therapist and Local Activist Williamsburg
I think it’s really a beautifully crafted piece. The music is great,
the people were little treasures to see, and the photograph, editing,
and archival footage gave it real richness and momentum. I wouldn’t
have thought that a few blocks of working-class Brooklyn could have
captured my attention of so long but you’ve really done it. If I saw
this, say on PBS, I’d think I’d say to myself that this is the quality
of work that makes public tv so terrific. Really, really nice
Brilliant, seriously brilliant…
Not only a very important document from the historical and social
point of view, but fundamentally a profound and keen eye of the people
that lived there and still live there today.
Very moving Hank to listening all those stories ( old but also new),
like the guy of the G andG restaurant and …Garden!
I liked a lot the photography !!, beautiful frames, so colorful and
well balanced, and of course the dialogues, so witty, fresh and
You also hit me personally with a tone bricks..I had a few pints in
the Cork Lounge, got bread from the Afghani bakery, eat sandwiches
from the deli own by the afghan guy and of course spend six years of
my life working in Skyline ( the car company).
You are a good observer man, not only behind a camera, but also of the
soul of those in front of it.
I will never forget those short 6 years, the marked me in way, and
you after more that 20 years strike the nail in the head so well.
Artist, Photographer, Argentinian/Irish farmer
It’s chock full of really interesting cinematic (and real) contrasts
and images. Love the music. It’s respectful and loving and full of
affection for this complicated place and people, who are old and dying
and real life Archie Bunker-y bigots — authentic, that’s to say —
and many young(er), and hopeful people, many of whom are of course
radical transplants. It’s a pentimento and palimpsest. So many great
quotes. Watched it with a smile on my face.
It puts me in mind of that great thought experiment from Aristotle:
when you replace one plank of a ship (of Theseus) is it still the same
ship? Of course! How about two… How many and of what sort can go
before it is no longer the same thing? What are the constitutive
things of the neighborhood that is Blissville that keeps it alive
across these radical changes (if anything)?
Really enjoyed it Hope you get it out into the world well!
Professor Of Philosophy
I just wanted to say again how much I enjoyed your film last night on
Blissville. I know our audience enjoyed it. Some of the comments
that were shared with me or overheard were it was so much more than
what was anticipated, very impressive the way you were able to get
such wonderful comments from people and that they would look forward
to another project from you. I share these comments as well.
I know your future screenings will be as well received as last night.
Greater Astoria Historical Society
Long Island City, NY 11103
I would thank you once again for coming to Manor Hills and sharing
your documentary with my residents. They truly enjoyed it. The part of
documentary that talked about the world fair really brought back
memories for a few of them. I know that they liked hearing about the
story of Blissville along with the history of a place they have never
been. For most of my residents their days of travailing are over so
it’s nice that they still get to learn about new places from someone
who experienced it first hand. I can tell you that I enjoyed seeing
how people actually live city settings and not from movies. I’m a
country girl at heart and never see myself living city but I felt like
I was the same as some of the people who lived in Blissville. Where
most of the residents in my town and facility were born and raised
around here and the same with the residents of Blissville. It’s nice
to notice that no matter if you are born in a city or country most
people are just like each other in the most fundamental of ways.
As for having you back to show us your other documentary we would love
that!! Just pick a date in October thru the week (just not Wednesdays)
and we will schedule it. I will need to know the date by 9/22/17
because I have to put out my monthly schedule by then. Thank you once
again for coming to out facility and we look forward to seeing what
you have for us to learn in the future.
Manor Hills Senior Home Wellsville
Thomas Dunn and Dolores Fleming (it was my senior trip )
Yes, that was me at the Blissville screening. I thought your work
showed the eye of a still photographer who loves abstract/geometric
forms, and sees color, and it made for some very good shots
interspersed with the interviews. The choice of music was very good
too. It was a video I will gladly recommend to others in the area.
Please let me know when you schedule your next round of showings.
If you go to sunnysidestories.website, you’ll see my three articles,
including the historic one. I learned about Blissville for the first
time when researching Sunnyside, and realize that it developed
earlier, because it was situated on Newtown Creek. It is a website
dedicated to those who grew up there in the 40’s and 50’s. Some of the
stories are very touching. You might enjoy it when you have a free
Good luck with the Blissville investigation going forward.
It was a pleasure seeing you and I really enjoyed the film as well as
the atmosphere of the screening itself. Had a great NY community vibe.
Someone just brought up blissville to the mayor on Brian Lehrer show
today, in reference to the hotels and homeless housing being built
there. But she had to describe to him exactly where the neighborhood
was, as blissville still seems to be a vortex.
Last week, your Newtown Pentacle focused in on the Blissville section
of LIC, but I’m hardly the only person to have fallen in love with the
people and place. A fellow named a Hank Linhart has been bitten by the
Blissville bug too, and produced a fantastic short film documentary
about the place. I met Hank at a screening he did for the movie at the
Greater Astoria Historic Society last autumn, and promised him that
I’d find a spot to showcase it along the Creek.
So, what are you doing this Thursday on the 22nd of March? Want to
come see a movie for free?
Film Screening: Blissville Stories
Thursday, March 22nd, 2018, 7:30pm – 520 Kingsland Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11222
Please join NCA as we host a screening of “Blissville…An
Investigation,” a documentary film about the Queens neighborhood
bounded by the Newtown Creek, the Long Island Expressway, and Calvary
Cemetery. We will be joined by filmmaker Hank Linhart. More info about
the Blissville Stories can be found here.
You told the story of Blissville through beautiful and personal
vignettes — veritable slices of life and time which serve as a record
for the residents, animals, and objects that are no longer with us. I
feel compelled to visit and see Blissville for myself even though in
many ways I feel like I’ve already been there through your eyes and
Thank you for providing that brief respite from fast paced movement of
the city around us. A reminder to live fully everyday.
Did you ever wonder where fortune cookies came from? You may be
interested to find out that those crispy little nuggets you break open
were probably made in Blissville, a remote corner of Queens, which
happens to have the world’s largest fortune cookie factory.
This mysterious place — nestled in the shadows of midtown Manhattan —
is also home to a company called Colbar, known for making replicas of
the Statue of Liberty.
A dynamic working-class neighborhood, Blissville is located off the
beaten path along Newtown Creek, south of the Long Island Expressway
and west of Calvary Cemetery. Think of it as a triangle cut off by
physical barriers from Queens and the rest of the city.
Only a few hundred multi-ethnic residents live in this close-knit
global community —ranging from Polish, Irish, and German, to
Pakistani, Indian, and Bangladeshi, to Central and South Americans, to
a small population of African Americans.
And you’ll only find 80 or so houses there — with no white picket
fences — according to Brooklyn-based filmmaker and media artist Hank
Linhart, who stumbled across the enigmatic neighborhood about 30 years
ago, during his travels. So intrigued was he by its quirkiness and the
resilient attitudes of the locals who live and work there, Linhart
felt compelled to create what he calls a “docu-poem,” in the form of a
59-minute film, as a tribute to that little town that could.
“Blissville: An Investigat¬ion” includes footage shot in the late
1980’s when Linhart — who formerly taught video at NYU, SVA, and Pratt
Institute — was living in Williamsburg, along with new material filmed
since he continued his project in 2012. He took a long break to raise
his daughter; make a 100th year commemoration video about the 1904
burning and sinking of the General Slocum in NYC harbor (which until
9/11 was New York’s largest disaster); and became a college
The video premiered at the New-York Historical Society and was aired
on several PBS stations.
You can view “Blissville” at four libraries across Queens, from April
5 through April 26. Ridgewood Library, located at 20-12 Madison St.,
is hosting a screening April 5, while Maspeth Library, located at
69-70 Grand Ave., will show the film April 9. You can also catch the
film April 19 at the Sunnyside Library, located at 43-06 Greenpoint
Ave., or April 26 at the Woodside Library, located at 54-22 Skillman
All screenings will begin at 6 p.m. and are free to attend.
The video was also screened at a variety of locations state-wide,
including at the Queens Historical Society, thanks to a grant from New
York State Council on the Arts.
Perhaps the most interesting part of the film are the filmmaker’s
interviews with people on the street. Other highlights include footage
centered around the town’s industries, and viewers also learn about
its strange history. Turns out a nearby Romani village — once known as
the “Gypsy Ellis Island” — that thrived in the 1930’s, had once been
the largest gathering place for Romani in the country. Linhart
discovered a church where “gypsies” got married, and noted that the
village was razed to make way for a highway to the 1939 World’s Fair.
Additionally, Blissville once boasted an Afghan bakery, a sushi
factory, and a facility that crushed cars.
“The Blissville story is important because it is the story of
community,” said Linhart. “In this day of gentrification and
neighborhoods being destroyed for high rise construction, it is
emblematic of New York.”
While recounting the odd circumstances behind the inspiration for his
film, he recalled a surreal experience he had while visiting Calvary
“I saw a woman eating fruit from a tree. Having worked for various
fruit farms upstate — I used to make a living pruning grapevines and
then apple trees — I was curious what she was eating,” Linhart said.
“I tried to talk with her, but she ran away. Then later, I noticed an
old photograph in the deli that said ‘Blissville Market.’ I began
asking people where the name ‘Blissville’ came from.”
The nabe is named after Neziah Bliss, a Brooklyn businessman who
helped develop North Brooklyn, according to the Greater Astoria
Historical Society. Linhart pointed out that the name is, of course,
quite remarkable, “and conjures or invokes one’s personal images of a
Blissville, which the actual town aligns with, or is in contrast to.”
Apparently, the latter may prove to be true. Many Blissville residents
are up in arms because the city will open a third homeless shelter in
the area, this time at the Fairfield Inn by Marriott. It’s clear that
this tiny pocket of Queens is overwhelmed and feels it is being asked
to carry a burden beyond its fair share. Concerned neighbors met at
St. Rafael’s Church on March 15 to rail against The Department of
Despite the issues they’ve had to deal with, the future seems bright
for Blissville’s community of close-knit neighbors, as they go about
their daily lives — still removed from the rest of Queens, but now
recognized as a unique part of the borough thanks to Linhart’s film,
which sheds light on this quirky yet dynamic neighborhood.
Posted 12:00 am, March 31, 2018
©2018 Community News Group
Thank you Hank. It was an honor for us to be your host. Your docu-poem
Library Information Supervisor, Leonard Library
Brooklyn Public Library
We watched Blissville last night and really enjoyed it!
It’s at once such an ordinary place and an extraordinary place.
There’s such unseen complexity to life — all lives, I suppose — and
communities, esp. with such a wide-ranging mix of ethnic
representation. And the degree to which residents believe they know
(or don’t know) why it’s called Blissville is quite interesting. We
have a neighborhood here called Cabbagetown that feels similar in its
degree of pride and scorn, fascinating history of industry, and random
assortment of other beings/activities.
My favorite images:
• The old film footage of the woman walking down the alley in her swim suit
• The man asleep with a chicken on his belly
• Outside the G&G Diner – what a place!
We talked about how we’d like to come up to Brooklyn sometime and go
check it out ourselves (with you). I have no idea when that could
happen, but I know we’d enjoy it.
Thank you so much for sharing it.
Educator, Atlanta, GA
I just watched the movie. was so excited. It was like going back in
time into a place i hold dear but couldn’t conjure….surreal. Connie
and Jean, in front of my old apt. and some of the faces i saw everyday
but had forgotten….wow.
Only in the last few years did i discover (with Googles help) that
Blissville was a man. But i never knew about the Gypsies which was
The funny thing is, my children who grew up there (Emily actully runs
through one of the shots in the begining) are 1/2 Romanian, They had
a house on the block you open on, with Connie.
I loved it so much.
thank you thank you.
Former resident of Blissville
I just saw Blissville and was so touched by it. First because you
made me love the neighborhood itself, and all the characters involved,
and also because it was a little bit of revisiting
who you are, your openness to people very different from yourself,
your lively curiosity, the musical choices you made, your visual
depiction of scenes that I can’t imagine rendering visually so
well….it was delightful!
I have so many things I want to ask you about. Let me just make a
short set of questions tonight so I don’t tire you.
How did you manage to establish all the connections to the people you
interviewed? Did you wander in with a camera, or cultivate them for a
while before filming? Not a one looked nervous, as if you had known
them a while,
and they were so spontaneous.
Did you have to explain your project to anyone, or were they just
willing to talk because they knew the name Blissville–or had never
heard of it?
Did you keep up with the many people you interviewed in the
intervening years between the first encounters and 2015? Or was it
really a surprise to most of them that you came back?
I loved the blend of history and the talk with current residents. The
Roma camp part was haunting. It interesting how, as in Marseille,
the “barbarians” are simply moved aside when it pleases the
I also thought it was nice that, at least in retrospect, the older
non-Roma in the neighborhood, those who remembered the shacks seemed
to demonstrate a little respect when recalling the Roma neighbors.
And the interview with the Roma woman was fantastic! What does she do
today in NY? Maybe she is retired by now. Did you learn where her
family moved–to Brooklyn with other families? And what did she do for
She seemed to have left behind her Romanian past. (BTW, I never knew
you went to Roumania! Must hear more.)
I liked the pile of shredded cars that looked, to me anyway, quite
like the image of the tree that followed!
Do you think it is true what one woman said, that homes can no longer
be built in the area, that it is destined to be entirely industrial
(…except for the homeless shelters)?
Finally, what made Blissville your Blissville? As an object of
affection, Marseille is a more obvious choice–sunny, friendly….
What brought you to love this place and these people so much that you
had to finish the project?
I still haven’t heard to radio discussion about Queens being the
future of America. If only it all were. American shave so much to
It was so funny to watch your video under a caption that said “You own
this title.” You made it; I own it. That’s OK. You can own my report
if you wish and send it to whomever you think would be interested. KI
don’t think I’ll manage to get it published until my retirement–it
would mean so very much work.
Thanks again for one wonderful evening’s entertainment. Since I “own
the title,” I’ll show it to my friends next.
Professor, U Mass 9/18/18
The video, “Blissville …An Investigation”, is about a remote corner of
Queens, NY within the shadows of midtown Manhattan and yet isolated
from the rest of the city.
Embracing low budget Hi 8 video to conduct informal street interviews
and investigate the origin of the name of Blissville, and the
character(s) of the town, the video takes the experimental form of a
docu/poem. Not in the traditional sense with words but as a lyrical
The video is not so much a mourning of things past, nor a nostalgia,
although both these elements are present. It is more about the quest
for, and resilience of community.
Posted in Curated Program: Community / Immigration, Documentary, Films
2018, Thursday Program
Greenpoint Film Festival
It was a pleasure to welcome you to Roosevelt Island last evening. I
am happy to say that
Your presentation of “BLISSVILLE” attracted a large audience of over
45 persons to our
NYPL branch. Many in the audience were attracted from Western Queens
to see the video.
The comments afterward were very positive and I enjoyed the video as
much the second time I saw as the first time last summer.
We are so happy that the NYS Council on the Arts supported this production.
The Roosevelt Island Historical Society
November 10, 2017