Several years ago, Doug Block, born and raised in Port Washington, had returned to his home on 51 Birch Street to film his parents. What started for this documentary film maker as a way to connect with his parents, morphed into a portrait of his parents' complex and difficult marriage along with his efforts to come to terms with the unfolding truth.
In The New York Times review of the film, which opened in New York on Oct. 18 at Cinema Village in Manhattan, A.O. Scott wrote, ". . . what makes 51 Birch Street so gripping is its particularity. Everyone in it seems so familiar that by the end you can't quite believe that you have known them for less than 90 minutes. Mr. Block has put his parents' life, and his own, into this film with such warmth and candor that it may take more than one viewing to recognize it as a work of art."
The film has been extended indefinitely at the 22 East 12th Street location. It will also have a one-week run at the Cinema Arts Center in Huntington beginning Friday, Nov. 17, and is being shown in several other cities all over the country. During the week of Oct. 26 through Nov. 2 the film ran at the Roslyn Clearview Cinema. On a Monday night during that week 20 people sat in the theater. Most of them could have been Doug Block's parents' age. In fact, someone in the audience said, "That's us at the party in the backyard."
Block's parents were born in the 1920s, and their children became the baby boomer generation. Some baby boomers will be able to connect to the similarities with his parents' suburban life style. The mother stayed home and felt the need for stimulation other than housekeeping and bringing up the children. The father worked long hours and came home tired. Block's mother left a record of her unhappiness in many diaries that her son read after her death in 2002.
In trying to understand his parents, Block also interviewed a rabbi and psychologist as well as his two sisters and his father and his new wife. His mother's good friend also tried to describe his mother and her frustrations. Block interviewed his wife to try to understand how marriages work from the woman's point of view.
For Port Washington residents there's the fun of trying to recognize the streets and landmarks, but the film can be appreciated and enjoyed by any audience. For two websites with more information go to www.51BirchStreet.com or www.DougBlock.com