The library experienced only once in 18 years an overflow crowd like the one that mobbed the showing of 51 Birch Street with an appearance by the film maker, Doug Bloch, said a librarian who was there the first Friday in January. One hundred and fifty people occupied the main meeting room and 60 more viewed the film from a second DVD shown on a television surrounded by chairs in the lobby outside the meeting room. Many others were turned away.
"I knew it would be a popular show," Director of Media Services Jonathan Gilroy said, because the film dwelt on the lives of longtime residents of Port Washington and the film maker grew up here. What added to the excitement was the appearance of the filmmaker himself who after the film stayed for over an hour answering questions. The event was sponsored by Friends of the Library.
Quite a number of audience members either knew him or his family or lived on Birch Street. When he asked how many people knew him about 25 people raised their hands. He said he received many emails from people with a Birch Street address, excited that their street was part of a documentary film. Sitting in the first row, Emmy Kane and her husband, who haved lived in Port Washington for 51 years, came because they had lived three years on Birch Street at the same time as Bloch's parents in the early 1950s. They didn't know them but "wanted to see the movie about the street I lived on," she said. Kane's two children, a son and daughter who also came, couldn't get into the meeting room because of the crowds. Her son traveled especially from Manhattan to see the film with his parents.
One woman in the audience said she had seen the film three times. She knew the Blochs personally and loved the movie. It got better each time she saw it. Two opposite opinions from people familiar with the Blochs emerged from the questions and discussion following the movie. One man said the portrait of Mike Bloch was one dimensional and not accurate. The man had played tennis with Mike Bloch several times a week and knew him for 25 years. The other opinion from a man who lived around the corner was that Doug Bloch "captured the character of his father completely" and did a fantastic job.
Doug Bloch said he felt tremendous satisfaction from his father's feelings of pride in what his son had produced. His father has nothing but praise for his son. Doug Bloch said he wished his mother was alive to see the film. His two sisters, Ellen and Karen and Doug started to talk for the first time during the interviews and afterwards about their experiences with and perceptions of their parents. He highly reccommends interviewing one's parents to reconnect and gain insights.
Doug Bloch explained that he first intended only to just film interviews with his parents as a way of "capturing them for posterity." He never intended the interviews to become a film. But after his mother died several events shocked him into looking at his parents' 54-year marriage as a film. His father in his 80s almost immediately became involved with a woman who used to work with him and then they married. Then when his father was emptying the house of all the years of accumulations so he could sell it and move to Florida, the family uncovered his mother's diaries which revealed disturbing secrets. Doug was further shocked when his father answered that he did not miss Doug's mother.
The movie became a search for answers about the nature of marriage. Doug interviewed his own wife, a young rabbi and a psychologist. He agonized about revealing the diaries but in the end decided he would be honoring his mother by being truthful.
Doug Bloch can see a possible genetic link to his documentary film career and his parents' activities. His father documented their lives with thousands of photographs. His mother documented her life with her diaries.