25 New Faces of Independent Film 2005
By Scott Macaulay
24 Marshall Curry
IN 1994 MARSHALL CURRY GOT A JOB AT A NEW MEDIA COMPANY. “We thought CD-ROMs were going to be the future,” he remembers of the gig that had him producing interactive docs for museums and corporate clients. “I got into it because I liked telling stories with pictures and words. But after a few years, he says, “I missed telling linear stories with characters you watch and care about.”
Looking for such a tale, Curry came across the 2002 Newark, N.J., mayoral campaign. “I had worked in Newark during college and had set up a literacy program there,” Curry explains. “My brother is a Democratic fundraiser, and through him I met [candidate] Cory Booker. He represented a dynamic playing out around the country — this new generation of African-American politicians born after the civil rights movement, people like Harold Ford and Barack Obama.”
Financing out of his own pocket, Curry bought a DV camera and two days later began lensing a doc which would follow Booker as he attempted to unseat incumbent Sharpe James, whom critics accused of being in bed with corporate interests. “I started shooting,” he says, “and then this whole ‘underbelly of democracy thing’ kicked in.” The riveting drama contained in Curry’s film, Streetfight, comes not just from Sharpe’s outrageous attacks on Booker — at one point he claims (incorrectly) that Booker is actually white — but from his attacks on Curry himself. The filmmaker is harassed and thrown out of public events, and his real indignation gives the film a personal jolt. “I am somebody who resents people who abuse their authority, whether they are mayor of a city or my principal in junior high school,” he says.
Streetfight, which appears on POV this summer, has been hailed as the best American political doc since The War Room and has won Audience Awards at Tribeca, Silver Docs and Hot Docs. But despite the success, Curry is now starting another doc on his own dime, the story of a family that adopted six kids, all of different races. — S.M.
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