ATLFF Review: Standing By: THE WITNESS Confronts the Controversial Circumstances of Kitty Genovese’s Murder

Posted on: Apr 7th, 2016 By:
KItty Genovese.

KItty Genovese.

THE WITNESS (2016); DIR. James D. Solomon; Documentary; Atlanta Film Festival; Website here. ATLRetro’s Festival Guide here.

By Andrew Kemp
Contributing Writer

If you saw a person in need of emergency help, what would you do? Most of us would probably say we’d call 911, but would we really? Those trained in first aid know that the best strategy in an emergency is not to scream for somebody to call for an ambulance, but to choose a specific person and tell them to make the call. Otherwise, maybe nobody calls at all.

You may or may not know the name Kitty Genovese, but you’re certainly familiar with the cultural impact caused by her 1964 death in New York City. Genovese, a 28-year-old bar manager, was murdered on the street, half a block from her home, randomly chosen by a man in the midst of a crime spree. Two weeks after her murder, the New York Times published an article detailing the unsettling circumstances of her death. It’s quite possible that Genovese’s life could have been saved, the story goes, if only the 38 witnesses who watched the attack had bothered to call the police. Although her screams ripped through the neighborhood, although she begged for aid, no help came because no help was called. The tragedy became an example of the ways that New York City—and perhaps even America itself—had lost touch with its values of community and compassion. How could Kitty Genovese bleed to death while her neighbors watched? How could so many witnesses produce no action? The case was a major impetus in the creation and marketing of 911 as a national emergency number, and became a centerpiece of a sociological theory of the “bystander effect,” in which the larger the group of people, the less likely any individual is to act in an emergency, due in part to the belief that surely somebody else will be the one.

The story is so well known, in fact, that one might be forgiven for wondering what, exactly, remains to be explored. THE WITNESS, a new documentary that screened Wednesday at the Atlanta Film Festival, spends its first section failing to make this case for itself. The film introduces Bill Genovese (younger brother to Kitty, and an executive producer on the film) who, after struggling with five decades of emotional trauma, finally decides to track down the 38 witnesses and ask them why they let his sister die. There’s a hint of redundancy around his quest. The news show 20/20 tried the same in the 1970s with poor results, and many of the witnesses, elderly even at the time, have long since passed. If this was all the film had up its sleeve, there would seem to be little reason for it to exist at all. But, as it turns out, THE WITNESS has many, many cards to play.

Bill Genovese

Bill Genovese in THE WITNESS. Used with permission.

Very soon after Bill Genovese begins his quixotic quest, inconsistencies appear. With the sight lines from the apartment building, it wouldn’t be possible for all 38 people to watch Kitty die. Some would have only heard her scream and seen nothing. Only five witnesses were called at trial, so who are the other 33? And what of the woman who raced to Kitty’s side and held her as she died? Why was she absent from the official news story? As the discrepancies pile up, Bill Genovese begins to question the canon, which is no small transition. Genovese, you see, enlisted in Vietnam in the years following his sister’s death, and suffered catastrophic injury, primarily because he refused to be like those people who ignored Kitty, the “silent witnesses” who let tragedy unfold without acting. Was it possible that his choice, and the trajectory of his life, had been based on a lie?

THE WITNESS is an engrossing exploration of the repercussions of trauma. Bill Genovese suffered not only the loss of his sister, but of his own future, and he’s not the only one. Through the careful reveal of information, the film probes how the official story shook the Genovese family, the supposed witnesses, and even the family the murderer, Winston Moseley (who coincidentally died this week in prison, putting the case back into the news), left behind on his way into prison. An astonishing meeting late in the film reveals the fear that the Moseleys have lived with for five decades and reminds us that murders often have more victims than we expect.

10294346_10153376281298424_3819900343571644880_nThe center of the film, however, remains Bill Genovese, who narrates and drives the action as he pieces together the truth, which is not so simple a thing as the ‘facts.’ He doesn’t only want to know what happened, but why, and even how. Confined to a wheelchair due to his war injuries, Genovese is a nonetheless imposing figure as he confronts reporters, lawyers, and even the aging witnesses in an attempt to set the record straight in his mind. (He has a journalist’s tenacity, often asking witnesses if they ever spoke to the police, and then regardless of their answer, revealing that he has their police statement right in front of him.) He is the witness of the film’s title, not present at the event itself, but willing to stand for his sister, to shine light on her vibrant and rich existence (and, in a particularly moving section of the film, her secrets) to reclaim her from the cold register of history and return her, in some way, to life.

If there is a complaint to be found, it’s in the final minutes, in which the filmmakers execute a macabre event that fails to do much more than provide a punchy ending for their film. But this is ultimately a minor complaint in what remains a compelling and complex exploration of the ramifications of “facts.” The Genovese family cannot bring Kitty back, but perhaps it is enough to remind the world that we are not so alone as we thought.

THE WITNESS opens in theaters in New York later this year before rolling out to additional cities. Further information can be found at http://www.thewitness-film.com/ and the filmmakers’ twitter account is @thewitnessfilm.

Andrew Kemp is a screenwriter and game designer who started talking about movies in 1984 and got stuck that way. He can be seen around town wherever there are movies, cheap beer and little else.

Category: Retro Review | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Tis The Season To Be Enchanted: Atlanta Ballet’s NUTCRACKER Still Magical in its 56th Year

Posted on: Dec 20th, 2015 By:
Claire Stallman and Jonah Hooper. Photo by C. McCullers. Courtesy of Atlanta Ballet.

Claire Stallman and Jonah Hooper. Photo by C. McCullers. Courtesy of Atlanta Ballet.

THE NUTCRACKER by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky; Atlanta Ballet. Fox Theatre, Dec. 11-27, Tickets here.

By Claudia Dafrico
Contributing Writer

One of the sad truths of 2015 is the fact that it has become more and more difficult to find Atlanta traditions that have been around for longer than 20 or so years. For a city with so many beloved institutions, a good number of them have shut their doors or faded into obscurity in recent years. This is certainly not the case for the Atlanta Ballet’s annual production of THE NUTCRACKER, which is entering its 56th year of performances. One may be likely to think that the many years behind this Christmas mainstay would lead it to be stale and outdated, but the opposite could not be more true. The Atlanta Ballet’s NUTCRACKER is just as fresh and exciting as it was 56 years ago, and is a performance that should not be missed by anyone who considers themselves a true Atlantan.

Photo by C. McCullers. Courtesy of Atlanta Ballet.

Photo by C. McCullers. Courtesy of Atlanta Ballet.

Opening night was nothing short of packed, with attendees ranging from toddlers to grandparents out in their finest Christmas garb. Simply sitting in the audience prior to showtime was an experience in and of itself: the painted backdrop hanging onstage is breathtaking in its intricacy, and the warm, intricate design of the Fox only adds to the serene atmosphere. The audience, buzzing with anticipation, began to cheer and whisper as Drosselmeyer took the stage.

Russian composer Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s original score is brought to life with help from the Atlanta Ballet orchestra, and the story of a young girl and her enchanted nutcracker doll is given a slight update to help the familiar tale remain fresh and engaging. Artistic director John McFall made the choice to age up the protagonist from a pre-teen girl to a young woman, and she subsequently plays a more active role in the action surrounding her. (Many readers will recall how her defeat of the Rat King usually involves her throwing a slipper at his head. In 2015, she

Photo by C. McCullers. Courtesy of Atlanta Ballet.

Photo by C. McCullers. Courtesy of Atlanta Ballet.

wields a sword instead). The setting of this production, which is typically a generic European Christmas of centuries past, is now set firmly in 1850s Russia, and the beautiful, elaborate costumes of the party guests in the first act show how much time and research the set designers and costumers took in bringing McFall’s vision to life. As the story progresses, the stage is transformed into a Winter Wonderland, complete with snow for the audience, and only becomes more charming from that point on.

The performances of the dancers itself are so breathtaking that it is almost hard to put into words. Each performer, no matter how large or small the role, gives it their all, and there was not a weak link to be seen. Old favorites, such as the Trepak dancers and the Mother Matrushka, make appearances, much to the audience’s delight. The dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy, as performed by Rachel Van Buskirk and Christian Clark, might just be the greatest ballet performance this writer has ever witnessed in her life. Buying tickets for THE NUTCRACKER is worth it just to see this number alone. It is seriously that good.

Photo by C. McCullers. Courtesy of Atlanta Ballet.

Photo by C. McCullers. Courtesy of Atlanta Ballet.

An astounding cast, intricately beautiful sets and costumes, and a unique take on a classic tale all come together perfectly in Atlanta Ballet’s 2015 production of THE NUTCRACKER. If you’re looking to experience both a piece of Atlanta history and a ballet production unlike any other, be sure to get your tickets to THE NUTCRACKER sooner than later.

Category: Tis the Season To Be... | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Shaken And Stirred Up: Petite Auberge Infuses Olive Oils and Vinegars to Flavor a Creative New Menu and Take Home, Too

Posted on: Jul 19th, 2013 By:

Photo credit: Jaimes Lee.

By Rachel Marshall
Contributing Writer

“We also like the addition of vinegar to our classic martinis.”

Jaimes and I exchanged a look. Much like oil and vinegar, our solutions of total fascination and doubt just did not seem to mix. They just bumped into each other, making a separation that could only be eased by actually experiencing just what a vinegar cocktail could be. Surely, we had heard Michael, our host at Petite Auberge’s  oil and vinegar bar, wrong. Had he really suggested mixing alcohol and vinegar? You may remember Jaimes from the Moe’s BBQ article, and our adventure with the Adios, Motherfucker!. Although three kinds of liquor and Powerade can prepare a girl for practically anything, the concoction could not have prepared us for the main ingredient in a vinaigrette to suddenly merge with alcohol, like Tetsuo on a bender, but with more alcoholism and less orbital lasers.  In any case, the dynamic duo from your last ATLRetro article received more than they bargained for in the best possible way at the long-standing French restaurant, Petite Auberge.

So, if you’ve been kicking around ATL since the mid-70s, you’ve heard and most likely dined at the Petite Auberge. Michael, our host, has more than amply accepted and risen above the challenge of keeping the PA relevant, fun, and with no sacrifice to its already firmly placed integrity. The newest addition to the restaurant’s entourage of gastronomy holds a nondescript, humble portion of the restaurant to itself. A guest entering Petite Auberge could miss the set-up at a glance, but a longer look – even if just for a moment! – would rampantly breed curiosity. What are those metal containers doing lined up like that? What’s in them? Michael was more than happy to show off the answer.

Photo credit: Jaimes Lee.

Infused olive oils and vinegars await the adventurous gourmand, fledgling and pro a-like. Infusion is a delicate process, but Michael is working with the right kind of mad scientists from Cibaria International and Olive n’ Grape to bring his guests a completely unique experience. When it comes to his collection of olive oil and vinegar, Michael is one proud poppa. He took us on a tour of your basic olive oils to start, the canisters of which will greet you in the main lobby of the PA when you arrive.  What was remarkable was the grassy start on most of the olive oils that progressed to a smoky after-bite the further removed you became from extra virgin olive oil. I always liked the floral nature of olive oil, but trying the good stuff from Michael’s aforementioned heavy-hitters not only woke up my palatte, but redefined any and all olive oil standards. He treated us to a fantastic collage of snacks that showed off just what these oils and vinegars could do in the right hands.

In this case? We were put in Chef Tom’s care. He was catching his second wind from preparing a catering order, and took the time to serve us a couple light, but flavorful meals, such as a pecan-praline balsamic vinaigrette that took a pecan-crusted trout above and beyond its simple plating. The lightness of a medium cooked salmon filet was elevated by a drizzling of lemon white balsamic. Personal favorite?  You know, the one that tested Jaimes’s friendship and mine with its ultimate rivalry-inspiring awesomeness? Yeah, that was a frozen crepe served with raspberry coulis in a chocolate sauce boasting a blood orange olive oil as its main components. As good as the crepe was, Jaimes and I kept going back for sauce, and started to fantasize about mousses and chocolate terrines.

Photo credit: Jaimes Lee.

We enjoyed all of these simple, but wonderful dishes with a couple glasses of Michael’s recommended Riesling. We were discussing the industry, Michael’s German roots, and the rampancy of foodies as we enjoyed some crusty bread and herby Tunesian olive oil when the whole “vinegar in the martinis” thing came up. Michael suggested a chocolate martini, probably my least favorite drink in the history of drinks that were ever drinks. They’re always too sweet, too heavy, separate and unbalanced, just a hunk of sugar with some vodka thrust unapologetically and carelessly into the mix. Why would anyone treat vodka that way in the first place? Now that you understand where I’m coming from, let’s get to the cool part – I loved the chocolate martini. The usual ounce or so of chocolate was replaced with a teaspoon of dark chocolate balsamic.

Aside from our bartender’s natural and talented knack for making a damn good drink, the balsamic definitely lightened the mix, and eliminated any burn the vodka attempted to leave behind.  When it comes to my spirits, I pretty much like anything served neat with beer, and occasionally I’ll dabble with a White Russian if I trust the bartender. The sweet-treats and “girly drinks” are just always too cloying, heavy and stomach-ache-inducing from careless, unbridled sugar. That being said, I was in love with each peach white balsamic martini and/or Bellini set in front of me. Each drink was buoyant and delicate on the tongue, sparing my tummy.  Really, think about it. The substitution of syrup or sauces for vinegar – in terms of booze – is not so mysterious. Vinegar, much like distilled liquor or barreled beer, is fermented. The ethanol both vinegar and booze share wind up dancing together in a glass, a matrimony of basic, tasty chemistry awesome enough to make Antoine Lavoisier go weak in the bloomers.

Photo credit: Jaimes Lee.

So, in an age where everyone is checking out the next wine, beer or liquor tasting, I would suggest stopping by Petite Auberge’s olive oil n’ vinegar bar for a change of pace, and a delicious meal that flirts with infusions too numerous to be enjoyed during just one visit.  Being a lover of all things chewable, slurpable and mmmm-able means  sometimes  going outside of what’s cool, trending,  tried-and-true,  and instead venturing into a new, often times unpredictable territory that supersedes any and all expectations.  You would be surprised what amazing components can mesh together so well, just like oil and vinegar.

Category: Wednesday Happy Hour & Supper Club | Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Deoch. Ceol. Bia. Rince. Finding Simple Retro Pleasures at Rí Rá Irish Pub Just in Time for St. Patrick’s Day

Posted on: Feb 27th, 2013 By:

By Rachel Marshall
Contributing Writer

Deoch. Ceol. Bia. Rince.

Just as you’re leaving the main bar of Midtown’s Rí Rá location, glance over your shoulder on the way to the Harbour Bar and you’ll see these words. They mean: Drink. Music. Food. Dance. Consider some of the other chain restaurants you have been to or fast food gambles you have made – telling you there’s nothing like the neighborhood, or implying you have nothing better to do, so you “gotta eat.”  So, when you work for a site that specializes in the Retro, the nostalgic, and the wonderfully weird… what is one to do with a restaurant that has a dozen locations across the U.S.?

The simple answer to the question is:  “Deoch. Ceol. Bia. Rince.”

Rí Rá’s layout is heavy with homeland and family nostalgia. The founders were passionate about capturing a “proper Irish pub” experience. There are some obvious decisions in the decorations, but then there is something subtle that begins to take over: the warm wooden architecture, the open space and the fact there are large “group tables” scattered throughout the restaurant, actively encouraging patrons to celebrate with friends. Two and four tops throughout the restaurant also cater to those looking for something more intimate or relevant to a date night, but the best experience you can have at Ri Ra comes from sitting down to a large table, surrounded by happy faces that become rosier and louder with each course and each drink.

Friendly bartenders Adam and Eoghan at RiRa.

Crammed into the Harbour Bar with other lovers of food and drink, I entered expecting to hear the lilting Irish “stock” music that often pops up at self-proclaimed “Irish pubs.” Instead? Dropkick Murphies. Flogging Molly. The list just kept going, and before I knew it, the grinding voice of Dave King had enabled me to tuck into yet another Smithwicks. The room was buzzing with photographers and writers and travelers, all of them discussing their own journeys –  if they are going to the upcoming beer festival, if they managed to check out that restaurant they suggested at the last gathering. These are marathon eaters and comprise a total thiasus to all things Bacchus. We sat down ready to dine, ready to drink, ready for the music and the dance of a four-course meal.

Pear and goat-cheese salad at RiRa

Getting into the full array of the tasting menu would push the boundaries of the review. You are a busy reader with things to do, after all! But Chef Kelly Sollinger played an incredible balancing act with his meals. Each dish was playful and a special, worthy introduction to Irish eatery. He respects the qualities of an ingredient that make it subtle or overwhelming. For example, cheddar, an ingredient I believe some chefs play very fast and loose with, became a subtle binder for a boxty cake, decorated with sautéed arugula and balsamic vinaigrette. Earthy rosemary cut the rich density of a ground lamb slider, which also boasted pickled red onion taming the sharpness of a goat cheese spread. Not only are his dishes in perfect synch with their ingredients, but they pair very well with the Harpers, Guinness and Smithwicks on tap – especially the pear and blue cheese salad which melded perfectly with its champagne vinaigrette and the Smithwicks served alongside.

Before we reached dessert, the table enjoyed a 14-day house-brined beef brisket and ale-battered haddock. Brines are tough for me, so is cabbage, but the flavor is there, and the parsley-cream sauce and fluffy piping of mashed potato kept everything in line. Chef Kelly’s background with seafood is delightfully present. The haddock was battered respectfully, giving the diner that satisfying crunch, but letting the haddock’s tenderness and texture take over from there.

Dessert at RiRa: sticky toffee pudding and Guinness and brown bread ice cream.

By dessert, I was in a very happy place with my surroundings and my table-mates. The sponge cake with dates and toffee pudding neighbored a Guinness and brown bread ice cream, sharp on the back end as if I had just finished off a long draw from a tall glass of the same stout. The Irish coffee served was made with the French press method, my favorite when it comes to coffee – you just get so much more flavor from the ground bean that way! One of our bartenders, Eoghan, was circling the table with his third song of the evening – U2‘s “Where the Streets Have No Name.” I have heard that song 101 times, but here we were – all of us from different walks of life and different backgrounds, different beliefs and different moralities, all gathered around a table. The song is about the ideal world where a person is not defined by the “street” where they live, a world where there are no divisions of any sort. At a table like this, at no point do any of us think about one another’s class, race, wealth or some other criteria that has been deemed important. We only think about the food, the drink, the music, and how our conversations simply dance.

Irish coffee tops off an Irish feast at RiRa.

How retro can you get? Before any of the movies came out that we fell in love with and defend its kitch to this day, before we first played a plumber trying to save a princess from an angry monkey, before the first radio broadcast was played… we gathered around the table. Rí Rá, if you give it the chance you need to give it, is not just a chain, not just one in 12, not just another corporation. The restaurant wants you to sit for a while, to have a drink, to eat some food, and to celebrate just being there. This message becomes clearer if you speak to co-founder David Kelly who said, of this “reintroduction” of Rí Rá, that the message is simply: “We exist.”

So, if you aren’t doing anything this St. Patrick’s Day, or hell, this weekend? Head over to Midtown, and pull up a seat at the bar in Rí Rá. Make sure you dance. Make sure you listen to the “music” surrounding you. Make sure you drink. Make sure you eat. Simply exist.

Beginning Tuesday, March 12, Rí Rá will host friends, family and local Irish patriots as they kick-off their six-day toast to St. Patrick, highlighted by a block party celebration, closing off a portion of Crescent Avenue on Saturday, March 16 and Sunday, March 17 for live music performances and other fun activities. For more info on each day’s festivities and other special events, such as whiskey tastings, visit www.rira.com/atlanta/.

Category: Wednesday Happy Hour & Supper Club | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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