Harlem Focus

Harlem Focus Docs. by Jaime Marcelo

Beginning in spring 2015 at City College of New York, the BFA in Film and Video program worked in tandem with the Sonic Arts Program to begin production of a number of short character documentaries detailing the lives of the many different people living in Harlem: artists, shop owners, dancers, and more. Each yearly season of the series features six documentaries, with two seasons currently completed. The documentaries are featured on the website of The Amsterdam News, a legendary newspaper that featured notable African American leaders such as W.E.B. Dubois, Malcolm X, and Adam Clayton Powell Jr.

These films highlight overlooked and under-reported aspects of the rich past and vibrant present of Harlem. Moving beyond mainstream “television style” reporting that is driven by on-camera talent and sound bites from politicians and civic leaders, these short films are visually inventive narrative portraits utilizing the voices of Harlemites. Each character embodies the resilient artistic and cultural spirit that has given Harlem its identity through good times and bad, and now must inform the community in this time of transition.
— HarlemFocusDocs Website

Each film begins with a title animation of "Harlem Focus" styled after the iconic Apollo Theater sign, and my sound design was selected to introduce each film. I worked to create a sonic representation of classic Harlem - the natural sounds of the crackling neon sign, morphed into an old radio dial taking us back to the era of Billie Holiday, Fats Waller, and Bessie Smith, all artists who helped shape the sound and character of the early Harlem music scene.