Bronx International Film Festival

[Note: this was supposed to appear last night, but, for some technical reason that we don’t understand, did not.] The Bronx International Film Festival, which started last night at 8 p.m. at Lehman College, will feature the U.S. premiere of a feature documentary by Mark Henderson entitled “My Kidnapper.” Here’s a summary of the film: “In 2003 Mark Henderson was one of eight backpackers taken hostage whilst trekking in the Colombian jungle. What had started as an innocent tourist adventure, ended up as 101 terrifying days of captivity and uncertainty about his future. Eleven months after his release Mark received an email from Antonio, one of his kidnappers, and one of the other hostages received a facebook friend request from Antonio’s girlfriend, another of their captors. That email was the start of a five-year correspondence between hostage and kidnapper that eventually drew Mark back to the one part of the world he thought he’d never see again and face to face with the man who had once held the key to his freedom.My Kidnapper is an emotional journey into a kidnapping, told from all sides.

BoAM 2

In response to a an “unsatisfactory” loan modification offer by Bank of America on May 20, a crowd of about 50 supporters from the New Day Church and the Northwest Bronx Community & Clergy Coalition gathered behind Bronx homeowner Edda Lopez outside of the bank’s Manhattan headquarters in an effort to pressure the bank to reevaluate Lopez’s sub-prime loan and, hopefully, save her house.Lopez, who is now widowed, disabled and unemployed, is trying desperately to hang on to her house, which is not only her home, but a vital source of income (she rents out rooms in her house). Despite several efforts to refinance and modify her loan to make it affordable, Bank of America recently told Lopez her home would be put up for auction and that she would be forced to vacate the premises.Instead of allowing Lopez to go homeless, a community protest was held outside of the Bank of America branch on Fordham Road on May 20. Bank of America, in turn, postponed the auction of Lopez’s home to June 28 and came up with final loan modification.

Countdown to Bronx International Film Festival

Here’s another preview of a film being featured in this weekend’s Bronx International Film Festival, which starts tonight at 8 p.m. at Lehman College and ends Saturday night. Click here to reserve tickets, which cost $5, or to check out some of the other films being shown.The following clip is from the short narrative “A Girl Like You With A Boy Like Me,” directed by Ruben Amar. Here’s a little summary from the festival’s organizers:”In a few moments, Bhadraksh will announce to the one he has always loved that he wants to end the relationship. Bhadraksh is a guide, a shepherd, a lighthouse standing proudly in the midst of the ocean, a rampart against masculine weakness.”A Girl Like You With A Boy Like Me (Scene clip) from ruben amar on Vimeo.

Bronx News Roundup, June 17

The Bronx International Film Festival kicks off today (we’re one of the festival sponsors). We’ve been posting trailers for some of the films being screened, so check back here later. And click here for more info, or to reserve tickets.An off-duty Bridges and Tunnels cop fired his gun at a group of attackers during a road rage scuffle following an accident on the Major Deegan.Gothamist showcases a collection of striking photographs from the LIFE image archive of the South Bronx during the early 1950s dubbed the “Bronx Slums.” Make sure you buy a ticket-and keep your recceipt-before boarding the Bx12 bus. Transit officials are cracking down on fare-beaters who’ve been taking advantage of the MTA’s “pay at the curb” option, where tickets are purchased before riders board the bus.

Some Bad Schools Get Good Grades

In the nearly three years that have passed since the city’s Department of Education gave principals greater control of their schools, several failing schools truly have turned around, according to a new report released Wednesday by The New Schools’ Center for New York City Affairs. But the annual A-through-F grades that city schools receive from the department don’t always accurately convey such progress, the report says.”You shouldn’t try to sum up complicated schools with one letter grade,” said Clara Hemphill, one of the report’s co-authors. “The city must recognize the limited value of the progress report [grade] and rely more on qualitative measurement, on human judgment and less on statistics.”During a forum held in conjunction with the report’s release, Hemphill illustrated the flaws in the grading system by citing the example of the school that scored highest during the 2008-09 school year, Manhattan’s High School of Hospitality Management. The school received an overall grade of “A”, but earned a “D” in school environment. Attendance at the school was low and a survey of parents indicated that the school had low expectations and didn’t engage students well, Hemphill said.She said there were other high-scoring schools where kids have their heads on their desks and teachers kick back reading newspapers and low-scoring schools where kids and teachers are highly engaged.The report says that in some cases, the system “rewards mediocrity and fails to recognize gains made by schools that are striving for excellence.”A DOE official who also spoke at the forum agreed that the grading system isn’t perfect, but said it’s necessary.

In This Fight, Public Advocate Is The Underdog

When the New York Times delivered its all-important endorsement to then-City Councilman Bill de Blasio in last year’s race for public advocate, the paper noted that the winner’s chief task would be “demonstrating whether this position truly serves New Yorkers.” If the subtext wasn’t clear then, it was brought into sharp focus when the mayor’s charter revision commission announced that its agenda for this year would include the possible elimination of the public advocate position. A little-understood office that was itself created in a 1993 charter revision (out of the wreckage of the title of City Council president, which had been stripped of most of its power by a Supreme Court ruling), the public advocate is supposed to act as an independently elected “ombudsman” to keep watch over the mayor and City Council. That means the future of the office could rest in the hands of de Blasio, the former councilmember, federal housing official, and Hillary Clinton campaign manager who won the job after a tight four-way primary race and subsequent runoff against former public advocate Mark Green last fall. As chair of the Council’s General Welfare Committee, de Blasio had been a vocal critic of many of Mayor Bloomberg’s policies, particularly his refusal to allow able-bodied single adults to receive food stamps unless they’re working, and what de Blasio considered an insufficiently robust approach to reducing poverty.