Free High Line film series curated by local teens


Underdog heroes have their day

BY SCOTT STIFFLER  |  Warm nights, cool breezes and free cinema under the stars: With “High Line: Teen Picks,” the elevated public park is about to stake its claim as a destination for summertime film screenings.

But unlike the Bryant Park Summer Film Festival (which favors Hollywood classics) and Hudson River Park’s “RiverFlicks” (which screens movies targeted to grown-ups and kids on Wednesdays and Fridays), the first-ever movie series to take place on the High Line has been curated by teens living in West Chelsea. Sponsored by Friends of the High Line with support from AT&T, there’s not an animated Pixar flick to be found on their schedule (which favors introspection over diversion).

The program was created in response to a spring/summer 2011 survey of more than 800 residents living in the Robert Fulton Houses and Chelsea-Elliott Houses. Conducted by Friends of the High Line to determine what sort of programs local residents would be likely to attend, the survey showed that adult respondents were interested in job training opportunities, while many teens were interested in attending outdoor film screenings.

The inaugural edition of “High Line Teen Picks” satisfies both of those concerns, by employing a six-person High Line Teen Film Committee. Meeting weekly since May, the committee is responsible for overseeing the event’s food, operations and programming, as well as creating a plan for community outreach and marketing. After screening many potential films  (and, one presumes, going through their share of popcorn), the committee settled on a series that features underdog characters who must overcome challenges and obstacles to realize their dreams.

“We picked these movies,” explained Winona Holderbaum and Carla Hernandez, “because the High Line itself is a reinvention.” That message also resonated with Luz Delma Adon. “Have you every thought about giving up, but then something changed your mind,” she asked, noting that the characters in the films they chose possess the same traits of willpower and perseverance demonstrated by High Line founders.

The teens conducted tabling surveys at the NYCHA houses and other neighborhood locations to determine which film would be shown at the August 2 screening. It was a choice between 2007’s “Step Up” (which the committee describes as “a teen romance where two worlds unite as one passion explodes on the dance floor”) or 2004’s “The Notebook” (“a life-long romance set in the 1940s that stirs up your heart all the way to the end”). Over 1,000 people voted. The wnner was “Step Up.”

The final two films in the series are, as they say, already in the can. On August 9, “Real Steel” is a futuristic tale (from back in 2011!) starring Hugh Jackman as a dad who bonds with his son when their underdog mechanical prospect tries to make it in the world of professional robot boxing. On August 16, the 2007 drama “Freedom Writers” stars Hilary Swank as a teacher who sacrifices to help her students succeed.


Thurs., Aug. 9: “Real Steel”
Thurs., Aug. 16: “Freedom Writers”
Both films are rated PG-13
In the 14th Street passage, on the High Line (at W. 14th St.)
No RSVP is required, but seating is limited
For more info, visit thehighline.org