Streit’s Matzo Documentary Now Complete; Additional Funding Sought for Festival Run [VIDEO]
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Filmmaker Michael Levine is in the final stages of his documentary about Streit’s Matzo Factory. He penned the following piece for Bowery Boogie and posted some additional video outtakes.
Thanks to the incredible support we received last summer on Kickstarter, and after many months of editing, we’re thrilled to report that Streit’s: Matzo and the American Dream is now complete! Now, it’s a matter of waiting to hear back from film festivals that we’ve been submitting to over the past couple months.
We’ve set our sights high. The Tribeca Film Festival would be an absolute dream for us for obvious reasons. It’s an amazing festival, especially for a New York-based documentary … and it just so happens to take place during Passover this year.
But we’re excited for any possibility we can find to start bringing the film to audiences. In fact, our plan is to tour the film around festival circuit for the rest of the year, while seeking additional ways of distribution. We’re looking into everything from theatrical to television, to community based screenings that we hope could raise funds for Lower East Side-based organizations.
After all, this whole project began as way of making people aware, not only of the story of Streit’s, but of the living history around the Lower East Side. One that remains in the face of hyper-gentrification. So if the film can be a catalyst to ensure this diverse history stays alive and vibrant, then all the better!
We’re doing another round of fundraising right now to cover the cost of bringing the film to festivals. Particularly with the larger fests, we’re up against studio films with much larger promotional budgets. But we’re a scrappy crew, and truly believe we can break through to get the film to the audience we think the Streit’s story deserves.
We were absolutely astounded by the show of support we received last summer, and hope we can keep the momentum going to really get the film out there.
Having come to know the Streit’s family – the owners and the workers in the factory – over the past year, I’ve been absolutely astounded by their dedication not only to the product they bake, but to the Lower East Side community. Clearly, Rivington Street in 2014 is not a place that lends itself naturally to a half-block long matzo bakery. And, as in any manufacturing business, inexpensive foreign competition is a growing threat to the business. For a union shop, as Streit’s is, working on 80-year-old machinery, the odds have been against them in this location for a very long time.
But somehow they make it work. In doing so, they preserve a significant aspect of Lower East Side history, while also keeping 60 factory workers employed. Given the ever-increasing barrage of closings of beloved neighborhood institutions in recent years, that is no small accomplishment, and I’m so grateful to have the opportunity to tell their story.
Here’s a clip from the film (actually 2 clips stuck together) that I think best illustrates what grounds the Streit’s owners here, despite the constant pressure to move to a more modern facility. In this footage, one of the owners, Aron Yagoda, lovingly recalls his grandfather’s (Jack) love of matzo baking, constantly tweaking the ovens in search of the perfect bake. Nearly two decades after Jack’s death, Aron, now working from behind his grandfather’s desk, leaves the drawers just as his ancestor left them – opting instead for piles of papers two feet high sitting atop the desk’s surface.
The drawers of the desk reveal a time capsule of Streit’s history. It provides an incredible snapshot of immigration on the Lower East Side going back more than a century, where Aron’s great grandmother’s immigration papers commingle with business ledgers from the 1940s, photos from the 1980s (featuring many faces still present at the factory today), and a mysterious set of false teeth … origin unknown!
-Written by Michael Levine, filmmaker behind Streit’s: Matzo and the American Dream