Sunday, October 12, 2008

Coney Island x 2

It's illuminating to watch how two eminent videojournalists tell the same story -- in this case, the battle to preserve a funky but iconic all-American amusement park in the face of redevelopment plans. Rick Gershon's "Coney Island: An Uncertain Future" was an Emmy finalist this year. His eight-minute Getty Images video also incorporates stills by Mario Tama. The Washington Post's star videojournalist Travis Fox, no stranger to Emmys himself, weighs in with his three-minute "A Portrait of Coney Island."

Both projects were clearly inspired not only by the ideological clash over the waterfront real estate (tradition vs. progress), but also by the institution's garishly colorful imagery. One key difference between them is that Gershon extensively interviewed people potentially affected by the sale of the land, whereas Fox relies strictly on the ambient carnival sounds to tell the tale. Both are powerful, both have memorably dramatic endings. Please let us know what you think of their relative merits.

We were struck by the fact that both spotlighted the same oddly engaging fellow -- a throwback to a bygone era of carny sideshows -- popularly called a "human blockhead" because of his ability to cheerfully withstand a spike hammered
into his nostril. Or, in this case, a large screwdriver.

If you like that sort of thing, you'll also love the New York Times' video ode to "The Last Sideshow," with its self-proclaimed King of the Midway lamenting that -- given today's overabundance of grotesquely fat people and tattooed ladies -- traveling freak shows ain't what they used to be!

No comments: