Former reporter Neil Barsky joins BYOD to discuss his new bio doc on former Mayor of New York City, KOCH. Barsky talks with us about the complexities of the man that was by turn lionized and vilified during his tenure as Mayor, and also the inspirations he himself felt to take up directing a documentary.
We see some fascinating clips from the film that bring the period to life, and explore some of the polarizing issues of Ed Koch’s time in public, from AIDS and race, to homophobia and government intervention.
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BYOD is hosted by Ondi Timoner, director of “DIG!,” “JOIN US” and “WE LIVE IN PUBLIC,” and has the rare distinction of winning the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance twice. Each week the show explores a different documentary filmmaker or aspect of filmmaking, with special guests and a live Q&A– diving deep into creative process and the business realities of producing and distributing films. Ondi shares her insider views, opinions, and personal stories, welcoming audience participation. BYOD aims to entertain, inform, and elevate documentaries in general by bringing attention to films and film makers that deserve exposure.
Former Mayor Ed Koch is the quintessential New Yorker. Still ferocious, charismatic, and hilariously blunt, the now 88-year-old Koch ruled New York from 1978 to 1989—a down-and-dirty decade of grit, graffiti, near-bankruptcy and rampant crime. First-time filmmaker (and former Wall Street Journal reporter) Neil Barsky has crafted an intimate and revealing portrait of this intensely private man, his legacy as a political titan, and the town he helped transform. The tumult of his three terms included a fiercely competitive 1977 election; an infamous 1980 transit strike; the burgeoning AIDS epidemic; landmark housing renewal initiatives; and an irreparable municipal corruption scandal. Through candid interviews and rare archival footage, Koch thrillingly chronicles the personal and political toll of running the world’s most wondrous city in a time of upheaval and reinvention.
00:01 Welcoming Neil Barsky to BYOD.
01:05 From journalism to directing a documentary.
03:36 KOCH, clip: Young Ed Koch.
04:04 Making a personal film out of the footage.
06:42 KOCH, clip: Opening of the film.
07:54 “Haunted and damned by one hell of a personality.”
09:09 Walking away from finance and turning to journalism in New York.
11:55 Ed Koch bares his fangs.
13:33 KOCH, clip: The hospital
14:31 How am I doing? Koch and African-Americans.
16:51 Separating character from substance of Koch.
18:55 Koch works the congress for $1.5 B.
20:10 The film release and Koch’s final days.
23:10 The plagues of New York in the 80’s.
24:09 KOCH, clip: The gay rumors.
25:09 His discussed-but not disclosed sexuality.
28:37 The inaction towards the AIDS crisis.
29:52 KOCH, clip: Frustration from the Gay community.
31:25 Koch’s least favorite scene in the film.