Village Filmmaker Shares ‘Paradise Deranged’ with Chelsea Seniors

By Tara Kyle on November 26, 2010 1:17pm 

By Tara Kyle

DNAinfo Reporter/Producer

CHELSEA — Filmmaker Edith Stephen remembers sharing the Village with Jackson Pollock, Allen Ginsberg and Andy Warhol — but now, her neighbors are luxury condos.

That transformation is the subject of her new film, "Paradise Deranged."

This week, Stephen screened her film for the men and women of the Hudson Guild Adult Services Center in Chelsea. The screening was one piece of the center's November film series: "Our Communities — the Dreams and Realities of Greenwich Village and Chelsea."

The documentary and memoir follows Stephen's upstate childhood and journey to the city in 1942. It highlights the heyday of the Village's art scene, before rising rent prices pushed out many (Stephen, one of the lucky ones, still has a home at the Westbeth Artist Housing complex).

It also recalls the joy Stephen found in her marriage and her years as a professional modern dancer.

"I love Edith's work," said Elaine Shipman, a choreographer and East Village resident who attended the screening. "I thought it was magical and political and artistic and a mixture of things, which is what Edith is."

Many of the other attendees, primarily senior citizen members of the Hudson Guild, said they appreciated the film because they saw the same demographic changes happening around their own homes in Chelsea and beyond.

The mom-and-pop stores they grew up with are gone, replaced by luxury boutiques and superstores.

Stephen, who is still tweaking a few final parts of "Paradise Deranged," is currently searching for distributors and additional screening venues. She is also the creator of a previous Village documentary, "Split/Scream," which explores the history of Westbeth.

While the film doesn't sway from taking a critical stance as it chronicles the encroachment of big money and the loss of beloved places, Stephen closes on a tone of empowerment. She asks viewers simply to be engaged in the world that surrounds them.

"Things are changing, and we're changing with them," she said. "But we've got to be alive and aware of the change."

Filmmaker Edith Stephen came to the Village in 1942, and in 1970, became one of the original residents at Westbeth Artist Housing.
Filmmaker Edith Stephen came to the Village in 1942, and in 1970, became one of the original residents at Westbeth Artist Housing.
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DNAinfo/Tara Kyle

The final film in the free Hudson Guild series, "Chelsea on the Rocks," will screen Monday, Nov. 29 at 1:30 p.m. at 119 Ninth Avenue.

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