Brooklyn Gay Bar That Opened in 1962 Highlighted in Documentary

By Rachel Holliday Smith on July 24, 2014 3:17pm 

 A new documentary about the Starlite Lounge in Crown Heights, Brooklyn will premiere on July 25 at the NewFest Film Festival.
A new documentary about the Starlite Lounge in Crown Heights, Brooklyn will premiere on July 25 at the NewFest Film Festival.
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We Came to Sweat

CROWN HEIGHTS — Four years after the forced closing of the spot that claims to be the oldest gay bar in Brooklyn, two filmmakers are bringing the story of the Starlite Lounge to the big screen.

Open on Bergen Street at Nostrand Avenue from 1962 to 2010, the Starlite Lounge was the “bedrock” of Crown Heights, said Kate Kunath, co-director of “We Came to Sweat,” a documentary about the bar’s history and its closure that will debut at the NewFest film festival on Friday.

“A lot of people called it home,” Kunath said. “That’s where so many of their memories have been housed.”

She and her co-director, Sasha Wortzel, began filming at the Starlite in January of 2010, when the bar’s proprietors received eviction papers from their landlord, who had sold the building. The community’s struggle to save the bar is the main focus of the film, but it will interest anyone who cares about Crown Heights, she said.

“Losing places like this has an impact on the quality of all of our lives, and I think that the gentrification piece is something that people will really have to think about,” Kunath said. “The film doesn’t have experts that talk about gentrification. It’s very much a story told by people.”

Those people, she said, include many members of the LGBT community of color in Brooklyn, plus a lot of allies from the neighborhood.

“The Starlite [was] interesting because it’s really two types of community. There’s the LGBT community, but then there’s also this very supportive neighborhood,” she said, adding that the bar “was able to break down a lot of barriers.”

Kunath said she's excited to finally screen the film that took four years, a Kickstarter campaign that raised $26,000 and a lot of labor from volunteers to get off the ground.

"I'm really proud of the story," she said.

The premiere of the film at NewFest will include a question-and-answer session with Kunath and Wortzel. The screening will take place at 4:30 p.m. on Friday, July 25 at the Walter Reade Theater at 165 W. 65th St. in Manhattan. Tickets are available here. For more information about the film and for updates on future screenings, visit the the "We Came to Sweat" website.

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