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Filmmaker to Premiere Documentary on Iconic World's Fair Structures

By Katie Honan | May 20, 2015 2:57pm
 Matthew Silva raised funds for the film in 2013, and will unveil it Friday. 
Filmmaker to Premiere Documentary on Iconic World's Fair Structures
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CORONA — More than two years ago, Matthew Silva launched a fundraiser to help him create a documentary about the mysterious rusted structures that had loomed large in his childhood driving on the Long Island Expressway.

Now that film, “Modern Ruin” — which tells the history of the New York State Pavilion, built for the 1965 World’s Fair and turned to rust in the decades since — is set to premiere Friday at 7 p.m. at the Queens Theatre, just steps from the landmarks.

“It’s amazing, it’s awesome,” Silva, 29, said. “I feel so happy that it’s debuting actually at the site.”

He spent most of his life intrigued by the three towers and the oddly-shaped pavilion that he could see on drives from his family home on Long Island to the city.

World's Fair Documentary Trailer
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Matthew Silva

In college he found out the history of the Philip Johnson-designed structures, and continued to research their history — from the beautiful glass top that was the roof of the pavilion to the detailed map of New York that was on its floor.

After the fair the Pavilion hosted bands including the Grateful Dead and Led Zeppelin as a concert hall, and was also used as a roller rink.

But the financial crisis of the 1970s left the Pavilion in shambles, and years of neglect brought it to its current "ruin."

Silva's purpose for making "Modern Ruin" in 2013 was to push for their restoration. 

And in the two years since, the Parks Department, Borough President Melinda Katz and other city officials have made serious steps towards doing just that.

In 2014 it was named a “National Treasure,” and last month, the International Union of Painters and Trades announced they would repaint the structure the original “American Cheese Yellow” for free using their apprentice program.

Silva said he was the “beneficiary of a prevailing wind" to bring the Pavilion back to its original glory.

"The timing was just right,” he said.

After the premiere, “Modern Ruin” will show Saturday, May 23 at 3 p.m. at the Queens Theater, June 2 at the Paris Cafe at 6 p.m. and at the Queens Historical Society on July 26 at 2:30 p.m.

Silva also hopes to get national distribution for the film, which he made while juggling his full-time teaching job and raising a family.

"I feel extraordinarily privileged to have had this experience, and I really look forward to seeing something really great come out of this for the building," he said. 

"Modern Ruin" premieres Friday, May 22 at 7 p.m. at the Queens Theatre in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park. For ticket information, visit their website.