LONG ISLAND CITY — Videographer Hank Linhart has spent years exploring a remote corner of Queens with a compelling name: Blissville.
He first discovered the small neighborhood, located along Newtown Creek south of the Long Island Expressway and west of Calvary Cemetery, after stumbling upon it during a walk in 1989.
Intrigued by a place he and many other New Yorkers had never heard of before, Linhart started filming the area and interviewing locals. He says he was drawn to the neighborhood's mix of unusual manufacturers — like a fortune cookie factory and a car-crushing facility — and its diverse population.
"People were from all over the world," said Linhart, who's based in Brooklyn and has taught media arts at NYU, School of Visual Arts, and Pratt Institute. "I was fascinated by this mix of cultures and this tiny little town with about 80 houses and the world's largest fortune cookie factory."
Now, nearly 30 years after his first visit to Blissville, Linhart has created a 59-minute film — or what he calls a "docu-poem" — about the neighborhood, consisting of the footage he shot in the late 1980s as well as new material he's shot since picking up the project again in 2012.
"Blissville: An Investigation" will be shown at a number of screening events across the state over the next few months, including at the Queens Historical Society, thanks to a grant from New York State Council on the Arts.
"It's sort of about looking at the overlooked places, and the overlooked history of places," Linhart said.
The video includes his interviews with Blissville's past and present residents, as well Linhart's research into a Romani village that once thrived nearby. The neighborhood got its name from Neziah Bliss, a Brooklyn businessman who helped develop North Brooklyn, according to the Greater Astoria Historical Society.
Other footage focuses on the neighborhood's unique industries, which once included a sushi factory, an Afghan bakery and a facility that crushed cars, he said. Colbar, a company known for making Statue of Liberty replicas, still operates in Blissville.
"I think it's about the resilience of small towns," Linhart said of the piece. "It's also about looking at places that you drive through and you don’t think anything of."
For a list of upcoming screenings, visit the video's website.