I Remember Barbra
From the 1986 Third Degree Film's press release:
Produced and directed by Boston-based filmmaker Kevin Burns, this 23-minute documentary profiles the love affair between Brooklynites and their most famous former-neighbor : Barbra Streisand.
Candid, funny and often touching, the film features interviews with a broad assortment of Brooklyn characters. From friends, former teachers and classmates, to fans, look-alikes and the folks on Brighton Beach, everyone in Brooklyn , it seems, has something to say about Barbra Streisand.
Although Ms. Streisand herself does not appear in the film, her presence is strongly felt in images of those areas most often associated with her, particularly Erasmus Hall High School (where she graduated with honors in 1959 ) and the Vanderveer Estates apartment house (where she lived with her family).
Produced as a thesis film for a masters degree at Boston University's graduate film program, I REMEMBER BARBRA took nearly two years to make. The producer spent most of that time earning the money to finance the project, working part-time as a teaching assistant, a theatre manager, a projectionist and even a brief stint as a truck driver for a film and theatre-candy delivery service. Additional funding came from loans and investments made by the filmmaker's family and friends.
After 24 days of shooting, spread out over a period of more than six months, seven hours worth of footage had been photographed by John Hoover and Peter Ladue. At that point, Mr. Burns worked with editor Loren S. Miller for the five months the film took to edit and complete.
Within the first few months of its release, I REMEMBER BARBRA has enjoyed significant critical and popular acclaim. It has been screened at film festivals, museums and universities across the country and was voted a special award for documentary achievement given by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
Remembering a Film About Brooklynites Who Were All About Streisand
By Zena Barakat
"Come back to Brooklyn and give us a concert."
That unsolicited plea directed at Barbra Streisand was delivered in a thick Brooklyn accent in a 1981 documentary called "I Remember Barbra." The film was shot in and around Flatbush, the neighborhood where Ms. Streisand lived for most of her childhood.
Ms. Streisand, who is 70, is finally heeding the request. For the first time in her storied career, she will perform in Brooklyn, at the new Barclays Center arena on Thursday and Saturday.
The documentary was made by Kevin Burns (no relation to Ken Burns) when he was a 23-year-old film student working on a master's degree at Boston University. As part of his course work he wanted to make a documentary about Barbra Streisand.
Mr. Burns became a fan thanks to his sister, who, he said, "would play her records all the time'' while the two were growing up in Schenectady, N.Y.
But he could not get Ms. Streisand's cooperation for a film, and without that he was at a loss as to how to approach making it.
Mr. Burns's professor, Arnold Baskin, who now teaches film at New York University, came up with an idea - talk to the people of Brooklyn about their hometown star. As a native of Brooklyn who had filmed there himself for his own project, he was familiar with its personality. "I knew it would be hilarious," Mr. Baskin said.
Mr. Burns's film does include some of Ms. Streisand's high school teachers and classmates, but many of those interviewed had never met her. Nonetheless, they still had a lot to say.
"I would stand on the Boardwalk and I would literally turn on the camera and say, 'Tell me what you know about Barbra Streisand,'" Mr. Burns recalled in a recent telephone interview. "And they'd say, 'I know everything about her. Ask me.'"
Mr. Burns added, "I don't think you can do the same kind of film in a different part of the country and get the same result." (The film is not available on commercial Web sites, but those interested in the documentary can contact Mr. Burn's company, Prometheus Entertainment.)
The film won a student Oscar in 1981 from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. But it was not until 1991, when he was working at 20th Century Fox, that he had the opportunity to meet Ms. Streisand and ask her about it.
He recalled sitting two tables away from her at the studio's commissary. He was nervous, but he introduced himself. She told him that she had seen the film but, as he remembered it, had a question: "You're a documentary filmmaker. Why did you interview people who didn't know me?"
"She was so close to it that she didn't really see that it was really about Brooklyn,'' Mr. Burns said. "I told her, 'That was the point of the film. That these people think they know you because you're from Brooklyn.' It was clear to me that she kind of didn't get it. But she was very gracious."
But as it turns out, after all these years, Ms. Streisand perhaps does get it. Mr. Burns said her management company had contacted him to acquire rights to the film to show parts of it at her Brooklyn concerts. He said he offered the footage free.
"If she does choose to use any portion of the film, it would be a delicious and wonderful kind of cap to the whole experience of having made that movie," he said.
Ms. Streisand did not respond to a request for an interview that was made through one of her press agents.
Mr. Burns has created over 700 hours of television in his career and has been nominated for an Emmy award seven times, winning twice. Many of his works have been about popular culture and include a documentary about the lasting influence of "The Godfather" movie for the History channel and a reality TV series about Playboy playmates called "The Girls Next Door."
Still, he said, the Streisand film "will always be my first child."
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