and especially documentary filmmakers,
our job is to take a peek inside different lives, times, and
events; ones that the viewer may have never seen, but
in some way have inexorably altered the world we live in.
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From issues that touch our lives today, such as U.S. diplomacy stratagem, to the aftermath of the civil rights movement and the birth of affirmative action, to the more profound journeys, such as studying how jazz music has helped to shape the cultural landscape of America. Our joy is to share these experiences with you, to collect and document footage of the events that have molded our civilization into what it is today.
Model U.N. for Everyone
Model U.N. For Everyone, produced for the United Nations Association of the USA, is an inspiring, energizing and informative look inside the world of Model U.N. at the high school and college levels. Filmed at real Model U.N. conferences, at U.N. Headquarters and at Model U.N. clubs, this unique film showcased the special excitement that is at the heart of the Model U.N. program. The film features Model U.N. students, faculty and parents as well as Secretary-General Kofi Annan and rarely seen U.N. archival footage.
Negroes with Guns looks at civil-rights era radical and controversial black activist Robert F. Williams, who pre-dated the Black Panther Party in his call to self-defense. Initially making local headlines for his involvement with the Monroe, North Carolina NAACP in the 1950's, he soon attracted national and international notoriety with his message of armed resistance to violence against blacks. His vow to "meet violence with violence" not only put him at odds with the Southern white power structure and the civil rights establishment, it also landed him on the FBI's most wanted list.
Also see a Variety Review on our
Negros with Guns premiered at Lincoln Center in March 2004.
Please visit The New York Times and read the article posted on February 7, 2006. Click here.
Porgy and Bess: An American Voice
The historic saga of George Gershwin's immortal American opera is traced from the publication of DuBose Heyward's novel PORGY in 1924, continuing on to the opera's premiere in 1935 and the many legendary productions that followed through the decades. Kitty Carlisle Hart, Francis Gershwin Godowsky, and scholars share their insights and memories. Narrated by Ruby Dee, this documentary features many cast members in interviews and performance clips, including Leontyne Price, William Warfield, Maya Angelou, Diahann Carroll, Grace Bumbry, and Willard White.
Harlem in Montmartre: Paris Jazz
In conjunction with Channel 13/WNET's Great Performances, Harlem in Montmartre: Paris Jazz explores the vibrant expatriate jazz community which formed among the hills of Montmartre, Paris between the Great Wars. Based on a book written by distinguished Berkeley anthropologist, (the late) William Shack, this film will not only examine the life and times of such notables as Josephine Baker, Sidney Bechet, Bricktop, Eugene Bullard, Langston Hughes, Louis Armstrong, Coleman Hawkins, and Django Reinhardt, but also the social, racial, and cultural implications of their rich and disparate experiences.
As the Harlem Renaissance sailed
across the Atlantic and morphed into Le Tumult Noir, it became, not a black
metropolis, but a concentration of itinerant musicians, with a frenzied night-club
culture at its core. This Harlem-style jazz brought a gaiety and merriment
which Europe was so desperate for; costumed, scantily-clad chorus girls delivering
bawdy lyrics and furiously can-canning their way away from the brutality and
bitter memories the Great War had left behind.
The John Baker Collection of the American Jazz Museum
Over five decades worth of raw footage, baring witness to the roll that jazz has played in shaping America’s cultural landscape. Languishing in obscurity for over twenty years, Vanguard Documentaries, with thanks to the NEA, is proud to have been given an opportunity to take part in documenting the process of recovery and restoration of vintage film.
Located in historic Smith & Vine, in Kansas City, MO, the American Jazz Museum is the leading jazz museum in the United States. Vanguard Documentaries is consultant and advisor on the John Baker Collection, one of the world’s largest jazz film archives.
Produced for the United Nations Association of the USA, this film explains the workings of Global Classrooms, a Model U.N. based program designed as a free-of-charge curriculum for under-served, urban school districts. Through featuring culminating Model U.N. conferences throughout the country, this film highlights the successes of UNA-USA in their quest to diversify the Model U.N. community and educate our next generation as global citizens.
Soundtrack to War:
We are working with director George Gittoes to secure North American distribution for this 90 minute documentary. A 30 minute version was shown on VH1 and reviewed in The New York Times.
The History of the Bicycle
We are developing a film project with one of the words leading authorities on this subject.
The World's Most Expensive Coffee:
The Jamacian Blue Mountain Coffee Story
An exciting new film from Vanguard Documentaries – Blue Mountain Gold – will capture an under-explored, little known side of the island of Jamaica.
The general image of Jamaica has been shaped by the visual vocabulary of the tourist industry and nightly news reports, a vocabulary too often limited to sea, sun, sand, drugs, crime, and poverty. Like all stereotypes, it both simplifies and overlooks a fascinating story, the story we want to tell in Blue Mountain Gold. This is an account of Blue Mountain coffee, the most expensive coffee in the world.
The prices alone are extraordinary. Blue Mountain can cost as much as a good bottle of Bordeaux – from $30 to $50 in the States, or 45 euros in Europe, and a breath-taking $70 to $118 in Japan. And the comparison is apt: just as France can boast of its wine, and Russia its caviar, Jamaican Blue Mountain is considered by connoisseurs to be the world’s best coffee.
But the cost itself is only part of the story. Blue Mountain Gold will describe how the legend developed around this legendary coffee – and uncover the truth that lies behind it. The film will also explore lush mountain slopes thousands of feet above sea level, to explain why the prices are so astonishing, and who are the individuals responsible for cultivating the coffee and ensuring its quality. Because in order to maintain a legend, controlling quality is of paramount importance.
An exacting, quasi-governmental Coffee Board carefully controls who can grow Blue Mountain coffee, who can roast it, who can export it, and who overseas can import it. With hard-won reputations and considerable profits at stake, it’s hardly surprising that there has been contention. What emerged from one battle was a new phenomenon, the Estate Coffee. This film will introduce some of the determined individualists who are attempting to upset a decades-old monopoly and produce an even more select version of the already elite Blue Mountain coffee.
The story of Blue Mountain coffee is as much as anything a story of disparate personalities, ingenuity, and human frailty. There are the Jamaicans and foreigners; farmers and importers; ordinary pickers and high-flying hoteliers. Part of the drama of the narrative emerges when the various interests collide and clash, although there are also instances of remarkable cooperation.
This film will show another angle of a world that many people think they already know – the easy-going islands of the Caribbean. Blue Mountain Gold draws on history, culture, business, and science to explore the roots of an international legend. Add to this a soundtrack of irresistible music, from reggae to modern dancehall, and the result is a highly compelling piece that will change the way viewers see coffee – and Jamaica – forever.
On Blue Mountain coffee:
“…there’s no coffee like it, and it’s worth every penny of the steep price.” – Condé Nast Traveler
“Coffee heaven in Jamaica. How good is it? Very good indeed!”
– Boston Globe
“It’s the connoisseur’s choice, with a sweet delicate taste that still affords a wallop of flavor.” – San Francisco Chronicle
“…the sweetest, smoothest coffee I had ever tasted.” – The Independent (U.K.)
“The stellar reputation of Blue Mountain coffee persists…the coffee’s rarity, its reputation, and its near-cult status in Japan make it the most expensive coffee in the world.” – The James Beard Foundation
“The Cubans say they produce the world’s best cigars, the Russians the best caviar and the French the best wine. Here, the claim is for the world’s best coffee, Jamaican Blue Mountain.” – L.A. Times
“Blue Mountain coffee. The most delicious coffee in the world.”
– James Bond
Founded in 1964 by Dr.Billy Taylor, Jazzmobile is a unique organization committed to bringing jazz to local New York communities. To celebrate the 45th anniversary of this landmark musical entity, we will speak with esteemed jazz musicians such as Jimmy Heath, Lou Donaldson, Benny Powell, Wynton Marsalis, Wycliffe Gordon, as well as present and former board members, including Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Darrell Gay, Hank Goldstein, and others.
The Flatiron: The New York Landmark and the
Incomparable City that Arose with it
I found myself agape, admiring a skyscraper – the prow of the Flatiron Building, to be particular, ploughing up through the traffic of Broadway and Fifth Avenue in the late-afternoon light.
– H.G. Wells (1906)
From its completion in 1902, the Flatiron Building became a symbol of turn-of-the-century New York, representing the changes that were about to make the city what it is today. Its unique architectural style captured the imagination of painters, photographers, and writers, and the building has become almost synonymous with New York itself.
It was designed by the Chicago architect, Daniel Burnham, and was commissioned by the Fuller Company. Because of its unusual shape, locals presumed it would eventually collapse, and they began referring to it as Burnham’s Folly. The Flatiron building’s architectural resilience and ability to withstand the particularly windy intersection of Broadway and 5th Avenue urged developers to build more skyscrapers, and so it had a hand to play in the construction of other New York icons, such as the Empire State Building.
The Flatiron Building at one time also housed a prominent restaurant and overlook deck where the intellectual elite of early twentieth century America came together, and in a sense, it was here that an American cultural renaissance took place.
The documentary is based on the book The Flatiron: The New York Landmark and the Incomparable City that Arose with it by the historian Alice Sparberg Alexiou which was published in 2010 by Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s Press.