Spoutnik is a local alternative cinema in the heart of Jonction (in the back end of L’Usine). F and I went there a few weeks ago to watch In Jackson Heights, a documentary about a diverse, multicultural neighborhood in Queens, New York by the same name.

There were two aspects of Spoutnik that I loved:

  1. Seating: You could sit in the center of the room in classic red theater seating or you could opt for comfy couches and large armchairs instead. F and I made ourselves comfortable on a pillow-like couch!
  2. Cinema bar: To the right of the cinema was a small bar where you could pick up a beer or a cocktail before the start of the film.

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I highly recommend watching a film at Spoutnik; it’s a breath of fresh air from the conventional Pathé cinemas around the city.

Jackson Heights

In Jackson Heights was a film quilt of stories. They do a great job of describing the film on the late Roger Ebert’s film review site so I won’t reinvent the wheel:

Children play on a playground in Jackson Heights, Queens, running through sprinklers, batting at oversized chimes. Parents and sitters look on. On another street in the neighborhood, people march to protest a local restaurant that denied service to a transgender woman. In a mosque, men pray and listen to a sermon. Soccer fans gather outside an electronics store with a huge flatscreen TV in the front window, watching the game; their anxious faces are reflected in the glass. At a farmer’s market, stall-keepers lay out their wares and residents inspect them: tomatoes, zucchini, strawberries, cherries. In a halal restaurant, a man butchers and plucks chickens and ducks. In a city councilman’s office, a woman listens patiently on the phone to a constituent who has a problem and tries to let her know as politely as possible that she’s not agreeing or disagreeing with her, she’s just listening.
The sun rises on Jackson Heights. The sun sets. The sun rises and sets again. The city noise creates its own abstract collage of music and sound: salsa, marimba, jazz, soul, sirens, cell phone rings, alarms, the hiss of city buses braking and the whine of their acceleration, the rumble and rattle of elevated trains.

One thing about the film that struck me in particular was the way Spanish is portrayed: we see Spanish speakers from different backgrounds, with varying levels of proficiency in the language, from the most proper spoken Spanish to the very broken varieties, peppered with anglicisms and characterized by strong American accents. It’s certainly very representative of the state of Spanish in the U.S. (we could dedicate an entire post to this but I’ll end it there).

Before the documentary started, F mistakenly checked how long the film would be. Disclaimer: it’s a whopping 190 minutes! Yep, that’s 3 hours and 10 minutes of watching people go about their days in New York, having regular conversations, with no particular plot-line. Perhaps what disappointed me was that I expected some sort of resolution to the film, or at least that the different stories would somehow converge in the end – but they didn’t.