Exclusive Interview: Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini Discuss TEN THOUSAND SAINTS
The film focuses on the family and its various forms — whether it’s by blood, adoption, or even the form of a community. And as we see in the film, the upbringings that each character grew up in shaped their morals and perspectives of the world. And I wanted to talk about Jude more. As an adopted boy who grew up with a single mother, he finds a sort of father figure in Johnny. And you could say the Hare Krishna, straight-edge community was his adoptive family. What do you think it is about the struggle of finding a connection, or a place to belong in, that makes it so prevalent in coming-of-age stories?
Robert Pulcini: You know, it’s interesting. With Jude, he is craving some kind of conflict of order. He doesn’t really understand where he is in the world, or why he is in the world. The straight edge represents some kind of structure. It’s a very rigid structure that I think Jude is attracted to. The setting of the East Village works very well, because, at that point, the whole dialogue of East Village was, “Are you gonna have anarchy, or are we gonna have rules?” The riots really erupted over the idea of having a curfew put in place to limit the homeless and what not from being at the park at night. A lot of people really thrived on the anarchy; there’s a lot of creativity in the anarchy of the East Village at that time. But there was also a lot of crimes.
Another major theme in the story is, of course, gentrification, specifically of the East Village community of the late ’80s. It brings changes in landscapes, communities, and subcultures. And I know that it posed a challenge for you guys to film, ’cause of how New York is so modernized now. As New Yorkers yourselves, do you think that gentrification has done more harm or more good for the city when it comes to its subcultures?
Shari Springer Berman: It’s such an interesting question, because I think we ask that a lot. Making this movie, it’s so eye-opening. I grew up in New York; my mom grew up across the street from Tompkins Square Park. Gentrification can sometimes be a very slow process. You forget what a community used to be like, so when we went to make this movie and started to research and watch movies — I don’t know if you’ve ever saw Downtown 81, it’s really good to watch — and looked at books and photographs. It’s really striking, beyond any wildest imagination, how much the East Village downtown has changed. I mean, it’s changed dramatically; it’s almost a different universe.
I miss it. I miss it a lot. First of all, it’s associated with my youth. But also it was this incredible excitement and energy and possibility. Anything could happen. New music was happening: punk, CBGB’s — you didn’t know what was gonna come out of there — there was hip-hop happening uptown, there was Brooklyn, the Bronx, and there was art, and performance art. You could walk for free and be an experimental performance artist, or, you know, get a beer in the Nuyorican Poets Cafe and put on a show and have performances and not have to pay an insane amount of rent. It was a very exciting time, but it also just complicated. It was a very, very horrible time in a lot of ways. There was a tremendous amount of crime, crack, both Bob and I were mugged, there was AIDS, which was just apocalyptic and horrendous. Do I miss the danger and the drugs on the street and the danger walking, taking the subway? No, I don’t miss it. But do I miss the excitement of the time? Absolutely.
Robert Pulcini: I think that the city’s always evolving and changing. I don’t think any of these changes are ever permanent; it’s just where it is right now. Who knows where it will go? But I think the one thing New York will always have going for it is density. It’s always gonna keep changing.