July 25, 2021

“The kids were more agile than me with the camera”

There are people who seem to never “waste” a day in their life. Always something to do, start writing a short story, start an association, make yourself available for the unexpected. Davy Rothbart, the director of 17 Blocks, a shocking documentary about the Sanford family in a Washington neighborhood, is one of them. “I care a lot from my parents”, explains the forties joined in Los Angeles, by interposed screen.

Read also: Davy Rothbart films the precarious life of an African-American family in the most intimate way

Born in 1975 in Michigan, the multi-card author, journalist, filmmaker, performer comes from the white, progressive middle class: “My father was an outgoing, outgoing man who talked to people on the streets and at the coffee shop. My mother, a painter, taught meditation and was an activist in the 1970s against war and for civil rights. She loved to bring back the stories she had heard in the southern regions, where segregation was the strongest. She believed in the power of stories ”, he says, looking young under the cap.

Co-founder of Found Magazine, a fanzine filled with papers found by readers, contributor to the “This American Life” radio show, which broadcasts fiction and brings America’s heart to heart, Davy Rothbart is a born storyteller. Close to the leader of the punk rock group Rise Against, Tim McIlrath, he is the author of two films about the band of activist musicians. He also co-signed – with Andrew Cohn – the documentary Medora (2013) on a team of basketball players going from loss to loss in the small town of Medora (Indiana). Add to that an artichoke heart: Davy Rothbart recorded his romantic setbacks in My Heart Is an Idiot (2012, Farrar, Straus and Giroux), which has become a bestseller.

Family freediving

The story of 17 Blocks, prize of the jury, the public and the critics at the Champs-Elysées Festival, in Paris, in 2020, dates back to the end of the 1990s. creative writing (“Creative writing”), Davy Rothbart moves into a friend’s house who works for an elected congressman, in Washington. He was then 23 years old. “I didn’t have too many plans, I was going to play basketball a few blocks away. “ He only has to walk a few streets to discover the inner city of the black community, where life is no longer connected to that of a rich country. The “counter” stops particularly early among boys, to the point where a merchant has specialized in the sale of T-shirts printed in memory of missing young people. It is there, “17 blocks” from the Capitol, that the Sanford family lives.

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