Photos by Kimberly Cecchini
The High Line Park is not only a tourist destination, but indeed a coveted spot for locals as well with great views of the city. It is a repurposed elevated rail line that stretches along the west side of Manhattan.
Text and Photos by Kimberly Cecchini
Right before showtime, an eager crowd gathered on the astro turf in front of the stage nestled between the quaint port shops and restaurants at Water and Fulton Streets last night on the eleventh. The Detroit based punk band, Protomartyr, took the stage after the opening band, Alvvays, who hailed from Toronto. Both performances served as a great kick-off to the free summer music series at South Street Seaport In Manhattan.
Watch the videos on Tonight at Dawn’s new YouTube page!
as trauma lodged
in the cortex,
to storm the
veil of dreams
once she rocks
herself to sleep;
for outside the
watchful eyes of
life, he is hers.
First published in the Montclair Times
¿Estás ahí, Dios?
What is heaven
but an aging collection of
Saturday Evening Post
clippings and pages ripped
from old Vogue magazines?
¿Estás ahí, Dios?
What is the soul
but a collision of atoms;
the periodic table
giving birth to a carnival
on an infinite loop.
By Kimberly Cecchini
Featuring Dena Floryczk’s photography; Nigerian School Project article by Tonight at Dawn founder, Kimberly Cecchini, as published in the June 2014 issue of Millennium Magazine (listed on the cover). Read the article and see more photos! : https://tonightatdawn.com/2014/05/04/the-nigerian-school-project-going-full-circle/Stay tuned for the posting of Cecchini’s other article in the issue, “Pig & Prince: Restaurant & Gastro Lounge”.
Text and Photos by Kimberly Cecchini
Within an hour of being in country, our twenty-four year old Tico guide had driven my husband and I beyond the city limits and we were speeding down a desolate highway with only the headlights to illuminate the mountains in the heavy rain of the “green” season. The soundtrack was The Clash’s London Calling album and stories about Mateo’s life in Costa Rica. My northeastern liberal self squirmed a bit in the passenger seat at the sight of the gun that laid in the console between myself and our new friend. Mateo* claimed to have had self-defense training with his gun and, as we observed later, it was perhaps a more necessary accessory in San José than it is in most parts of New York. In addition, he was implementing his speed driving course to condense the hour drive to the Pacific coast; without hesitation, he weaved over the double yellow line to pass slower vehicles. Soon enough we were driving through the nightlife strip of the surfer tourist trap, Jacó, passing a sleepier beach area and turning onto the
crumbly road that led to our mini-resort. Mateo jumped out of the vehicle to open a large wooden gate which he closed behind us before rolling down the driveway. The canopy of trees obscured the moonlight and so all we could see of our eery path was leaves in the glare of headlamps and the halos of compact fluorescent lights in plastic lanterns.
We retired to our cottage on the property that was shared only with our tour guide, a guard and three dogs including a chained Rottweiler that had once bitten a chunk out of a foolish guest’s leg. And whatever might have lied in wait for us in the seemingly deep rainforest.
If nothing else, we knew we would have an experience. Pura Vida!
*Not his real name
See more information about the Montclair Film Festival and all its great events at the Montclair Film Festival page. View more photos at the MontclairFilmFest Flickr page: https://www.flickr.com/photos/montclairfilmfest/
Article and Photos Below by Tonight at Dawn (Kimberly Cecchini); What is Kevin Smith Thinking? conversation at MFF14.
So what is Kevin Smith thinking? This Jersey boy is happy to tell you. He’ll even tell you that he had gastrointestinal issues on his red eye flight from Los Angeles. He also will tell you he find out upon arrival that Tina Fey had been sitting behind him the whole flight. Fortunately, his fans were eager to hear about it all at the Montclair Art Museum.
Kevin Smith walked on the stage wearing one of his signature blue and orange hockey jerseys emblazoned with his logo, “Fatman”. Ticket holders, many of whom displayed an allegiance to Smith’s own interests by wearing comic book and hockey apparel, were excited to hear his tales about filmmaking, podcasting and everything in between. Fittingly, the Executive who welcomed Smith’s Comic Book Man to AMC, joined him on stage as his interviewer. It was also a good match because Joel Stillerman allowed Smith to take over the conversation as his wont to do, quipping that Kevin had done his job for him.
“A Reasonable Amount of Unreason-ability”
The drive to the festival on Sunday harkened Smith back to the days of commuting from the infamous Quik Stop to the apartment he shared with his girlfriend in Montclair. At the time, he sunk all of his money from his convenience store shift work and the after hours to tell his first story in Clerks. It was a gamble more than an investment, but he likened this first filmmaking experience to his brother’s coming out story; it just “felt right”.
Although earning success as a filmmaker was a long shot, Smith said he held onto “…a reasonable amount of unreason-ability”. He was particularly encouraged to continue his film from the middle of New Jersey after seeing a piece in the Village Voice on another independent film, Slacker, from what he thought at the time, was made in “nowhere, Texas”. Yet, unreason-ability surfaced on October 3rd, 1993.
Smith had earned an opportunity to show his film at a small festival. He was demoralized when he knew ninety percent of the ten people that were in the audience. He was also excited and “…overwhelmed by how…filthy it was” after seeing the first ten minutes on the big screen. He woke up the next day feeling what it was like to lose all the money he had.
Anyone coming of age in the nineties knows that was not the end of Clerks. After receiving three calls that day, he was on his way to making a deal with Miramax and learning that an unknown guy at the screening was the ticket for it to become a cult classic.
Humans Need 3 Things; Food, F——, and to Be Heard
As an eternal storyteller, podcasts are his new love. Kevin grew up listening to Howard Stern and essentially his Smodcast emulates the Stern show at its core; a record of friends conversing about everything and anything. Smith is particularly taken by the newer medium because it currently boasts a freedom that Stern never has fully had; nobody to charge you and nobody to limit your content. In fact, he is so spellbound by podcasts he gave the Montclair audience a homework assignment; record a podcast within the next year.
Kevin Smith is the Only One Who Can Make a Third Clerks
Part of what has driven Smith to take his storytelling to the podcast is because he does not feel he can fully express himself in film anymore. For one, he does not feel he has the creative freedom he once had as making “…studio deals prices (you) out of anything original…” Still, he is not going to stay away from the camera, and, yes, he will make Clerks III. Soon.
In the meantime, Smith cast his daughter and her friend in small roles as clerks in his upcoming horror flick, Tusk. Before it’s release, Smith announced at the Festival, that he will shoot a short film based on an indirect spin-off of these clerks. He’s making “Yoga Hosers” to spend more time with his fourteen-year-old daughter and because, well, it features clerks.
“You Are the Real Winner”
The Q & A period was opened by a pre-teen boy who told Kevin Smith he was his hero. Kevin modestly deflected the statement by telling the kid he was the “real winner” for beating the biological odds to exist (in a more graphic manner not to be posted here) that elicited laughter from the audience. The young man nervously laughed, “I’m very intimidated right now.” He asked his questions and Smith wrapped up the show with a few more stories. With Kevin Smith, there’s always another story to be shared.
Text by Kimberly Cecchini/Photography by Dena Florczyk
To learn more about and support NSP at http://nigerianschoolproject.org and http://www.youcaring.com/other/books-for-tomarro/173201.
Dena Florczyk educates students in two hemispheres. The middle school teacher in suburban Teaneck, New Jersey has aided numerous education programs and has had a school built in Nigeria. Her recent exhibition at the Stable Art Gallery in Ridgewood celebrated a decade of work in Africa through the photographs she has taken during her visits. The show also served as a fundraiser for her nonprofit, the Nigerian School Project. The pieces are not only a reflection of her photographic talents, but also the evolution of her relationship with the country.
Through an opportunity with another nonprofit in Teaneck, Dena originally traveled to Nigeria’s commercial capital of Lagos with the interest of an educator. She was shocked by what she saw. The disparity between the wealthy and the impoverished is vast and obvious; “It is not an easy place to live.” Public classrooms typically overflow with sixty or seventy students and contain zero books. Among many things, she observed kids sharing pencils and as many as ten growing boys sharing seats built for three.
Dena initially met with local teachers and asked them to write a wish list of supplies, imported box loads of pencils, helped to sew uniforms, taught workshops to juvenile offenders and created a small yearly cycle of modest fundraisers at home. Friends and family have also joined her on some trips to engage and teach local students. In addition, she undertook larger projects such as building school libraries and orchestrating a book drive.
“Oh my god, he wants me to build him a school.”
Following a friend who was working on malaria clinics in the region, she took a boat out to Tomarro. Upon reaching the shantytown “suburb” of Lagos, she was overwhelmed with a cacophony of noises and smells. There she discovered that the fishing community’s children are counted as fortunate if they had at least been enrolled in one of the area’s few elementary schools. Unfortunately, that’s also where their education usually ended; it is too expensive for them to take a boat over to the commercial capital.
Soon after her arrival in Tomarro, the bali (the tribal king’s brother), who had learned of her work in Lagos, led her out to an open lot. Standing on top of a heap of dirt, he asked her to build the community’s first middle school. She was not prepared for this daunting request, “I’m just a little school teacher from New Jersey.”
Despite the immensity of the task, the Nigerian School Project embarked on its grandest venture with the help the help of a financial benefactor and a local pastor. On that lot now stands the “Ibadan Public School,” a six classroom block with her name inscribed on the plaque beneath the school’s name.
“On the Map”
Tomarro’s people, who had felt ignored by their state, are truly proud of the establishment; they celebrated the opening with lively masquerades, drumming and dancing. Locals spoke about how the school put them “on the map” and legitimized their community. Now they can envision new opportunities for their children.
Even though the government shuffled its feet to fulfill their obligation to fund the operation of the school for two years, the school did not remain idle during this time. The townspeople formed committees and hired teachers to ensure that the prospective pupils did not have to wait to enroll.
Going Full Circle
Dena is currently awaiting updates and pictures of The Nigerian School Project’s newest endeavor. The high school will provide an opportunity for Tomarron children to have a complete education and, along with university scholarships, it will represent a full circle for Dena’s work in Nigeria.
In such a tough environment, scholarships don’t necessarily mean success, but The Nigerian School Project has already been able to help one young man, Suru, to complete his education with a college scholarship. You can see her motherly pride as she speaks of Suru who she has known since he was a young school boy. Now a Nigerian naval officer, Suru is also one of her trusted Nigerian connections when she is in the States.
The Dance You Do
“I don’t have that edgy, aggressive behavior because I don’t want to step into a situation like that,” Dena refers to the dance that she does between wanting to capture a situation and not wanting to be intrusive.
Although she loves to photograph, it is not Dena’s priority when she is in Africa. She accepts that some people consider her images to be too pretty; she’s simply attracted to the lines and colors of a scene and does not seek to exploit the rawest moments.
One of her favorite photographs is one she took in Uganda; she loves the movement of the potter’s wheel and the playfulness of the children within the composition. Smiling, she remarks how “they just want to play.” Her photographs do not ignore the poverty and difficulties that plague these areas, but they do not dwell on them either. “People are very proud regardless of their circumstance…they are very proud of who they are and their culture, fiercely proud, and I don’t want anyone feeling that I’m judging that.” As an intimate observer, she elevates the youth she photographs and conveys what she sees in them; engaging, smart motivated students and sometimes, just simply, children.
Whether its her photography or the schools that she has had built, this little school teacher from New Jersey empowers the voice of the young through sincere portraits and the civil right of literacy.
To view more of Dena’s photographs and to learn more about or support the Nigerian School Project, please visit http://nigerianschoolproject.org.