Schenectady native Antonio Ferrera wasn’t quite sure how to react after he found out last week he was a winner of a George Foster Peabody Award for his work on the Home Box Office documentary “The Gates.”
A 1987 graduate of Linton High School, Ferrera directed, edited and produced the documentary, which tells the story two artists, a married couple that go by the names of Christo and Jeanne-Claude, and their struggle to place 7,500 large orange frames or vinyl “gates” along 23 miles of pathways in New York City’s Central Park. The movie was broadcast on HBO in February of 2008. The artwork was on display for just two weeks in February of 2005.
“It’s a great story and it was wonderful to have the film recognized,” said Ferrera, who shared his award with Albert Maysles. “There was a lot of love that went into the making of this film, but it is a material reward, so I wasn’t quite sure how to react. For me, the real reward is the buzz you get when you’re making your work, and learning how other people have been touched by it.”
It was Maysles and his brother David, now deceased, who began to document the struggle of the two artists to put their work on display back in 1979. Albert Maysles was on hand at the Waldorf Astoria in New York last week to accept the award with Ferrera, while also helping make the film was Matthew Prinzing.
“I did a great deal of the filming, but a lot of the work was going through 700 hours of footage that these two wonderful brothers had taken to tell the story of Christo and Jeanne-Claude,” said Ferrera. “That was a monumental task. The challenge was to tell the story in a way that people could appreciate the experience cinematically. It’s got a bunch of different layers to it, and a big part of it was the struggle to put it up.”
Ferrera credits New York mayor Michael Bloomberg with saving the project, which had been on hold for 26 years.
“New York said no back in 1979, and somebody said it would be tantamount to putting a mustache on the ‘Mona Lisa,’ ” said Ferrera. “But Bloomberg saw the value of it. We think of him as the great Medici of our era.”
Ferrera has been working as a filmmaker, director and cinematographer since graduating from New York University in the early 1990s. He is currently working on a few different projects, and also has on his agenda a series of documentary films about his hometown of Schenectady.
“I went back home last summer and took a lot of footage,” said Ferrera, who grew up on Van Vranken Avenue where his family still runs a restaurant, the Appian Way. “Schenectady has a rich and complex history, and I think it would be great for me to examine that history and help people understand it. I think it really is a great city.”
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Categories: Life and Arts