1951-1960ArthouseDocumentaryJem CohenUSA

Jem Cohen – This Is a History of New York (1987)


One of Jem Cohens first films (his third), conducted on Super 8 camera in 1987-88, consisting of impressionistic shots of urban development and decay. An impressive short piece (not least considering its year of production!) pointing ahead to his masterful ‘Lost book found’.

This is a VHS-rip with mid-quality; picture a bit grainy and muddled, but generally ok. Sound is quite good (contains soundtrack by Jem Cohen and a track by a.o. Butthole Surfers).

“This is a History of New York” constructs a fictional landscape of the city from prehistory to the Space Age. Cohen uses an evocative soundtrack to compile genres of architecture and visual arts into a hybridized evolution of New York City. Although the videomaker’s intent was to create an accessible street document, on an abstract level, the tape inquires if the Great Ages of Man might not co-exist here and now, before our very eyes.




  1. Jem Cohen is my favorite filmmaker and I greatly appreciate any chance to see his work–thank you for sharing this film!

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