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A Brooklyn Family Tale - About the Series
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Murray Nossel
Murray Nossel

About the Series: Director Murray Nossel's Statement

A BROOKLYN FAMILY TALE is my first film. My foray into documentary filmmaking has grown naturally out of my work as a therapist and ethnographer. In my twenty years as a clinician, I have been forcibly aware of the extraordinary stories that emerge from private therapeutic encounters and have wondered how such moving and inspirational stories could be witnessed by a larger audience.

The making of this film is part of a process that flowed organically out of a personal experience, which I wished to share with the world, namely my relationship with the Center for Family Life. This relationship began in 1996, when Peg Hess and Brenda McGowan, faculty members of Columbia University School of Social Work, approached me to participate in their research into the Center.

As an ethnographer, my task was to observe firsthand the practices of the Center in order to learn what made it unique. My intent was to use myself as the instrument of inquiry into the Center's culture, and to understand how its beliefs and practices differentiated it from other settings.

the Center's unusual methods were not based on pat formulations From the outset, I observed that the Center's unusual methods were not based on pat formulations. Rather, they reflected the work of visionary, creative people, who were strongly committed to their mission and were profoundly respectful of the people they served.

Reflecting my longstanding use of video as an ethnographic research instrument, I videotaped my interviews and observations at the Center for Family Life. Emerging from six months of immersion in the world of the Center, I suspected that the video material I had gathered was to some extent a realization of my desire to demonstrate the power of therapeutic relationships.

Our collaboration brought together twenty years of filmmaking with twenty years of research and clinical experience. I showed samples of my video footage to Peg Hess and Brenda McGowan. They recognized the potential of a documentary about the Center. Sister Mary Paul, one of the Center's directors, endorsed the idea of making a film about the Center and suggested that I contact Roger Weisberg, a filmmaker, who had profiled the Center in previous documentaries. I met with Roger, and we clicked immediately. To my great delight, he offered his partnership in making the film. Our collaboration brought together twenty years of filmmaking with twenty years of research and clinical experience.

The making of A BROOKLYN FAMILY TALE coincided with my doctoral dissertation investigating the Center's unique use of time in its daily practices. This study contributed to the filmmaking process, helping to offer viewers the accurate, in-depth portrayals of the social workers and families they see depicted in the film.

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