BIRTH OF THE LIVING DEAD, documentary, OCT. 21, 7 P.M., Culp Auditorium

'It's taken me 45 years to stop biting my fingernails after first seeing Night of the Living Dead. Having just watched Rob Kuhns's mesmerizing documentary about that classic horror story I finally understand why I was not only scared out of my wits, but was simultaneously watching a cinematic breakthrough and cultural phenomenon ... When you've seen it, you'll be thinking and talking all night.' 
– Bill Moyers


"Birth of the Living Dead" was shot in New York City, Toronto and Los Angeles between the end of 2006 and the Summer of 2011. It is directed by Rob Kuhns, who has been editing documentaries in New York since 1987. It is produced by Kuhns and his wife, Esther Cassidy, who also collaborated on the documentary, "Enemies of War," that told the story of El Salvador's bloody civil war.

Kuhns has been a fan of George A. Romero's work since the early 1980s when he first saw "Night of the Living Dead" at a midnight show. "Night" had been playing regularly in theaters in New York since it first came out in 1968. Before considering making a documentary, Kuhns read about Romero and became fascinated with the story of the making of "Night." Here was this crew of mostly working class people, not very experienced in filmmaking and with very few resources, coming together to make a seminal and world-shaking film. It was a great story of a "little-movie-that-could."

After extensive interviews with George A. Romero in Toronto, Kuhns started editing the documentary. Kuhns' previous experience working as an Editor for "Bill Moyers Journal" and later on "Moyers and Company" gave him the opportunity to explore the powerful archival images of American history in the 1960's. Kuhns surveyed television news stories of the racial violence exploding across the country and horrific combat footage of the Vietnam War. He also saw the U.S. government responses to both. Kuhns realized that Romero and his collaborators created "Night of the Living Dead," a film about the world coming to an end, at a historic time of enormous U. S. upheaval. "Night" was revealing itself as a living document of the time in which it was made.

"There was a good deal of sort of anger," Romero recalls. "Mostly that the 60s didn't work. You know, we thought we had changed with world or were part of some sort of a reform that was going to make things better. And all of a sudden it wasn't any better. It wasn't any different."

Once Kuhns illuminated the historical context, his new documentary evolved into something much richer than the "making of" film that he originally envisioned. Interviews in "Birth" include critic Elvis Mitchell, Chiz Schultz, producer of Harry Belafonte's TV specials, Sam Pollard, producer of Spike Lee's documentaries, film critic and author of "Shock Value," Jason Zinoman, as well as Romero. For more information, go to the BOTLD website.



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