"Terrific" - LA Times
"Superb..mesmerizing" NY Film Critics Circle
"Hilarious" - The New Yorker
"Utterly compelling" - Jacksonville Film Journal
BOOKWARS is: The gritty world of New York City street booksellers told in a remarkable story that chronicles their lives and loves and their unique perspectives on life...
...see the Mayor and the NYPD try to shut them down!
With soundtrack by jazz legends Jack McDuff and Willis Jackson, BOOKWARS is an homage to the Beat sensibility made famous by Jack Kerouac, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, William Burroughs, Gregory Corso, Robert Frank, and others from the Beat generation.
IFP Gotham Award nominee
WINNER - New York Underground Film Festival
Music by Jazz legends Jack McDuff and Willis Jackson; blues rock score by Little Muddy
Documentary RT 79:00 ~ NTSC ~ USA
(this version licensed for home use only)
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In "Bookwars", you actually get to see the booksellers as human beings, not as anonymous faces behind a table. You learn a bit about their marketing strategies (e.g. wrapping a book in plastic to make it more appealing to a potential buyer) and how they determine what kinds of books they will sell, etc.
This movie gives an informative and, occasionally, entertaining look into a way of life that most Americans - including most New Yorkers - have not been exposed to in-depth.
Overall, a good film which I will rent again in the future.
inventory from a new perspective!! Dive into the bookselling world on the streets of New York!
Book Wars is a period piece from not that long ago, but which is almost certainly completely gone. It is the world of street booksellers that was a familiar fixture of life on 4th Street at NYU and Washington Square Park, Sixth Avenue around 8th Street, and a mention of some of the other spots that were. In the movie, one of the sellers proclaims, during the dire years of Mayor Giuliani’s “Quality of Life” persecution of street vendors among other demographics, that people want to read: ‘This is not Brooklyn or the Bronx. People here (Manhattan) want to read.’ (paraphrased remarks).
Of course, now, the place to find street book vendors, while the guys have persevered on Sixth Ave at 8th in Manhattan, is on Bedford Street in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Brooklyn is where to go these days.
Book Wars “reads” like an anthropology of vanished New York. As documentaries go, it becomes completely important in that it captured a moment before it absolutely passed: New York City before 911, during but not vanquished by Giuliani’s and then Bloomberg’s push to make New York City, especially Manhattan, clean, even if that means generic.
That’s the story: a personal tale of a young man deciding to take his life into his own hands and become a street book seller. The movie showcases and delves a little bit into several booksellers that had tables outside the library at NYU on 4th Street and a couple of the fixture book and magazine sellers on Sixth Ave at 8th Street. The movie talks a lot about the sellers and the theories and psychologies employed in selling, as well as showing the lifestyle of these independent entrepreneurs, their camaraderie and frustrations.
In form, the video is a reminder of the time before HD, before 16:9 televisions. The 4:3 frame of the movie fit our world when the movie was made. The narrative pace, at first seeming so slow, works incredibly well with the music and becomes a poem of the booksellers and bookselling. Some of the interviewees, speaking in characteristically fast New York parlance, offer the counterbalance of a pace that is New York City fast. New York City was fast but not as crazy crowded as it is now, and there was room for people to act out their autonomy on the street.
I’m taking some time in this essay to say that I like Book Wars very much: for its feeling of poetry/writing on screen, for its quality of being a period piece, and for its anthropological casualness, from a first-person point of view. Watch Book Wars and feel like you’ve read a book.
If you love reading books and/or New York City, see this movie! I'd heard about it but missed it - really incredible. I'm glad I took a chance, and glad there's a way to see unique movies like this through Unbox.