March 26, 2021

In documentary, youths explore bond between Troy, Hudson River

By Shrishti Mathew for The Times Union

The Sanctuary for Independent Media’s Uptown Summer interns didn’t know much about the ecosystem around them. Armed with cameras and guided by media professionals, they set about learning, exploring and documenting the Hudson River near the nonprofit group’s  home in North Troy.

The result was “Echoes from Lock One,” a documentary investigating the past, present and future of the Hudson River in North Troy where the northern boundary of the Hudson River estuary meets the eastern terminus of the Erie Canal. It is  currently being screened at the all-virtual Environmental Film Festival in Washington, D.C., and will be shown in April at the North Dakota Environmental Rights Film Festival and the Kansas City FilmFest International. The  National Endowment for the Arts included the film’s trailer  in a weekly report to the White House.

“The entire neighborhood of North Central Troy has been plagued by environmental devastation, the legacy of the Hudson River, as well as economic oppression,” said Brenda Miller, arts and education coordinator at the Sanctuary for Independent Media. “It is a community that we don’t hear from enough and yet, it is situated at the historic beginning of the Erie Canal. There’s incredible riches in the community, not only from the people in the community, but from the history. And ‘Echoes from Lock One’ was looking to share that story, explore that history, that legacy, and really reflect upon the echoes that reverberate today.”

Miller said  the Uptown Summer program is a collaboration with the Rensselaer County summer youth employment program. The internships involve a combination of roles, including being environmental stewards in the community and helping grow food. The sanctuary includes a community media center, up-and-coming community science center, and Freedom Square, which is an outdoor public arts and culture presentation space.

But the most important skill, Miller says, is learning media skills, whether it’s video, radio or social media, and addressing issues they decide are important to them.

“The stories that are told about North Troy are somewhat negative,” said Catherine Rafferty, who worked on the editing and post-production of the film. “There’s like, drive-by shootings, like when Ayshawn Davis died by a stray bullet. But then there’s also this really deep story to North Troy that I was so glad that we could bring to light with this film.

“I wasn’t there with the students when they were shooting (the documentary), right? So, when I was editing it, I was able to just observe them learning all this other stuff about their community that they weren’t aware of. And it was empowering for them, because they could see that there’s more to their community than just the bad stories. There’s also all these good stories that we need to bring about as well.”

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We use art and participatory action to promote social and environmental justice and freedom of creative expression.

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