Local filmmaker works to elevate the cinema culture of the Bronx with new podcast

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Gregory Hernandez and Sophie Ewh of the new podcast “Uptown Films,” will be holding a launch party in the Bronx Friday.
Photo courtesy Uptown Films

“How do you graduate from high school not being able to read? Thousands of people in New York (City) have graduated high school over the years, not being able to read,” says the CEO of Literacy Partners, Anthony Tassi, in the new documentary, “1.5 Million.”

Not yet released, and currently making the rounds at film festivals, “1.5 Million” shines a spotlight on the disproportionate concentration of illiterate New Yorkers in impoverished areas, specifically the Bronx. That number, 1.5 million, is also the estimate of illiterate adults in the city – nearly 20% of the population. And while the documentary works to educate viewers on this “epidemic,” as Tassi puts it, it does so through a solutions lens.

Gregory Hernandez is the producer, writer and director of the film and a Bronx native who began his career in film back in 2013. In “1.5 Million,” Hernandez captures the everyday landscape of the Bronx and its people. Filled with aerial shots as well as on-the-ground close-ups and voices from the borough, the Bronx acts as the documentary’s main character.

In 2019, Hernandez co-founded Bronx Film 48, a 48-hour film challenge where filmmakers from the borough gather to create a movie in two days – a more regional iteration of the 48-Hour Film Project.

“It’s a community based organization with the goal of increasing and elevating the culture of cinema of the Bronx,” says Hernandez.

And now, he is embarking on a new medium with the same mission – podcasting.

On Friday evening, Hernandez along with his co-host and fellow filmmaker, Sophie Ewh, will be holding a launch party for their brand-new podcast, “Uptown Films” — a 30-40-minute audio series that aims to build strong connections with filmmakers who reside in the Bronx, Washington Heights and Harlem.

“I’m hoping that the podcast can provide a space where filmmakers from uptown can share stories and tips that can be heard by aspiring filmmakers everywhere,” says Ewh.

But “Uptown Films” is more than just creating a hub for like-minded creators, Hernandez and Ewh also want to educate filmmakers about “PMD” — production, marketing and distribution. “There’s a lot of non-profits that help filmmakers in terms of just making the films, but there’s not a non-profit uptown or presence uptown that helps them and is like, ‘Hey, here’s the business side of it, here’s how you make money and here’s how we can work together to make feature films, not just short films,’” says Hernandez.

Because if no one sees it and it doesn’t generate revenue, did you really make a movie?

Jerry Landi, film curator of the newly opened independent theater, Cinema on the Sound in City Island, will be one of the panel speakers at Friday’s event. “I think this is something the Bronx really needs and it’s going to be a lot of filmmakers collaborating, working with each other, and that’s what I want,” he said.

The “Uptown Films” launch party will be at the Dugout bar, located at 880 River Ave. In addition to food and refreshments, there will be a live recording of an “Uptown Films” episode with special guest Keith Overton, assistant editor at VICE news. Several local film organizations like the Mott Haven Film Festival and Ghetto Film School will also be in attendance. The party kicks off at 7 p.m. and is free to attend with an RSVP.

Reach ET Rodriguez at elbatamarar@gmail.com. For more coverage, follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @bronxtimes