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A documentary film about a child of the Bronx who returns to find out why her neighborhood burned down in the 1970s. Read more

Bronx, NY Film & Video
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This project was successfully funded on July 10, 2011.

A documentary film about a child of the Bronx who returns to find out why her neighborhood burned down in the 1970s.

Bronx, NY Film & Video
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About this project


Thanks to our generous supporters, DECADE OF FIRE has reached its goal of raising $15,000 for filming and editing a rough cut!  If you haven't had the chance to support the film yet, its not too late  - the project can still accept donations on Kickstarter until 7:45 AM this Sunday, July 10th.

Donations over $15,000 will go towards additional filming and editing, buying the rights to archival footage, getting the perfect music for the film, and the many other costs of making a feature film.  Every donation past our goal helps us make this film and get it out to the world.  Help make DECADE OF FIRE possible!

The Story

In the 1970s, when I was growing up in the South Bronx, I never thought my neighborhood was a slum.  It was my world and I loved it.  But by the time I was 18, the South Bronx I had known was gone.  In ten years, fires had destroyed almost all the houses where I lived and almost half a million people had fled.  We never knew who’s building would be next.  By the time I left, my neighborhood looked like a war zone – burnt out shells of buildings and empty lots piled with rubble.

Decade of Fire is a film about what happened to my neighborhood and those of us who survived the destruction of our communities.   After 30 years away, I can’t let go of my questions: Why did the Bronx burn?  Who let the fires rage on for so long?  And what happened to those who remained behind?

Why a Documentary Film?

This is my first ever film!  With the collaboration of my co-producers I have the chance to tell the hidden history of the fires, and expose the policies of the city that turned a crisis of fires into the unstoppable epidemic that destroyed so many communities.  The process of making this project has been challenging, as it taps into the collective pain that many of us share.  At the same time, the film documents the pride we have in our stories about where we come from, our cultures and in the connection we had with each other. 

The people of the South Bronx deserve to know why our neighborhoods were left to burn and equally important, we need to celebrate the stories of people who took positive action and brought their communities back from the brink.

Decade Of Fire looks past the usual suspects and examines the government policies at the heart of this urban disaster.  As New York City gets ready to close 20 fire companies in the next year, this film gives a voice to those of us who bear the burden of cuts in times of crisis.

Who is making this film?

Ever since leaving my South Bronx neighborhood, I've had a growing desire to understand how, and why, the fires happened.  The film sprung to life when I came together with two friends, one a community organizer and the other a filmmaker, and we decided to document the history of the fires.

Gretchen Hildebran, who is directing and shooting (as well as co-producing) Decade of Fire, has worked as a producer, cinematographer and editor on documentary films and TV for the last 10 years.   Co-producer Julia Allen has been a community organizer in the Bronx since 2001, when she and I created a high school curriculum on the burning of the Bronx. Julia currently organizes students and parents in Bronx public schools, and is an award-winning playwright and performer.

We started interviewing the people I’d grown up with, who shared my memories of coming up in the neighborhood, attending the same schools and churches, hanging out in the schoolyard and in the park across the street. Our goal was to tell the stories of our collective struggle and survival, and most importantly, our resolve to move forward.  (Seguir Pa’lante.)

Along the way our search expanded to include the firefighters, politicians, bureaucrats and historians who had seen the fires sweep through the Bronx.  The story we uncovered was big – how racial segregation and Urban Renewal turned the Bronx into a ghetto, and how city officials first ignored the fires, and then justified closing South Bronx fire companies as they raged out of control. 

What’s the Status of the Film Now?

About 40 hours of footage has been shot already and we have a trailer and 30-minute rough cut.  But there are parts of this story we still need to capture.  This summer we plan to film additional interviews with a father and daughter who survived the fires, with old-time politicians, former FDNY brass.  We’re also going to capture the stories of two community members who survived, stayed, and organized people to rebuild their neighborhoods.

The money we raise through Kickstarter will make a two-week shoot in July possible and give us another month of editing in order to incorporate this new footage into the rough cut and move onto finishing. 

Please help us share this story with the world!  

Help out in any way you can, and pass it on: post, blog, tweet, or what have you -  mention it to your friends!

All donations to the film are tax-deductible through our non-profit sponsor, Deep Dish TV.

To find out more about the film, go to our website:

Join the Decade of Fire  Facebook page!


To learn more about the fires and what happened in the Bronx, check out:

An excerpt from "The Fires," a book by Joe Flood

"A Plague On Your Houses" a book by Deborah and Rodrick Wallace

"Born In the Bronx: A Visual Record of the Early Days of Hip Hop"

"Do Not Give Way to Evil: Photographs of the South Bronx, 1979-1987"

Read about the cuts being planned for this year in the FDNY:

Hear Reporter Joe Flood speaking about FDNY cuts on WNYC 6/6/11

NY Magazine


Find out more about some of the grassroots community groups that organized to bring the Bronx back:

Banana Kelly

Mid-Bronx Desparados

North West Bronx Community Clergy Coalition

52 People For Progress

Find out more about co-producer/cinematographer Gretchen Hildebran's work:


Have a question? If the info above doesn't help, you can ask the project creator directly.

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    All of the above, AND a limited edition DVD compilation of historic live performances from the last 30 years of 52 Park’s Latin Jazz Series, featuring legendary performers (many of whom hail from the Bronx) such as Tito Nieves Orquesta, Los Hermanos Moreno, Tito Puente Orquesta, Eddie Palmieri and many more!

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    AND a signed copy of reporter Joe Flood’s book "The Fires,” an investigation into the role of the RAND Corporation in New York City's decision to cut fire companies in the 1970s, and the disastrous consequences that followed.

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    AND a limited edition DVD of the legendary 1983 film "Style Wars," which vividly documents the rise of hip hop and graffiti culture out of the ashes of the South Bronx. Signed by director Henry Chalfont!

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    AND a signed copy of Lisa Kahane's photo book, "Do Not Give Way to Evil: Photographs of the South Bronx, 1979-1987," an extraordinary document of devastation and rejuvenation, that records the first seeds of rebuilding after the fires. With an essay by Peter Frank and text by John Ahearn, CRASH, DAZE, Jane Dickson, Stefan Eins, John Fekner, Joe Lewis, SHARP, and Rigoberto Torres.

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    Updates, an advance copy of the film, 52 Park Latin Jazz Greats DVD, a signed copy of "The Fires," a signed DVD of "Style Wars,"
    AND a signed copy of the photography book "Born in the Bronx: A Visual Record of the Early Days of Hip Hop," with rare photos and history from the world-wide cultural movement that sprung from the Bronx. Foreword by Afrika Bambaataa, Original Flyer Art by Buddy Esquire, Timeline by Jeff Chang. Signed by the book's celebrated photographer Joey Conzo.

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    AND complementary tickets to the premiere screening of the film in your town! (or to the town of your choosing - travel expenses not included)

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    AND Lunch and a personally guided tour of the Longwood and Hunt’s Point districts of the South Bronx. Meet producers Vivian Vasquez, Gretchen Hildebran and Julia Allen in person, and visit historic locations like Public School 52, 52 Park and Casa Amadeo’s music shop that are featured in the film. (Travel expenses outside of New York City not included)

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    AND complementary VIP tickets to the world premiere of the film! (Including travel expenses within the USA)

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    AND you are a Producer! You will be listed as a Producer in the opening credits of the final film.

Funding period

- (30 days)