Funded! This project was successfully funded on July 17, 2013.

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Little League baseball in the most dangerous city in America is more than just a game. It's life.

Joey watches his cousin Miguel practice at Pyne Poynt Park.
Joey watches his cousin Miguel practice at Pyne Poynt Park.

The Project

“Camden is the poster child of post-industrial decay,” said journalist Chris Hedges in a 2010 essay. “It stands as a warning of what huge pockets of the United States could turn into as we cement into place a permanent underclass of the unemployed and slash state and federal services in a desperate bid to cut a massive deficit.”

Camden has always been, from the time that I was very young, one of the most dangerous cities in America, a city with murder rates that parried those of failed states. Yet I had grown up less than 5 miles from this strange, third-world city with a wildly different experience. I wanted to know why. The result is this documentary, PYNE POYNT.

PYNE POYNT follows the Reyes family through one year and two seasons of baseball. Joey, who plays in the 16-18 year old league, has become the de facto head of the family after the violent death of his brother and four family members. He cares for his grandmother and many cousins. The oldest of those cousins is Miguel. Miguel’s father is in a halfway house in Newark and will be returning after years of incarceration next summer, a month before Miguel’s birthday. As we watch Miguel and Joey graduate and play baseball, visit his father and navigate the hard streets of Camden, we begin to see the role baseball plays in their lives, and in one of America’s most dangerous cities.

The league plays in Pyne Poynt Park, which 50 years ago played host to a number of social activities and live music. Now it is where most junkies shoot heroin, straddled by the 6th and 7th street corridors, known as Heroin Highway. 

After years of lobbying the city, league President Bryan Morton can look forward to a $3.5 million rehabilitation for the park, and renovations to the field.

The documentary follows one league, one family, and one city during a period of great transition. PYNE POYNT is about more than the power of sports to help children rise above poverty. It's a documentary about life and death on one small, grassless oasis in America where the chances of success aren't good but where the phrase "hitting it out of the park" takes on a new meaning. Each at-bat, each inning, and each game the team plays is one more positive tally mark on life's bigger scoreboard.

The Team

Reported and directed by Steve Patrick Ercolani with videography and direction by Gabe Dinsmoor—this is a small team!  This is partly what we need you for. We would like to bring a team from LA out to help us film, who have offered their services. You can see their work at http://chriscollinsfilms.com/

Steve Patrick Ercolani is a freelance journalist who has written for The Village Voice, Al Jazeera English, and The Tico Times. He is a fellow with the Atlantic Media Company.
Steve Patrick Ercolani is a freelance journalist who has written for The Village Voice, Al Jazeera English, and The Tico Times. He is a fellow with the Atlantic Media Company.
Gabe Dinsmoor is a multimedia journalist whose photos have appeared in the Baltimore Sun, Washingtonpost.com, LAtimes.com, Chicagotribune.com, and most recently in a National Geographic Traveler guide on Costa Rica.
Gabe Dinsmoor is a multimedia journalist whose photos have appeared in the Baltimore Sun, Washingtonpost.com, LAtimes.com, Chicagotribune.com, and most recently in a National Geographic Traveler guide on Costa Rica.

Steve and Gabe met while working for the Tico Times in San Jose, Costa Rica and are excited to be working together again in the United States.

Your Help!

This is a time consuming, full-length production that will require the talents and professional skill sets of many different film professionals who must travel from all parts of the country. Paying a small camera crew can cost up to $5000 a week. The more you contribute, the more weeks we can film! In the run up to the final production next summer, funds contributed will also help finance a multimedia short.

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The personal and anecdotal nature of documentary filmmaking is often an invasive process for the community involved.

We have achieved a level of community assimilation and have been granted unprecedented access into the lives of the residents of North Camden. Our goal has been, to paraphrase journalist and creator of The Wire David Simon, to become furniture in the lives of others, of the community, to be given no special consideration, allowing us to observe what life is truly like for an entire community. There is still months of filming to be done, and with your help, we will bring their story to the world.

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