Koch Film Opens Hours After Ex-NYC Mayor’s Death

This article was originally published in The Times of Israel.

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“How am I doing?” Ed Koch famously used to ask during his years as New York City’s mayor. The answer was sometimes negative, but wouldn’t be in relation to one of his more recent projects: serving as the subject of a new documentary.

With “Koch,” director Neil Barsky skillfully brings to the screen a New York icon largely unknown to younger generations, and forgotten by older ones. In a striking coincidence, the film opened in New York on Friday, hours after Koch’s death, from heart failure, at age 88.

koch.inddFew remember when the Bronx was burning, Times Square was a den of sin and the city was on the verge of financial collapse. That was the Gotham the bombastic Koch willfully inherited upon his election in 1977. He saw it as his mission — his destiny — to turn the metropolis around.

“I knew that of all those who were running, I knew more than they did,” the retired politician, now 88, tells Barsky and the camera.

The film, opening Friday in New York, pivots on Koch’s singular personality, but it’s also about a certain era, a time when the city’s future hung in the balance. Many policies enacted by Koch’s successors turned the Big Apple into the shiny, tourist-friendly place it is today, but the film argues that it was Koch’s bold — even chutzpa — moves that laid the groundwork for its amazing recovery.

“I wanted to depict a New York that no longer exists,” Barsky told The Times of Israel by phone from his Manhattan office. “I wanted to focus on the seeds of New York’s recovery that were planted in the Koch era.”

Koch’s status as America’s first celebrity mayor was certainly a draw for the first-time filmmaker. But in addition to displaying his larger-than-life persona, Barsky wanted to highlight how the media-savvy politician arrived at the city’s nadir and arrested its deterioration.

“He was the right guy to be mayor at that point,” Barsky said.

Click here to read more and to view the film’s trailer.

© 2013 Renee Ghert-Zand. All rights reserved.

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