Koch documentary to be screened in Stamford, Hartford

Today, the Avon Theatre in Stamford was busy preparing for its 007 Red Carpet Festival Oscar Nominated Film Festival – a monthlong event that kicks off this weekend – but an event next month is likely to prove a popular draw, as well.

On Wednesday, March 6, the downtown theater will welcome former journalist and  filmmaker Neil Barsky for a question-and-answer session following the screening of his new film “Koch,” a 95-minute documentary about the former New York City Mayor Ed Koch, who served for three terms from 1978 to 1989.

Koch died Friday at the age of 88.

“We had already been anticipating that this would be a popular event that would generate a lot of interest,” said Adam Birnbaum, the theater’s director of film programming.

Birnbaum said there are plenty of transplanted New Yorkers now living in Stamford and other parts of Fairfield County, and many residents who work in the city.

Currently, the movie is set to be screened through the beginning of May in a handful of states including California, Connecticut, Florida, New York and Pennsylvania, and in Washington, D.C. It also will be featured at the Hartford Jewish Film Fest.

If you are interested, you can find out more about the Avon’s special presentation at its website.

The film covers the issues that Koch faced, including race relations, economic woes and homelessness, through interviews, archival footage and photographs.

In a director’s statement, released by Zeitgeist Films, Barsky talks about his subject:

Koch proved a perfectly complex character. He is funny and he can be a bully; he is charming and also narcissistic. He has a much-speculated-about private life which he doesn’t mind being asked about, so long as you don’t mind being told to mind your own business. He is a man surrounded by friends and admirers, and he is a man alone.

On the day of Koch’s death, a search through the Stamford Advocate’s archives revealed he had his fans in Fairfield County. In particular, a number of appearances in 1984, in support of the book he released that year “Mayor: An Autobiography,” drew crowds to several stores in the area. Hundreds came out to the New Canaan Book Shop, which has since closed, and many others got to meet him at the Caldor’s in Stamford (which is now Burlington Coat Factory).

Known for not mincing words, he was asked by then New Canaan teenager Laura Kane: “Mr. Koch, what do you think of the community of New Canaan?”

His response?

“Oh, I can take suburbia for about 48 hours,” he said. “There’s nothing wrong with it.”

Above, then New York City Mayor Ed Koch poses with his book “Mayor” and 13-month-old Kevin Swinton at Caldor’s in Stamford in June 1984, while Kevin’s mom, Pat, takes a picture.

Christina Hennessy