by Lela Scott MacNeil
July 14th, 2010

Come see Seltzer Works and other short films about “Brooklyn Transformations” for free this Saturday in Fort Greene Park.

This Saturday, July 17th, Rooftop Films will screen Seltzer Works, directed by Jessica Edwards, as part of our free “Brooklyn Transformations” program of short films. Saturday’s show is all about the grit and grace of Brooklyn and its citizens in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds. Seltzer Works is no exception.

Jessica’s beautifully shot film showcases the perseverance of one Brooklyn native, who is keeping his family’s seltzer bottling business alive as he struggles against the modern corporate supermarket industry. His glass bottles contain “real seltzer” which must tickle the back of the throat, something mass produced plastic bottles can’t provide.

A self proclaimed lover of seltzer, Jessica uses gorgeous imagery and sound to bring the story behind the bubbles to life. We spoke with her about nostalgia, building bridges between existing Brooklyn immigrant communities and newly transplanted foodies, and why real seltzer should hurt.

Rooftop Films: Tell us about your film, for someone who hasn’t seen it.

Jessica Edwards: Seltzer Works is a short documentary about the last seltzer bottler in Brooklyn, third generation filler Kenny Gomberg.  The film is a lyrical ode to a bygone era.

RF: The changing of times and this serious recession has caused many small businesses to fail. Why did you chose to spotlight the seltzer industry in Brooklyn?

JE: The longevity of this industry is very inspiring.  It continues to chug along despite the rise of plastic seltzer bottles available at the supermarket and the older customers moving to Florida.  I think people continue to patronize the old school seltzer because it’s well made and delicious but also because of nostalgia.

RF: The film is screening in our Brooklyn Transformations series.  How do you think your film fits in with all of these shorts about constantly changing Brooklyn?

JE: Seltzer Works is something of a link between Jewish and Italian communities and the younger ‘foodies’, who have moved into Brooklyn neighborhoods and patronized greenmarkets and sustainable food shops.

RF: In the film several people say that good seltzer should hurt.  Is that your experience too?

JE: Absolutely!  I am a very big fan of seltzer with smaller bubbles and a tighter density of CO2, which is what makes it ‘hurt’. It’s impossible to get that from the plastic bottles since they can’t hold the same pressure as the old glass bottles. But after one quick squeeze of a siphon bottle, you put your nose in the glass, you can feel the bubbles, and you know you’ve got good seltzer.

RF: Are you a full-time filmmaker? If not, what else are you up to?

JE: I am not a full-time filmmaker; I run my own public relations firm called FILM FIRST.  A girl’s gotta eat!  We do theatrical release campaigns and attend all the major North American film festivals representing films.  We have worked with many amazing filmmakers including Ang Lee, David Cronenberg, Joel and Ethan Coen, Margaret Brown, Shirin Neshat and dozens of others.

RF: Tell us about your next project.
I’m working on a short film now about another aspect of New York culture that will hopefully be done by the end of the year.  I’m also working on a documentary feature about textile recycling and the second hand clothing trade.

RF: What excites you about screening at Rooftop Films?

JE: I have been attending Rooftop for years. When I first moved to New York I thought it was one of the coolest events in the city.  There is something magical about seeing amazingly curated films in a space you might never have known was there. The audiences are always enthusiastic and attentive and it’s a great place for emerging filmmakers.


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Rooftop Films is a New York based non-profit whose mission is to engage diverse communities by showing independent movies in outdoor locations, producing new films, coordinating youth media education, and renting equipment at low cost to artists.


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