A life spent in the limelight
4.15pm Saturday, March 16
Ed Koch loved the limelight — so its rather sad that the former New York mayor wont get to enjoy the attention this fascinating film about his time in office will undoubtedly generate.
The 88-year-old died on February 1 this year, after willingly spending the last half-century in the public eye.
Thankfully, his impact on the city that never sleeps is unlikely to be forgotten thanks to former Wall Street Journal reporter Neil Barskys carefully crafted documentary.
For though Koch is the story of one mans political career, its also the story of the massive changes which took place in New York from 1977 to 1989, during his tenure.
Viewers are left in no doubt about the part Koch played in kick-starting the Big Apples transformation from an urban hellhole plagued by social problems to the magnificent metropolis it is today.
Barsky uses masses of archive footage and recent interviews with Koch and those who knew him to paint a picture of a brash, passionate, divisive and decisive mayor.
The film brilliantly tells the story of Kochs three mayoral election wins and 12 tumultuous years in charge, as well as chronicling a critical period in New Yorks history.
A Democratic congressman, Bronx-born Koch won his first term as mayor in a hotly contested election during which he stood at street corners, asking passersby Howm I doin?.
He took over a city on the brink of bankruptcy and turned around its finances but some sectors of the five boroughs felt he didnt adequately represent them.
A bachelor whose sexuality was the subject of much speculation during his three terms, he pushed through gay rights legislation.
But the gay community marched against Koch for failing to do enough during the AIDS epidemic, while he incensed black citizens after closing Sydenham Hospital in Harlem, despite promising not to while seeking their votes.
Koch lost the 1989 mayoral election a couple of years after City Hall was hit by a wave of corruption scandals, none directly involving him but involving his political allies.
Barsky doesnt shy away from highlighting the former Mayors huge ego, questionable friendships and bad decisions, while acknowledging his successes, especially in providing public housing for New Yorkers.
Even his critics acknowledge Kochs commitment to New York and his role in shaping its future.
Their testimony, and that of Kochs friends and former colleagues, combine to create a film which is both an affectionate tribute to a larger-than-life character and a love letter to an ever-evolving city.
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