Screening Dates
  • January 26 (Friday) 7:00 with Richard Sandler in attendance
  • January 29 (Monday) 8:45

A moment in New York City history when the place most identified with free speech and free spirits changed from a democratic, interracial, common ground to a corporate-controlled soulless theme park.”

Richard Sandler

Credit Josh Safdie (of the famed Safdie brothers) for breathing second life into renowned American street photographer Richard Sandler’s debut film, a pound-the-pavement documentary on dueling open-air sermons in Manhattan’s pre-Disneyfied (and pre‑9/​11) Times Square. Shot guerrilla-style on Hi8 camcorder and marked by the artist’s genuine curiosity and rapport with the film’s patchwork of sidewalk preachers, The Gods of Times Square chronicles the dying days of a grimier but far more liberal era of the iconic NYC intersection, when go-go bars, porno theatres, mom-and-pop shops, and SOS evangelists crowded the insomniatic, then-infamous enclave. Sandler’s focus—Times Square as a pulpit, a place to preach, pray, and find god—raises existential questions about faith and salvation, though never at the expense of his flesh-and-blood subjects. Blunt and at times objectionable (hate speech goes uncensored, be advised), this newly resuscitated work is a veritable time capsule of a now-erased place and its prophets.

Director Richard Sandler will join us in person on January 26 for a post-screening discussion with art curator Helga Pakasaar.

A study of urban theology as it examines the relationship of man and God in Midtown Manhattan … The Gods of Times Square is a good-humoured, tolerant celebration of New York City’s diversity and eccentricity.”

Lawrence Van Gelder, The New York Times

Once upon a time, town squares were comment sections, where people brave enough to shout their opinions did it face to face. There is no stronger belief than one’s faith, and what used to be Times Square was a town square on steroids. As the 20th century came to an end, we entered the corporatized Y2K age. Spirituality seemed an essential grounding force, something to unify us. But whose God is supreme? What is God? What is God’s place in the digital age? When Disney invaded Times Square it went up against the smut. It was a magnet for all things good and bad. It was hell with attractions. I still secretly wished to be yelled at whenever I enter Times Square.”

Josh Safdie

Helga Pakasaar is a contemporary art curator based in Vancouver. She has produced many exhibitions, public art commissions, and publications of Canadian and international contemporary art, with a focus on photography and media art. As the Audain chief curator at the Polygon Gallery, and previously at Presentation House Gallery in North Vancouver, she presented canonical photographers as well as new perspectives on the histories of photography and video of this region.