The Brooklyn Navy Yard will be turned into a drive-in theater for the first time ever this weekend, courtesy Bed Stuy native Joseph C. Grant Jr. He will premier his film, “To Live and Die in Bed Stuy,” a five-part miniseries this Friday and Saturday.
“To Live and Die in Bed Stuy” was conceived fifteen years ago as a book, which Grant self-published through his company Ghetto Eyez Publishing. After selling out his original stock, Grant shifted his focus to other projects, leaving the book out of mind for years. Recently, the story resurfaced, and for the past year and a half, he set out to bring his words to life on the screen.
A classic cautionary tale, To Live and Die in Bed Stuy focuses on the struggle between two gangsters and the consequences that their actions have on others in their lives. The film poses the question, “What would you do when your loyalty is in question and your reputation is on the line?”
“It’s not what you’re expecting at all,” insisted Grant. He points to his childhood in Brooklyn as an inspiration for the story, adding that in Bed Stuy, kids like himself often learned under the tutelage of older guys in the neighborhood who, “although they wanted the best for you, they didn’t necessarily live in the best way.”
The neighborhood is key to the film, and to maintain authenticity, a majority of the scenes are filmed in Bedford Stuyvesant.
“I Don’t Want Youth to Feel How I Felt Growing Up.”
Originally from Trinidad, Grant grew up in Bed Stuy and was drawn to the arts from an early age. “Growing up as an artist in the 70s, it’s not the coolest thing to be, so you kinda hide your gifts a little bit,” he said.
It wasn’t until he attended the High School of Arts & Design in Manhattan when he began to settle into his identity. Surrounded by people like him, Grant said that he was able to open up more.
Still, the experience was not always easy, as racism and bias from the institution was present. Grant said that he had several Black friends at the school who were told in 9th or 10th grade that the school wasn’t the right fit for them. A guidance counselor told him his dreams were unattainable, said Grant, and pushed him to get a GED.
Grant has made it his mission to take the stigma away from the arts for kids growing up in similar circumstances. This is why he gladly took on the role of Ambassador of Arts and Culture in the office of NYC Councilmember Robert Cornegy. In this position, he has sought not only to encourage kids to go into the arts, but also teach parents that the arts are a noble profession for their children to pursue.
“I don’t want youth to feel how I felt growing up — as if something was wrong with me,” Grant explained.
Always remaining busy, Grant also is working on a line of high-end watches, which pay homage to his late father. In addition, he has worked for the last eight years with the FDNY on an art installation titled “We Didn’t Start the Fire,” which showcases the history of Black firefighters.
A Drive-In Experience
COVID-19 forced Grant to adapt his plans for To Live and Die in Bed Stuy, which was originally slated for an April release. After pushing the date back a couple times, he realized that things probably weren’t going back to normal for a while. This spawned the idea for a drive-in, something he always enjoyed as a kid and believes can enhance the movie experience. It allows him the opportunity to follow social distancing guidelines while still providing people a fun night out.
After approaching a friend at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, he was connected with the right people, who were thrilled with the idea. The BNY partnership included a forty-ticket giveaway to residents of NYCHA.
Grant sees To Live and Die in Bed Stuy as breaking down some of the barriers to the arts for his community. He hopes that people will see a new path outside of the industry standards to forge artistic success. “We did it all independently, he said, “I want people to look at it and say, ‘Listen, no one can tell you how to do what it is that you have in your heart to do.’”
To Live and Die in Bed Stuy was written, produced, and directed by Joseph C. Grant Jr. and stars Hisham Tawfiq, Jacinto Taras Riddick, Justin Hurtt-Dunkely, Alfred E. Rutherford and Jahla Pope.
There will be a 7:00pm and a 9:30pm showing on Friday October 2nd and Saturday, October 3rd. Tickets are $50 per car and can be purchased at www.toliveanddieinbedstuy.com/contact/
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