An Open Letter to NYC: Tonita's

AA Prince from Outer Space: Zeki Muren
Beyza Boyacioglu, Teaser, 5 min
A Prince from Outer Space: Zeki Müren is a work-in-progress feature length documentary about Turkey’s beloved queer pop legend Zeki Müren. 20 years after his death, cross-dressing nightclub star Zeki Müren is still considered a national hero in Turkey and remembered fondly by people from all walks of life. The film follows the historical trajectory of Müren’s rise as ‘Turkey’s sun of art’ through interviews and archival footage. When the film turns its lens to contemporary Turkey, Müren’s ghosts reveal an ongoing story about Turkey’s modernization project and the LGBTQ movement.


Zeki Muren Hotline
Beyza Boyacioglu, work-in-progress, 15 min
Zeki Müren Hotline accompanies the feature length film as an oral history project and collects everyday people’s memories and ideas about Müren by using a telephone line and its accompanying website. After being launched in January, the line received more than 700 messages — most of them addressing Müren himself.


Juncos Brooklyn
Sebastian Diaz, work-in-progress, 12 min
Juncos Brooklyn is an experimental documentary looking at strong and loose connections between New York City and Puerto Rico, specifically between the neighborhood of Williamsburg, Brooklyn and the village of Juncos, Puerto Rico which have a direct connection via migration.

The film explores the idiosyncrasy of the Junqueños by observing two long-running social centers: Pabón mini market in Juncos, where regulars hang out to drink beer, making a defacto bar; and the Caribbean Sports Club in Brooklyn, where owner Maria Toñita maintains the only remaining social club in a rapidly gentrifying neighborhood that was once predominantly Puerto Rican.

The film swings freely between Juncos and Brooklyn by using people or things that serve as transitions (sounds, a pothole, the sky, people dancing), creating comparisons that reveal the strong bond between the two places. The juxtaposition of postcards from a calm and provincial village next to those of a hectic urban neighborhood, raise questions about migration, adaptation and identity.

The observational and poetic footage follows two characters that serve as the main threads to this amorphous narrative: Maria Toñita who travels to Juncos after over three years to reunite with her daughter and grandson; and Sylvia, the owner of Pabón market who once had a successful bodega in Williamsburg, Brooklyn but left back to her hometown after a traumatic robbery.




Sebastian Diaz, Beyza Boyacioglu, 2014, 21 min
Toñita’s is a portrait of the last Puerto Rican social club in South Williamsburg, Brooklyn. The short documentary dives into the microcosm of Caribbean Club (also fondly labeled ‘Toñita’s’ after its owner Maria Toñita), in order to talk about urban space, displacement and identity. The film zigzags between nightlife and daytime activities at the club, and the testimonies of its regulars. Music and dance constitute a crucial part of the film as Toñita’s is a love letter to Nuyorican culture. When the club scenes are interrupted with interviews, each testimony touches upon a specific issue, such as the history of the neighborhood, gentrification, Nuyorican music and dance, and Puerto Rican identity. The interviews paint a complicated picture of the neighborhood and the local community. Caribbean Club regulars confront the new South Side with mixed feelings, as they also reveal a sweet-sour relationship with the past. A recurring subject in the interviews is the owner Toñita, the matriarch of the community, devoted to keep the club open “until she falls”.

Toñita’s is produced at 2013 UnionDocs Collaborative Studio and is a part of UnionDocs’ Living Los Sures project. This multi-faceted project restores Diego Echeverria’s 1984 film Los Sures, makes it accessible to audiences online, remixes local histories through a web documentary platform, and reinvestigates Southside of Williamsburg, Brooklyn today through a collection of short films.

Toñita’s is a documentary portrait of the Puerto Rican community and Nuyorican culture in Brooklyn, through the last remaining Puerto Rican social club in South Williamsburg, its owner Maria Toñita and its colorful regulars.




Q&A with Sebastian Diaz and Beyza Boyacioglu followed by reception with Puerto Rican, Mexican and Turkish culinary delights.


This program is part of An Open Letter to NYC:
Immigrant Documentary Filmmakers and Their Films

Starting with the periods before, during, between, and after the two world wars through to the present day, the American film industry would not exist without the immigrant filmmaker. In fact all contemporary American art and media, including the current documentary renaissance, is enlivened by and rooted in the modern immigrant experience. An Open Letter takes stock in immigrant, refugee and expatriate documentary filmmakers and/or documentary films about immigration and pays special attention to filmmakers from dominant and emerging NYC populations including those of Caribbean, Eastern European, Latin American, South and East Asian, Middle Eastern and West African descent. Programmed by Jessica Green and Edo Choi.

This series is supported by New York City’s Department of Cultural Affairs (DCLA) as part of the 2016 Immigrant Cultural Initiative.