Saltier than the Sea

Don’t get it twisted: this was no melting pot.

In August, for one night only, Brooklyn Academy of Music screened a new 4K restoration of Carol Stein and Susan Wittenberg’s 1980 documentary Brighton Beach. The film, shot over the course of four years when Stein and Wittenberg were, in their words, “young and cute and fun to hang out with,” is a vérité portrait of the cohabitation of Puerto Ricans and Soviet Jews in the beachfront Brooklyn neighborhood. Don’t get it twisted: this was no melting pot. Jews gathered in pool halls; Puerto Ricans danced on the boardwalk. The mixed-race couple whose life provides one of the few narrative through lines in the film is on the verge of divorce. Even the Polar Bear Club was exclusive (still is). Today, the streets of Brighton look shockingly the same as they do in Stein and Wittenberg’s intimate, generous shots. Does everything else?