Documentarian tells story of 1967 Newark riots, city's ongoing recovery

By Jessica Mazzola | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
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on June 13, 2015

Filmmaker Kevin McLaughlin.

 

NEWARK — As residents, businesses, and politicians are working to make Newark the next "revitalized" city, one documentarian is looking at what brought the city to where it is today.

In 1967, five straight days of rioting and civil unrest in the city left 26 dead and hundreds more injured. In a new film that debuts in a private screening at Seton Hall University Saturday, filmmaker Kevin McLaughlin has dubbed it, "The Week that Changed the World."

McLaughlin, the son of a Newark firefighter who was born and raised in the city, said he played witness to the aftermath of the riots.

"I remember people moving away in droves," he said. "We lived in the shadow of it."

Five years ago, McLaughlin – a Seton Hall alum who works in film production – decided to tell the story of the riots, and how they impacted the city.

"Most people don't know the whole story of this, and it is one of the major events in the history of our state...(and) a lot of the people who were there, who remember it, are disappearing."

Over the past five years, McLaughlin has interviewed residents who experienced the riots, academics who have studied it, and politicians who were impacted by it. He spoke with every mayor elected in the city since 1967 – who he said speculate about what led up to the riots, and how the city has, or hasn't yet, recovered.

"For nearly 50 years, (the people of Newark) have lived with the specter of five days of conflict," film narrator Andre Braugher says in the movie's trailer.

"One city spent a half-century struggling to make peace with the darkest chapter in its history."

After Saturday's private screening, McLaughlin – who said he moved out of the city "years ago" – said he hopes to get the movie picked up by a film festival, and sold to a public or cable television station.

"That's really the goal," he said. "To get it to TV, to get people to see it and think about it...Because of what is happening around (the country) right now, I think this is an important time for this story to be told. I see it as a crystal ball for Ferguson and Baltimore."

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