Downtown Post NYC

Stan Lee

Stanley Martin Lieber. Do you know that name? Maybe not but you probably know the name "Stan Lee" (derived from "Stanley") and you most certainly know of some of the superheroes that emerged from Marvel Comics during the two decades that Lee was its creative director. They have become embedded in American culture. Spider-Man, Iron Man, the Hulk, Black Panther and many others were his brainchildren.

Using personal film footage, recorded recollections, newsreels and clay models placed in situations that Stan Lee vividly remembered but that were not otherwise recorded, this documentary tells the story of the man who has been called "arguably the most influential comic publisher of all time."

He was born on Dec. 28, 1922 on the Upper West Side of Manhattan in very modest circumstances to Jack and Celia Lieber, Jewish immigrants from Romania. From this humble beginning, he became one of the most powerful and revered creators in a business that has captivated millions of Americans (and others).

Toward the beginning of the documentary, Lee reflects on this. "Comic books have been a big business for 25 years and they're bigger than ever today," he says. "With this in mind, you’ll be interested to know that the Marvel Comics Group is the acknowledged leader in monthly sales of all comics magazines published today. Our superheroes are the kind of people that you or I would be if we had a superpower which sets them apart from all other superheroes published today. That seems to be the reason that they’re actually more popular than any of the others."

Lee was aswirl in ideas. Inspiration could come from unlikely sources. "One day, I was trying to think of a new superhero and I saw a fly crawling on a wall," he says in the documentary, "and I thought, gee, wouldn’t it be something if a hero could stick to walls and move on them like an insect? I decided that I wanted somebody that every one of the readers could identify with. If I had superhuman powers, wouldn't I still have to worry about making a living or having my dates like me?"

Insights into Lee's thinking and creative process are a captivating aspect of this documentary. They seem to have been fueled by the kind of person he was — despite his power and success, never mercurial or abusive but smiling, chatty, friendly and very kind.

"Did you like Stan Lee?" I asked a man who had worked with him. "Did you trust him?"

— "Yes, to both," he replied.

— Terese Loeb Kreuzer

Some Recommended films from the Tribeca Festival 2023

Among the films that Downtown Post NYC watched in 2023 and recommended are these:

Between the Rains: A documentary filmed over four consecutive years in Kenya during a prolonged drought, tells the story of the effect of climate change on a pastoral community and its centuries' old culture. The devastation is seen through the eyes and experiences of a young man who works as a goat shepherd in his community. Even as we experience the effects of climate change here in the United States, this film shows that the problems are worldwide. "Between the Rains" won awards as the Best Documentary Feature and the Best Cinematography in a Documentary Feature.

Rise — The Siya Kolisi Story: This affecting and inspiring documentary revolves around the life of Siya Kolisi, now 32 years old, who overcame poverty, his mother's early death, his father's (and later his own alcoholism) and the limited opportunities for Blacks in South Africa to become the first Black captain of the Springboks, a South Africa national rugby union team. Kolisi led the team to victory in the 2019 Rugby World Cup Final against England, carrying with them the hopes of South Africans and showing Black South Africans that despite adversity, anything is possible.

Rule of Two Walls: As the war between Russia and Ukraine drags on with mounting devastation and casualties, this documentary describes the lives of artists who have chosen to stay in Ukraine. They awake to the sound of air raid sirens, they help to sweep up broken glass and rubble. Dead bodies are commonplace as they walk the streets. And yet they perservere with their art as a form of cultural and spiritual defiance. This film won a "Special Jury Mention" in the Documentary Competition.

The Saint of Second Chances: This documentary focuses on Mike Veeck, son of renowned Major League baseball owner, Bill Veeck. The film is only partially and not even primarily about baseball. It's also about marital and parental love. It's about coming to terms with mistakes and recovering from them in part, by trying again. It's about the tragic illness and eventual death of a beloved child and it's about priorities that should put time with loved ones above the endless demands of work.

Je'Vida: This narrative film, shot in black and white, takes place in Finland as an aunt and her niece, who have never met before, drive to Lapland to empty a house that they've inherited. The niece, Sanna, had no idea that her deceased mother once lived in such a humble house situated near a remote lake. The aunt, Lida, who is taciturn and sullen, remembers only too well. Her childhood there was clouded by financial hardship but brightened by her relationship with her beloved grandfather who died while she was still very young. Lida lights a fire and begins to throw objects and photographs into the fire. Sanna retrieves one of the photos. It's of a flaxen-haired, young girl and is labeled "Je'Vida." Who is Je'Vida? she asks her aunt, who doesn't reply. It turns out that she was that young girl. Some of the most wrenching episodes of the film take place when Je'Vida is required by the government to attend a boarding school, where she is brutally treated and where attempts are made to eradicate all vestiges of her native culture. The boarding school scenes are unforgettable. The film's closing credits state that "Most Sami children were forced into boarding schools in post-war Finland. This distanced two generations from their families and culture. The State of Finland has accepted no responsibility for the damage this caused to the Sami communities. The last boarding schools were closed down in the 1980's."

Pier-Philippe Chevigny, the screenwriter and director of "Richelieu."
(Photo © Terese Loeb Kreuzer)

"Between the Rains," filmed over four consecutive years in northern Kenya, records the effect of climate change on the centuries'-old culture of a pastoral community. It won an award from the Tribeca Festival as "Best Documentary Feature."



"Richelieu" is the name of a river and a region in the Quebec Province of Canada and the name of a valley. It was also the French name of a film that had its world première at the Tribeca Festival and was renamed "Temporaries" for the festival's primarily English-speaking audience. Pier-Philippe Chevigny, writer and director of "Richelieu," calls the name "ironic" because the name means "rich place," but actually, the region is "very, very poor," he says. This is where Chevigny grew up and where this film takes place.

It is the heartbreaking, gut-wrenching story of seasonal, migrant workers from Guatemala, employed at a local corn plant, and of a young, bilingual (French and Spanish) woman who is employed at the plant as an interpreter between the workers and their French-speaking bosses. She needs the job and the money it brings in, as the workers do, even though the work shatters their health and their bosses are abusive.

When Chevigny began to research the film, he thought it would be a documentary but soon discovered that the material he was uncovering was so potentially damaging that he would have to convert it into fiction in order to conceal the identities and explicit circumstances of his informants. "None of them would go on the record," he said of them. "They were dependent on their jobs and they didn't want any trouble."

The characters as they are depicted in the film are a collage of numerous people but the film, though a "narrative," is so true in its conception and execution that it could well be a documentary.

"Richelieu" is Chevigny's first feature-length film. It was preceded by 12 short films that he wrote, shot and edited and by studies in filmmaking at the University of Montreal. All of his films have been concerned with problems of social justice.

The film is perfection in concept, acting, direction, scripting, camera work and pacing.
Ariane Castellanos is brilliant as a young woman with financial troubles of her own who becomes increasingly aware of how terribly the migrant workers are being treated and who finally jeopardizes her own position by confronting the bosses. "Richelieu" was her feature film debut.

When the lights came on at the screening I attended, I had tears in my eyes, as did others in the room.

This is a film worth seeing.

— Terese Loeb Kreuzer