We live in a society where so much is shared: family photographs, our tastes in movies and music, what we just had for lunch, our most impulsive screeds on popular culture distilled into 140 characters. But what about the spaces we share? Long before the digital age opened vast new spaces for exchanging our secrets and immersing ourselves in a culture of anonymity, the cramped apartments of Chinatown captured that curious blend of intimacy and distance. Slipping into the cracks between life and work, body and mind, the documentary Your Day is My Night, by Lynne Sachs examines the idea of the “shift bed” apartment, where workers trade spaces, stories and bits and pieces of their fractured lives in a rhythmic churn of work, sleep and friendship.
The film will be screened on Saturday, June 8 at the UnionDocs Center for Documentary Art in Brooklyn as part of “Shifting Lives: Photographing the Immigrant Experience in Chinatown.” The exhibit will feature visual explorations of the Chinese immigrant community and include a public discussion with the artists. For more details, go to the UnionDocs site.
Read an interview with filmmaker Lynne Sachs at the Asian American Writers Workshop’s publication Open City.
A description of the film:
In this hybrid documentary shot in New York, director Lynne Sachs utilizes the bed as both starting and focal point for inquiry into the personal and collective experiences of a household of immigrants living in a “shift-bed” apartment in Chinatown. Initially documented in Jacob Riis’ controversial photography of the late 19th century, a shift-bed is a bed that is shared or rented in increments by people who are neither in the same family nor in a relationship. Since the advent of tenement housing in the Lower East Side, working class people have shared beds, making such spaces a definable and fundamental part of immigrant life. Over a century later, the shift-bed remains a necessity for many, triggered by socio-economic barriers embedded within the urban experience. In Sachs’ film, seven characters ranging in age from 30 to 78 play themselves through autobiographical monologues, verité conversations and theatrical movement pieces. As the bed transforms into a stage, the film reveals a collective history of Chinese immigrants in the United States.