Demopolis, New Era will be part of documentary

Published 4:56 pm Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Over the last few days, people around town may have noticed someone wielding a video camera and interviewing people.

The city of Demopolis will play a big part in an upcoming documentary produced by that camera wielder, Brook Silva-Braga. Previously a producer for Home Box Office (HBO), Silva-Braga now makes independent documentaries, with his first appearing on MTV. This is his third documentary, one he hopes will draw attention to the plight of manufacturers in America.

“The documentary I’m working on now is quite broad, and in the editing process, it will become more specific,” he said. “The reason I’m down here this week is the connection to New Era and the idea of the evolution of American manufacturing: where it stands today, what impact it has on people here and around the country. It’s going to be a mix of economics and business and more culture.

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“I’ve been shooting for 14 months now. Hopefully, I’m towards the end of the project; I just started editing this week. I’ve been all over the U.S., and I spent a lot of time traveling in Asia to see the other side of this equation. I spent ‘Black Friday’ (the day after Thanksgiving) in Napa, Calif., at 4 in the morning with the shoppers in line. I spent some time in Mishawaka, Ind., which makes Hummers and has a very proud industrial history that is now in a similar way with Demopolis and trying to reckon with it.”

Silva-Braga added that he hopes to have this documentary finished by the end of the year.

Silva-Braga is a 2001 journalism graduate of New York University and began working on independent documentaries five years ago. He does the camera work and editing work himself, with others providing the music and graphics work. A native of Portsmouth, R.I., Silva-Braga said his hometown has twice as many people of Demopolis, yet found Demopolis to be “bigger” than his hometown.

“I came here specifically for the Fourth of July, so I’m looking forward to the pageantry of the Fourth,” he said. “I want to talk to people about their experience. I want to get some stories about those experiences.

“I was first interested in New Era as the example of a company that seems to be trying hard to keep jobs in America and just finding it very hard to do. They’ve held on longer than most, and I think it’s interesting that even a company that has made this something of a priority has either been forced or has ultimately made the decision that they need to scale that back. So, it started from that idea, and it was only then that I found out that this was already happening.”

While it is too late to save the jobs at New Era Caps’ Demopolis facility, Demopolis and Marengo County can benefit from this kind of publicity, encouraging businesses to come to this area, where big business can find experienced workers as well as a home for its employees.