Scenes from The New World

San Sebastian and Havana Premieres

A very very funny coming of age film with a lot of insight into families and relationships. – WOR-NY

True Independent Cinema made with a social conscience and enormous talent. – Diario de las Palmas (SPAIN)


Completed: 1994
Running Time: 104 Minutes
Color Super-16 Blow-Up to 35mm
Narrative Based on Group Improvs


Download a Presskit (MS Word Doc, 200K)
Contents: Synopsis, Production Notes, Interview with the Directors, Cast and Crew Bios


When Alex Chan, a twenty-something schoolteacher, accepts The Old Man–his grandfather’s– offer to run an unlicensed boarding house for illegal Chinese immigrants, he doesn’t know what he’s getting into. He immediately talks his outspoken Dominican girlfriend, Mirabel, into moving in with him, and, together, they find three African American roommates: Myles, Stephanie, and Lee. Meanwhile, however, The Old Man has found his idea of perfect boarders: Nicky, Wing, and Bob, three respectful – and well-off – Hong Kong students. Just when the resulting tensions are dying down and a functional, if absurdly overcrowded, multicultural household is emerging, some neighbors begin worrying about their “property values,” and then the real troubles begin…Created in an actor’s improv workshop over the course of a year, and filmed in a style “somewhere between Spike Lee and Woody Allen,” Scenes From The New World is a personal, heartfelt, often hilarious coming of age film that has charmed audiences at festivals around the world. 1 hour 43 min.


Manosque: Rencontres de Cinema “Resistances” by Brenda Bollag
Excerpt–English Translation: Brenda Bollag

“…But the real surprise of the festival was without any doubt the New York independent film Scenes From The New World. The action of Scenes takes place in a part of New York that is rarely seen on the screen–Queens–and concerns the lives of a group of racially mixed young people sharing a house in a white, middle class neighborhood called “Forest Hills.” The characters, whose lives constitute the core of the film, took form during an actors’ improvisation workshop run by directors Johnston and Eriksen. Funding for the workshop came from NEA and NYSCA government grants (a rare situation in America) that were attributed to them on the basis of the quality of their first feature, The Big Dis (Berlin Film festival, 1989). As the characters evolved in the workshop, the directors searched for a dramatic event that would provide a point of anchorage for the relationships among these roommates, and eventually found a super-authentic one in the newspapers: an “Angry Citizens Group” in Queens briefly attracted the attention of the press by undertaking activities which were not only openly racist, but also stupid and short sighted: an organized protest against non-white apartment renters.
The result is a vibrant and exhilarating mosaic of the comically criss-crossing characters lives. With Scenes, Johnston and Eriksen show that the problems of racism and housing, which continue to eat away at their native city at an ever more alarming rate (problems the filmmakers have first hand experience with as an inter-racial couple), can be successfully treated within a comedy that combines the best self-denigrating cynicism of Woody Allen and the urban hipness of Spike Lee. Ten years after the release of She’s Gotta Have It, Scenes offers proof that a new generation of New York filmmakers–for whom the transgression of the laws of conventional narrative construction is as natural as the transgression of the rules that have traditionally bound race relations in the U.S.A.–is already beginning to take shape.”
Diario de las Palmas (Spain)

“*****(Five Stars–Highest rating) : True Independent Cinema made with a social conscience and enormous talent. “Scenes…” raises the audiences’ spirits!”
WOR-AM (New York)

“This is the real deal, the real New York! Cross gender, cross cultural, cross generational… A very, very funny, poignant coming of age film with a lot of insight INTO FAMiLIES and RELATIONSHIPS.”
The Village Voice, April 5-11, 1995

“Scenes From The New World, Gordon Eriksen and Heather Johnston’s smart and exuberant follow-up totheir first feature, The Big Dis, is on the mark about racial self-stereotyping and cross-culturalanxieties. Best of all, it dares to be optimistic, which seems to make a lot of people very nervous.”

Significant Playdates

San Sebastian International Film Festival (Main Competition)
Havana International Film Festival (Main Section)
Canary Islands Festival of Social and Ecological Films (Africa/Spain)
Rencontres Manosque (Provence, France)
New York/Avignon Festival of French and American Films
The Hamptons International Film Festival (Main Competition)
The Long Island Film Festival (The Gold Award, Top Narrative Feature Prize)
French American Film Workshop (Provence, France)
Virginia Festival of American Film
Agiular Conference of American and Spanish Films (Spain)
Cairo International Film Festival (Young Directors Section)

Another Clip

Myles (Michael Ralph)and Steph (Christine Clementson) argue about the existence of their “relationship.”

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