five years since the Zipper ride in Coney Island was dismantled, strapped on a tuck
bed and whizzed along Surf Avenue, passing in front of me while I was staring
out from the bar at the old Surf & Turf Grill. The ride was leaving Coney Island for good and on its way to Honduras. The story behind the dizzying carnival ride is
finally told. It’s a 77 minute
documentary which will premiere at Doc NYC: New York's Documentary Festival. The film goes behind the scenes of the greedy battle to grab Coney Island’s
fun and merriment right from under it.
And in the heart of this story is the Zipper, a carnival contraption
that is almost forty years old and, at the time, run by operator Eddie
Miranda. As a result of his rented lot
being swiped away by a gluttonous real estate tycoon, Miranda is forced to zip up and sell. Though the doc at
one point follows the ride to its final destination at a seaside town in Honduras,
the film candidly examines the cast of characters from the developer to the
city officials who together create a power struggle over the future of the
world-famous amusement destination.
“The Zipper: Coney Island’s Last Wild Ride”, with its log line; ‘A
small-time ride operator and his beloved carnival contraption become casualties
in the battle over the future of Coney Island’, is directed by Amy
Nicholson. Despite the digital age, the
filmmaker chose to shoot in 16mm. The
film’s press kit describes the reason for film.
“…shooting on film was essential in
reproducing the analogue feeling of a place like Coney Island. In early production meetings, the discussion
always centered around capturing the essence of Coney Island’s assault on the
senses. We used the opening of Dog
Day Afternoon as our inspiration. Everyone has seen Coney Island in
pictures and on film; we wanted the audience to have the experience.” In addition, some of the time lapse segments in
the film were shot with the Canon 5D.
The film’s main cinematographer was Jerry Risius. ["Zipper: Coney Island's Last Wild Ride" Trailer]
Coney Island as an amusement destination seems saved, for now, the film takes us
back to a point where its future was in limbo.
It helps to remind us that, like the Zipper, it can suddenly teeter back
to something we didn’t expect.
The biggest part of Coney’s saving grace has been the shiny new Luna Park by Zamperla, but as Amusing the Zillion blog points out, the lease for Luna Park is up in 2020. and at that point
the City plans to issue an RFP for a permanent amusement operator. And with talks resurfacing of casinos coming
to New York by Assembly
Speaker Sheldon Silver, who mentioned in an article, when referring to a possible
casino at the redevelopment of Willets Point,
the possibility of even casinos in Coney Island, Brooklyn. That could have gambling overshadow the amusements. Do we really want another Atlantic City here? So, this film’s fortunate existence helps to keep
us reminded of how things could’ve gone or could still go.
We hope the Zipper is being kept up to par down in Central America. Though it is accompanied by its old Coney
mate, The Spider ride, the Zipper has been seen
breaking down, according to the YouTube video below. Riders are seen getting out and climbing down off the ride.
But as Amy Nicholson tells Kinetic Carnival in an email, the people who now
own it are the nicest people ever. “I
have checked with one of the sons who I keep in touch with on Facebook and he
says the Zipper is still going strong”, she writes. The folks down in Honduras are happy to have such relics from Coney Island. They told Nicholson that the rides draw huge crowds every time.
The film’s trailer projects a fascinating experience, whether
you are enamored with Coney Island or not.
It feels, to me, that the music and the way it observes its characters, strikes
the very chord of what Coney Island is now, has been, and will always be; a
place where you can’t get too serious because at the heart, it’s all fun and
“Zipper: Coney Island’s Last Wild Ride”, will be celebrating
its world premiere at 9:30 PM, Saturday. Nov. 10, 2012 - SVA –
(Buy Tickets) and
at 3:00 PM, Thursday. Nov. 15, 2012 - IFC Center – (Buy Tickets)