DIRECTED BY: Daphne Pinkerson
WRITTEN BY: Michael Hirsch, Richard Lowe & Daphne Pinkerson
PRODUCED BY: Marc Levin & Daphne Pinkerson
EXECUTIVE PRODUCER: Sheila Nevins
SENIOR PRODUCER: Nancy Abraham
CO-PRODUCERS: Michael Hirsch & Richard Lowe
LINE PRODUCER: Kara Rozansky
ASSOCIATE PRODUCER: Christopher K. Walker
DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY: John Hazard
EDITED BY: Richard Lowe, Steve Pequignot & Christopher K. Walker
NARRATED BY: Tovah Feldshuh
AWARDS: 2012 duPont-Columbia Award, 2011 Workers Voice Award, Women's Image Network (WIN) Award - Best Documentary
FESTIVALS: 2012 Atlanta Jewish Film Festival, 2012 Everett Film Festival, Canadian Labour Independent Film Festival
ORIGINAL MUSIXC BY: Mark De Gli Antoni
TRIANGLE: REMEMBERING THE FIRE (2011)
TRIANGLE: REMEMBERING THE FIRE marks the 100th anniversary of the Triangle shirtwaist factory fire, an event that changed the course of history and stands as a cautionary tale for today. After 100 years of progress, there's no turning back!
On March 25th, 2011 at the site of the fire on Washington Place and Greene Street, where the building still stands, all 146 victims' names were read for the first time thanks to the research of our Co-Producer Michael Hirsch. Speakers included: US Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis and Mayor Bloomberg.
More than one hundred years after an event that truly changed America for the better, it would serve us well to remember the cautionary tale of the Triangle factory. On March 25th, 1911, a fire broke out at the Triangle Waist Company in downtown Manhattan where workers were making women’s blouses, then called shirtwaists, killing 146 people. The victims were mostly young women and teenage girls. It was the worst workplace disaster in New York until 9/11. The incident changed the course of labor history, leading to workplace reforms including minimum wage, shorter hours, safety standards and the right to organize unions.
Triangle: Remembering the Fire tells the stories of the people who were there that day through interviews with their family members. The filmmakers spoke with relatives of the victims, the owners, a fireman who was part of the rescue effort and Al Smith, the Tammany Hall politician who was instrumental in transforming government and would later become the governor of New York State. Using genealogical research, the producers have found not only their relatives but also many never before seen photographs of the people who died – portrait photography from the early 1900’s of young people who had survived the long journey from the old world to New York with hopes of a more promising future.
While many people have seen the horrendous images of burnt corpses on the street outside the building that day, this film gives them back their faces, their curls, their bows – their humanity. Some with smiles, some with looks of determination, and some perhaps frustrated with how long the photographer was taking - the images help to explain why the city had such an overwhelming response to the fire and responded so quickly to the demands for change in the workplace.
The people of New York City knew these girls from the great Uprising of the 20,000, when shirtwaist workers, most of them recent immigrants from Eastern Europe, went on strike demanding higher pay, shorter hours and better conditions. An event in American history missing from most textbooks, the Uprising was the first large strike by American women, especially noteworthy because women would not gain the right to vote until 1920. They were organized by the newly created ILGWU, the International Ladies Garment Workers Union, and had been marching in the streets, standing on picket lines and getting beaten up by thugs hired by the factory owners. When they appeared on the ledges of the Asch Building, without any chance of surviving, it broke the hearts of New Yorkers because they remembered their pleas. Worst of all - the fire was preventable. Safety precautions such as sprinklers, fire drills and fire escapes existed at the time, but were not required. Government at the time did not enforce regulations that would cost business money.
Frances Perkins, who would go on to become the first woman Secretary of Labor, happened to be visiting friends in nearby Washington Square Park that day and witnessed the girls jumping. Afterwards, she said there was a collective feeling of guilt, “as if we had all done something wrong.”
This is the first film to retrieve their images and bring them back to life through an intimate telling of their stories by their descendents, many of whom kept their pictures for generations.
The film was inspired by Celia Gitlin, a 17-year-old Russian immigrant girl who died that day. She was the great-aunt of Sheila Nevins, the executive producer of the film. Sheila thought that her grandmother’s younger sister died in the fire but whenever it would come up her grandmother’s eyes would fill with tears and the conversation would abruptly end. The producers located her death certificate and documented that she had in fact died in the fire.
An epilogue piece, Triangle: The Unidentified, tells the story of the last remaining victims to be acknowledged. One hundred and forty-six people died in the fire but six bodies were too badly burned to be recognized by their family members. Without the benefit of modern science, these names were lost to history until co-producer and historian Michael Hirsch used genealogical investigative techniques to discover who they were. His research enabled HBO to run the full list of victims’ names for the first time in a film.
At a time when the country is slipping back to Gilded Age discrepancies between rich and poor, the middle class is disappearing and there is a growing debate about government’s role in helping working people, the fire and its aftermath are increasingly relevant today.
As labor historian and cousin of victim Rosie Oringer says in the film, “People forget the Triangle fire at their peril. This whole movement against regulation of industry — if people want to know what deregulated industry would look like, look at the bodies on the sidewalk outside the Triangle building.”
" ... a fantastic job ..."
"... especially relevant now ..."
" ... excellent ..."
“... emotional and impressionistic ...”
-NEW YORK TIMES
" ...a truly moving and captivating experience.”
-GARDEN CITY PATCH
"... an excellent job ... has much relevance today.”
" ... brings the story to Life ..."
-THE FUTON CRITIC
“ A touching tribute ... Pinkerson made the right decision to feature interviews with some of the descendants of the victims.”
“It vividly, forcefully puts the humanity of the Triangle workers in
front of us. It takes hold of you ... exquisite ..."
" ... a must see doc ... “Emmy-winning filmmakers Marc Levin and Daphne Pinkerson (the 2009 HBO documentary “Schmatta: Rags to Riches to Rags” and 1999’s “Thug Life in D.C.”) tell us a tale that we cannot look away from ... Please give this thoughtful and well-crafted film your time.”
“An excellent documentary"