Bookwars (2000)
Rating: 5.0 stars out of 5.0 stars *****


Directed by: Jason Rosette
Running Time: 78 minutes

Utterly compelling documentary about New York street booksellers and the trial and tribulations they endure as such. From rude customers to the introduction of Mayor Rudy Guliani's Quality of Life program (which sought to rid the city of people just like the booksellers), the merchants must fend for themselves just to protect their freedom and others like them. All of their stories have been recorded by one of their own.

Filmmaker Jason Rosette was one of these booksellers for almost five years prior to the making of this film (and the production notes state that the idea was there even before that) and had built a decent reputation as someone the other booksellers could trust. Because of that, Rosette gets candid reflections on life from these hardened souls making a living out of selling books on street corners. Though sometimes eccentric, we are allowed a glimpse into the lives of some of these fascinating individuals.

From the outset of the film, we are immersed in the world of books and the people who sell them. Rosette has a way of describing things in his narration that invoke the readings of the beat poets (an admitted inspiration) and makes one long for a good book to read. Anyone who has ever enjoyed the smell of an old book will suddenly sense the experience all over again seeing this film. The documentary actually made me want to visit these booksellers to see if there was anything I would like to purchase.

Rosette put a great deal of effort into making this fascinating documentary and his hard work pays off. The film started off being financed by Rosette's book sales alone. A completion grant was provided by The Playboy Foundation, but the rest of the film was shot and edited with very little funds to work with. Rosette would actually travel from city to city, borrowing editing facilities (to scale down the over 200 hours of footage he had shot into a 76 minute film) until a project would come along that would force him out. Sleeping wherever he could find a place to, Rosette was finally able to complete his film.

I seriously suggest that anyone that even feels remotely interested in this subject should seek out this film. It not only shows the dedication people can have towards something they seem to love doing, but also the camaraderie that exists between such people. I highly recommend this film.