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"Time in the country does a city kid good: 'Boy Scouts of Harlem' merits our attention...this film gets sharper because its focus is smaller...Boy Scouts of Harlem doesn't explore the larger idea of committing yourself to a uniformed organization not universally regarded as cool in the harsh world of youth peers. Rather, it focuses on Okpoti Sowah and "Miss Ann," who have been running Troop 759 for more than 30 years, one scout at a time, teaching life skills alongside swimming and archery. Camp Keowa has a wall for group pictures of the scouts who have passed through its tents over those many summers. It's a world not often seen nowadays, and one that feels, in a quiet way, reassuring." full review
"Boy Scouts of Harlem triumphs in depiction of boys' journeys into manhood...It’s the perfect backdrop to once again show the country that the image of Black men and young Black males is distorted in America. With many Boy Scouts are depicted in the mainstream as good ol’ boys from the suburbs learning how to be brave, 'Boy Scouts of Harlem' reminds us that those stories can be found anywhere. It reminds people that the best and worst of preteen, adolescent experiences are universal." full review
"Jake Boritt and Justin Szlasa have made a genial documentary...Boritt and Szlasa have talent." full review
"for boys from lower-income families, scouting may be their only chance to camp in a tent, swim in a lake, hike up a mountain or learn to save a life. This is certainly true for the scouts of Troop 759 in Harlem. Scoutmaster Okpoti Sowah, an immigrant from Ghana who came to New York to study at Columbia, has been a leader for more than 30 years in a neighborhood that needs male role models. His scouts have backpacked the deserts of Philmont, the wilds of Maine and the Adirondack high peaks. Sowah pushes boys to succeed. Most of his troop members go to college; many achieve Eagle Scout." full op-ed
"The film celebrates the continued relevance of the Boy Scouts in a more diverse and more urban America..." full article
"...the troop defies common perceptions about the Boy Scouts—these are mostly black kids, from an inner-city neighborhood—but the film’s portrayal of Harlem is sometimes surprising as well. One troop member, nicknamed KC, is white. The Scoutmaster, Okpoti Sowah, is a Ghanaian immigrant with a master’s degree from Columbia University. And a couple of the boys come from longtime Scouting families. “Hopefully it will change some people’s minds about both of the words in the title of our film: both about Harlem and about Scouts,” says Szlasa..." full article
PTC Media Podcast “The Leader’s Campfire #73”
“I want to kind of trick people into understanding what the Scouts are a little bit, but I also want to trick people into understanding what Harlem is about a little more,” Szlasa said. Contrary to some people’s opinions, Szlasa said, Harlem isn’t a community of poverty, drugs, and drive-by shootings. The Scouts of Troop 759 come from stable families and have supportiveparents. “They’re normal families,” he said. “They have a backyard where they barbecue. It looks very familiar, but it’s a total different setting." full article (Spring 2009)
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Below is some basic information about the film. We also have prepared a special information kit for members of the press and we’d be happy to send you one at your request.
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Be prepared to be amazed as Scout Troop 759 heads from the streets of Harlem to the woods of Camp Keowa. Eleven year old new scout Keith Dozier spends his first week at camp facing the challenges of the woods - the dock test in the deep dark lake, creepy creatures of the night, the daunting climbing tower, the raucous dining hall and the seductive Siberian sirens of the kitchen. With help from his fellow Scouts KC, Devon and Manny and wise Scoutmaster Sowah, young Keith faces the challenges and earns his place as a Scout. 759: Boy Scouts of Harlem is a warm, tender, and funny family documentary about Scouting in an unexpected place.
Exhibits & Rights
Exhibition Formats: 72 min projection & 56 min broadcast
Sound Format: Stereophonic
Production Format: HD 1080i
World Premiere – March 14th, 2009 Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Harlem NYC
US Broadcast Premiere - August 28th, 2010 nationally syndicated by Maryland Public Television; broadcast to over 65% of US markets as of October 2010
A Production of: Be Prepared Pictures LLC
Co-Directed by: Jake Boritt & Justin Szlasa
Cinematography by: Jake Boritt
Edited by: Justin Szlasa & Manahi Taber-Kewene
Music Supervision: Patrick Byers
Produced by: Justin Szlasa
All distribution rights are retained by the producers.
759: Boy Scouts of Harlem was shot over the course of 2007 and 2008 in New York City and at Camp Keowa, part of Ten Mile River Scout Camp in Narrowsburg New York. Directors Jake Boritt and Justin Szlasa effectively became part of the Troop 759 family to earn the trust of their subjects.
759 was shot on the Sony Z1U in HDV and edited on FinalCut Pro in New York City. Additional footage was provided by the TMR Scout Museum. 759: Boy Scouts of Harlem was independently financed on a micro-budget by Justin Szlasa. The film received cooperation from the Boy Scouts of America Greater New York Councils but the project received no material support from the Boy Scouts of America.