Vinyl fantasy! Film set in Bed–Stuy record store makes borough debut

Vinyl fantasy! Film set in Bed–Stuy record store makes borough debut
Photo by Jason Speakman

Talk about underground film!

A short film set in a subterranean Bedford-Stuyvesant record store will make its Brooklyn debut at this year’s Art of Brooklyn Film Festival on May 16. “Lazurus” follows a teenager’s experience hanging out in Israel’s Record Shop. But the filmmaker said she was so inspired by the unique, literally underground shop that takes up a basement space on Fulton Street between Franklin Avenue and Claver Place, she decided to set her movie there before she even knew what it would be about.

“The first time I went to Israel’s, I realized I just had to shoot a movie in there,” said Kate Cortesi. “Before there was a script or a lead, or money, there was a location.”

Cortesi said she found the shop — which specializes in soul, funk, jazz, and disco albums — about a year after she moved to Bedford-Stuyvesant about six and a half years ago. The owner, Israel Ben Yahuda, often sat on the sidewalk along her morning commute, and Cortesi said she had a “nodding relationship” with him for a year before she ever realized that the nondescript sidewalk doors under a sign reading “Records” led to a store.

In the film, teen protagonist Lazarus also stumbles across the old-school vinyl emporium while trying to find a gift for his grandmother, and he too develops a friendship with the enigmatic owner.

Cortesi said she wanted to immortalize the shop while she still could, and also tell the highlight the larger issue of a changing borough, where stores like Israel’s are increasingly disappearing.

“A lot of us are worried that these special New York shops are dying, and I think we’ve tapped into a zeitgeist about everyone’s panic about New York changing,” she said.

Cortesi debuted the film at the New York City International Film Festival on the distant island of Manhattan last month, but this will be its first outing in Brooklyn. The Art of Brooklyn Film Festival, which specializes in flicks about Brooklyn made by Brooklynites, will screen it alongside a short filmed at the soon-to-shutter Trash Bar in Williamsburg.

“Lazarus” at the Art of Brooklyn Film Festival at Saint Francis College (180 Remsen St. between Clinton and Court streets in Brooklyn Heights, theartofbrooklyn.org.) May 16 at 5:30 pm. $10, $50 for festival pass.

Three more great films at the Art of Brooklyn Film Fest.

Reach reporter Noah Hurowitz at nhuro[email protected]cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–4505. Follow him on Twitter @noahhurowitz