This Week in New York Insider's Guide to Arts & Culture in New York City Since 2001




Ale (Alejandro Polanco) does what he needs to do to get by in Queens-set CHOP SHOP

CHOP SHOP (Ramin Bahrani, 2007)
The Lot LIC
43-29 Crescent St., Long Island City
Thursday, August 7,
Series continues through September 20

Set amid the junkyards and auto-body shops in the shadow of Shea Stadium, Ramin Bahrani’s follow-up to his indie hit Man Push Cart is a gritty, realistic drama of family and community. Filmed in thirty days in the Iron Triangle neighborhood of Willets Point, Queens, Chop Shop stars Alejandro Polanco as Ale, a street-smart twelve-year-old boy who works for Rob (Rob Sowulski), calling cars into the repair shop, stealing spare parts, and learning virtually every aspect of the trade, legal and not. Ale lives in a small upstairs room in the garage with his sister, sixteen-year-old Isamar (Isamar Gonzalez), who by day works in a food van and at night makes extra cash by getting into cars and trucks with strange men. Neither Ale nor Izzy goes to school; instead, they’re working hard, saving up money to buy a food van and start their own business, but their life is fraught with danger and difficulty nearly every step of the way. Written by Bahrani (Goodbye Solo, At Any PriceChop Shop is an honest, frightening, yet sweet slice of life that takes place not far from a sign at Shea that announces, “Where Dreams Happen.”

Director Ramin Bahrani frames a shot on the Willets Point set of CHOP SHOP

Director Ramin Bahrani frames a shot on the Willets Point set of CHOP SHOP

Polanco gives a remarkable performance as Ale, a rough yet vulnerable kid who has been dealt a tough hand but just forges ahead, attempting to make the most out of his meager life, trying to find his own piece of the American dream. Whether hanging out with his best friend, Carlos (Carlos Zapata), looking after his sister, doing a special job for Ahmad (Man Push Cart’s Ahmad Razvi), or counting his pay in front of his boss – Sowulski really does own the garage where most of the movie is filmed – Ale is an extraordinary character, played by an extraordinary young boy in his very first film. Chop Shop is a subtle, unforgettable experience. Chop Shop is screening August 7 in Long Island City as part of the free LOT LIC Music & Film Series, which consists of concerts (Taylor McFerrin, Widowspeak, Naomi Shelton and the Gospel Queens) on Saturdays from 3:00 to 9:00 and movie screenings (Polyester, Strictly Ballroom, The Triplets of Belleville) and DJs on Thursday nights beginning at 6:00. (For a day-by-day listing of free summer movie screenings throughout New York City, go here.)

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