Documentary filmmaker Doug Block had every reason to believe his parent’s 54-year marriage was a good one. So he isn’t prepared when, just a few months after his mothers’ unexpected death, his 83-year old father, Mike, phones to announce that he’s moving to Florida to live with “Kitty”, his secretary from 40 years before. Always close to his mother and equally distant from his father, he’s stunned and suspicious.
When Mike and Kitty marry and sell the longtime family home, Doug returns to suburban Long Island with camera in hand for one last visit. And there, among the lifetime of memories being packed away forever, he discovers 3 large boxes filled with his moms’ daily diaries going back 35 years.
Realizing he has only a few short weeks before the movers come and his dad will be gone for good, the veteran documentarian sticks around, determined to investigate the mystery of his parents’ marriage. Through increasingly candid conversations with family members and friends, and constantly surprising diary revelations, Doug finally comes to peace with two parents who are far more complex and troubled than he ever imagined.
Both unexpectedly funny and heartbreaking, 51 Birch Street is the first-person account of Block’s unpredictable journey through a whirlwind of dramatic life-changing events: the death of his mother, the uncovering of decades of family secrets, and the ensuing reconciliation with his father. What begins as his own intimate, autobiographical story, soon evolves into a broader meditation on the universal themes of love, marriage, fidelity and the mystery of family.
“One of the most moving and fascinating documentaries I’ve seen this year… Mr. Block has put his parents’ life, and his own, into this film with such warmth and candor that it may take more than one viewing to recognize it as a work of art.” – New York Times
“A warm and honest portrait of a marriage at its most mysterious, and ordinary.” – Entertainment Weekly
Doug Block • Director, Producer, Writer, Camera
Doug Block is New York-based documentary director, producer and cameraman. His films have all been released theatrically in the U.S, won awards at leading international film festivals and have been broadcast around the world.
His first feature, The Heck With Hollywood!, followed 3 first-time filmmakers over the course of 3 years as they struggled to finish and find distribution for their films. His next film, the Emmy-nominated Home Page, was a look at the earliest days of blogging and online culture. The subject inspired Block to found and co-host an online community for documentary filmmakers called The D-Word, which now has over 4,000 members from 80 countries.
51 Birch Street, his next and best known film, was a re-examination of his parent’s marriage in light of his mother’s unexpected death, his father’s sudden re-marriage to a former secretary and the discovery of 40 years of his mother’s diaries. It was named one of the 10 Best Films of 2006 by a number of leading critics, including the New York Times, and was selected as one of the outstanding documentaries of the year by the National Board of Review.
His latest film, The Kids Grow Up, is about his relationship with his daughter and only child, Lucy, shot over a period of 18 years and focusing on her last year at home before she left for college. The film is set for a early fall theatrical release and a later broadcast on HBO.
In addition to his own films, Doug works as a producer for other documentaries. His credits as producer include: Silverlake Life, Jupiter’s Wife, Love and Diane and A Walk Into the Sea: Danny Williams and the Warhol Factory, among many others. Between them they’ve won grand jury prizes at the Sundance, Berlin and Tribeca film festivals, multiple Emmys, a Peabody and an Independent Spirit Award.