51 Birch Street
|51 Birch Street|
|Directed by||Doug Block|
|Produced by||Doug Block
|Written by||Doug Block
|Music by||Machine Head
H. Scott Salinas
|Distributed by||Truly Indie|
|September 14, 2005
Toronto Film Festival
(October 22, 2006)
51 Birch Street is the first-person account of a family's life-changing events. A few months after his mother's sudden death from pneumonia, Doug Block's 83-year old father, Mike, calls him 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, Doug and his two older sisters were shocked and suspicious.
When Mike and Kitty marry and sell the Block family home, Doug returns to suburban Long Island for one last visit. Among the mementos being packed away, Doug discovers three large boxes filled with his mother's daily diaries going back 35 years in which she recorded her unhappiness, her rage against her husband, her sexual fantasies about her therapist, a brief affair with an unnamed friend of her husband—and her suspicions about Kitty. The marriage, Mike told Doug on film, "was not loving, it was a functioning association". With only a few weeks before the movers come and his father leaves, Doug is determined to explore his parents' marriage.
Through conversations with family members and friends and surprising diary revelations, Doug finally comes to peace with his parents who are more complex and troubled than he ever imagined. The documentary explores more subtle forms of repression, secrecy and denial within a family, and confirms the complexity of marriage.
"It premiered at the Toronto Film Festival and screened at top international film festivals".
Doug Block has published another documentary entitled The Kids Grow Up in 2010, a sequel of 51 Birch Street. This documentary is mainly about his one and only daughter, Lucy, whom he loves so much, and who's now all grown up and ready to leave for Pomona College in Claremont, California . However, he doesn't seem to want to let her go. There is a moment where Lucy gets tired of being recorded all the time and asks her father to stop recording her. This documentary also focuses on the effects of his daughter going away, such as his wife Marjorie, suffering depression again after how many years. Unlike 51 Birch Street, where Doug never thought he would make a film out of, he said, “With ‘The Kids Grow Up’ I’d long thought that there was the potential for a film,”, he just couldn't figure out what story to make out of it until she's finally all grown up and about to face the new chapter of her life.
The New York Times film critic A.O. Scott said the film was "one of the most moving and fascinating documentaries I’ve seen this year"  and listed it as one of his ten favorite films of the year. Jim Emerson of RogerEbert.com named 51 Birch Street one of the top ten films of 2006. By December 10, 2006, the film had grossed $84,689.
- Scott, A.O. (October 18, 2006). "Scenes From a Marriage, Revealed by a Son". The New York Times (New York). p. E5.
- Scott, A.O. (December 24, 2006). "Here's to the Ambitious and the Altmans". The New York Time (New York).
- Emerson, Jim (December 21, 2006). "The Double-Best Of The Year". Scanners.com. RogerEbert.com.