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HBO Documentary Films is releasing a new documentary about the financial crisis in the United States and how it has affected American families. The new film will debut on July 9 on HBO.
Families featured in “Hard Time: Lost on Long Island” include:
Alan Fromm and his wife Susan, who grew up in Brooklyn, met at Brooklyn College and moved to Plainview, where they raised two children. He has a master’s degree and spent his career in corporate education and training, but lost his job in summer 2009. No stranger to hardships, Alan was struck by lightning at age 15, had just started a new job as at the World Trade Center when it was first bombed and, most recently, was in the World Trade Center when it collapsed. At the time of filming, he has been out of work for more than a year and despairs for his family’s future after falling behind on his mortgage.
Anne and Mel Strauss, who grew up on Long Island, and met commuting on the Long Island Railroad. She works in public relations and was laid off in summer 2008; he has a master’s degree in operations research and worked in finance before moving into the mortgage industry. They separate when his stopgap commission-only mortgage broker job moves him to Albany, three hours away. In 1999, Mel was diagnosed with cancer and had a great support system, but when they both lost their jobs, people were nervous and disappeared. As Anne notes, “Having cancer was easier than being unemployed.”
Nick Puccio, who grew up in Queens, and his wife Regina, who grew up in Brooklyn. They met at Merrill Lynch, where he spent the bulk of his Wall Street career. He was laid off from an asset-management firm owned by Lehman Brothers after Lehman’s collapse and has been unemployed since. Facing foreclosure, Regina considers selling her engagement ring for cash and visits a local food pantry.
Heather and David Hartstein, who were living a fairy-tale life “right down to the white picket fence.” They married right after college, settling back in Long Island, where Heather worked as a teacher and David as a chiropractor. Together, they face a series of job-related crises that jeopardize their home and marriage.
“Hard Time: Lost on Long Island” belies the notion that unemployed people are lazy or complacently collecting unemployment checks. Like Alan Fromm, many wake up every morning and pound the pavement looking for work. “I’m not sitting home and doing nothing,” he says. “A day does not go by that I’m not looking for work.”
Complicating matters is a legislative change that could shorten New York unemployment benefits from the current 99 weeks. For many people in their 50s, prospects are especially dim at a time when out-of-work job seekers are often told by employers not to apply. At a diner where unemployed locals meet to find support, Alan states FedEx turned him down when he applied to drive a truck to deliver holiday packages, saying, “They told me I was overqualified. I just want to drive a truck!”
While they continue to search for jobs, some have been out of work so long that they are no longer eligible to receive benefits and thus aren’t even included in monthly unemployment statistics.
Anne says, “I don’t want to be helped. I want to just help myself, but what we want are jobs.”
“Hard Time: Lost on Long Island” is the third in a series of HBO documentaries by Marc Levin and Daphne Pinkerson on the human impact of the economy. “Schmatta: Rags to Riches to Rags” (2009) examined the rise and fall of New York City’s garment industry, while “Triangle: Remembering the Fire” (2011), winner of a duPont-Columbia Award, looked back at one of the worst industrial catastrophes in U.S. history, the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire in New York City. Also winners of several other major awards, Levin and Pinkerson received an Emmy for their 1999 HBO documentary “Thug Life in D.C.”
Image Courtesy of Hard Times: Lost on Long Island