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51 Birch Street
51 Birch Street
Actors: Mike Block, Carol (Kitty) Block, Mina Block, Karen Block Engwall, Ellen Block
Director: Doug Block
Genres: Drama, Mystery & Suspense
NR     2007     1hr 28min

Do you REALLY want to know your parents? Documentary filmmaker Doug Block always thought his parents' 54-year marriage was a good one. But when his mother dies unexpectedly and his father swiftly marries a former secretar...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Mike Block, Carol (Kitty) Block, Mina Block, Karen Block Engwall, Ellen Block
Director: Doug Block
Creators: Doug Block, Machine Head, H. Scott Salinas
Genres: Drama, Mystery & Suspense
Sub-Genres: Family Life, Mystery & Suspense
Studio: Image Entertainment
Format: DVD - Color,Full Screen
DVD Release Date: 08/14/2007
Original Release Date: 01/01/2005
Theatrical Release Date: 01/01/2005
Release Year: 2007
Run Time: 1hr 28min
Screens: Color,Full Screen
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 2
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English

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Movie Reviews

Sara Booth | Cape Cod, Mass | 07/10/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Don't let my subject title fool you, 51 BIRCH STREET, is not the Ani DiFranco or Sarah McLachlan of personal documentaries- meaning this is a film that men and women of all ages will enjoy (assuming that they like emotionally stirring portraits of American families!) Its just that I always find myself pleasantly surprised when I see a unflinching, emotionally accurate, and unwaveringly honest portrayal of a woman by a man. 51 BIRCH STREET is all that and more. The filmmaker Doug Block is clearly admiring of his mother, Mina, yet unafraid to show her character warts and all, in the ultimate testimony to the belief that love is being able to see someone's full character, but still really love them just as they are. Three months after her sudden death his father reconnected with a secretary from 40 years ago, Kitty (what names, Mina and Kitty!), within the year they've married and are moving to Florida! This was obviously was a bit of a shock to him and his sisters, and after decades of his mothers diaries were discovered during the move, Doug was inspired to make the film. Ultimately it is a loving portrait of the challenges of family. It's gripping and moving, a must see!"
Family Affair
Rocky Raccoon | Boise, ID | 05/20/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)

"A documentary that seems more like a reinactment, '51 Birch Street' presents an excellent family affair. Being able to draw from a large stash of photos, a few home movies and videos, as well as his deceased mother's daily diary, filmmaker Doug Block discovers a lot about his family--mostly his parents--that he hardly knew possible. Ambivalence creeps into play, for his discoveries are bittersweet. Sometimes he finds out things he'd rather not know. Generosity is also present, however, for the film wouldn't be interesting if we didn't care about the participants. Some of the discoveries have to do with social changes occurring between the fifties and sixties. Block narrates the family story with both emotion and detachment, but mainly approaches the film like he were a reporter. (We find out early in the film that after his mother dies, his father is quickly on the mend, marrying his long-time secretary.) With editing that uses good judgment and family discussions that yield interest, '51 Birch Street' is a real find.
Smart, Engaging, and Touching
Rocco | Brooklyn, NY | 07/06/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)

"It is rare that you see a documentary that has such universal themes - family secrets, marriage, fidelity - and this film does. But, more than that, it's Doug Block's personal touches that make this film so special and emotionally powerful. Prepare yourself to be surprised by this film because it sneaks up on you - it's hard not to see traces of your own family in this. When it's over, you'll find yourself thinking it over for days."
The most eloquently constructed, universally relatable digit
Z. Freeman | Austin, TX | 08/26/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)

"51 Birch Street is the family discussion that most families never have. But not only do the Blocks have that discussion, documentary filmmaker Doug Block has captured it all on film and expertly crafted an easily accessible documentary that is equally amusing and moving, stirring and reassuring. What begins as one man's investigation into his parent's past slowly morphs into the most eloquently constructed, universally relatable digital home movie of all time.

Ineterspersing decades of video footage, photos, interviews, and (most notably) his mother's journals, Block examines his parent's 54-year marriage looking for clues as to why his father may have remarried only three months after his mother's death. As Block slowly unearths information from his mother's journals and through interviews with his father and relatives, the film picks up steam, building towards the inevitably cathartic finale.

But 51 Birch Street isn't just an autobiographical film about Block's parents. It's also not just a study in marital fidelity (or lack thereof). What 51 Birch Street really does is examine the disconnect between parents and children, between generations, between siblings, and between friends and documents one man's journey in bridging that disconnect. 51 Birch Street is the rare film that is designed to open dialogue on many complex issues. As Block works towards his own resolutions, audience members can't help but think about questions they may feel the need to ask or to discuss.

Inevitably there are uncomfortable moments where both Block and the audience are wondering whether he should delve any further into the past, both for moral reasons and because, as the DVD cover asks: "Do you REALLY want to know your parents?" Time and time again Block asks himself this question, and time and time again the answer is yes. When the secrets are laid bare and the past has been discussed, what's most rewarding about the film is the heartfelt discovery that communication and discussion clearly do aid in understanding and happiness. 51 Birch Street is the surprise documentary of the year. At a time when the documentary form is increasingly being used to further political agendas, it is a digital breath of fresh air.

The bonus features here are as entertaining and revealing as the film. In a brief featurette entitled Who Knew? Block goes back to interview various members of his family, including his father and stepmother, and gets their reactions to the film itself. But the four-minute "I Flunk Adultery" music video steals the DVD as Block's uncle Josh Vogel shares the entire five verses to the song with the audience, accompanied by a clever music video."