Fire Through Dry Grass

Fire Through Dry Grass uncovers the devastation experienced by New York City nursing home residents during the COVID-19 pandemic and their fight to be seen, heard—and survive.

Funding Initiative
Open Call
Co-Director

Andres Molina

Originally from the Domincan Republic, Andres “Jay” Molina is a filmmaker, animator, and disability rights activist. He has worked as a minor league baseball player, truck driver, and drug dealer. An OPEN DOORS Reality Poet, he draws on his experiences in the streets and in prison to inspire action for safer, more just communities.

Co-Director/ Producer

Alexis Neophytides

Alexis Neophytides is a documentary filmmaker whose work centers around community and how we find meaning in people and place. She is the co-creator and co-director of Neighborhood Slice, a documentary series chronicling the evolution of NYC’s neighborhoods, and she produced and directed the series 9.99, for which she won a NY Emmy. 

Producer

Jennilie Brewster

Jennilie Brewster is a painter, writer, and community organizer. Her studio and social practices explore relationships among race, class, landscape, and trauma. Her fellowships include the Ucross Foundation and Lower Manhattan Cultural Council. She is co-director and founder of the arts-and-justice initiative Open Doors.  

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The Film

Fire Through Dry Grass uncovers the devastation experienced by residents in one New York City nursing home during the coronavirus pandemic. Co-director Andres “Jay” Molina takes viewers inside the facility with his fellow “Reality Poets,” a group of mostly gun violence survivors who live at Coler, the Roosevelt Island home to a community of physically and/or cognitively impaired New Yorkers. 

Wearing snapback caps and Jordans, Jay and the other poets don’t look like typical nursing home residents. They used to travel around the city sharing their art and hard-earned wisdom with youth. Now, using GoPros clamped to their wheelchairs, they document their harrowing experiences locked inside Coler: patients that tested positive for COVID-19 are moved into their bedrooms; nurses fashion PPE out of garbage bags; refrigerated-trailer morgues hum outside residents’ windows. All the while public officials deny the suffering and dying behind Coler’s brick walls. 

The Reality Poets’ rhymes flow throughout the film, underscoring their feelings that their home is now as dangerous as the streets they once ran and—as summer turns to fall turns to winter—that they’re prisoners without a release date. But instead of history repeating itself on this tiny island with a dark history of institutional neglect and abandonment, Fire Through Dry Grass shows these disabled Black and Brown artists refusing to be abused, confined, erased.

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