Audiences in 1956 expected documentaries to be antiseptic extended advertisements, or a series of pretty pictures of faraway places. Adventurous young filmmaker Lionel Rogosin shattered these preconceived notions with his first effort, On the Bowery. This devastating tour of the Lower East Side and the derelicts residing therein may be difficult to look at, but the unvarnished truth often is. Rogosin concentrates on a representative cross-section of Bowery habitues: their matter-of-fact acceptance of their miserable lot in life is ten times more powerful than any Hollywoodized dramatic re-enactment. Filmed on a budget consisting of Lionel Rogosin's life savings, the 60-minute On the Bowery was nominated for an Oscar and won top prizes from the British Film Academy and the Venice Film Festival.
by Hal Erickson synopsis