Filmed between 1996 and 1999, this documentary chronicles the lives of four people recovering from mental illness at the Fountain House, a Manhattan-based rehabilitation center. The central figures are Francis Olivero (who later became a public advocate for the mentally ill), Fitzroy Frederick, Tex Gordon, and Zeinab Wali. Filmed in cinéma vérité fashion, the documentary also includes footage of its producers, Bill Lichtenstein and June Peoples, working side by side with Fountain House residents and volunteers, and following the four subjects in and out of the center as they endeavor to put their lives back together. The poignancy and power of the film is heightened when one is aware that co-producer Lichtenstein, a former ABC news employee, had once himself been diagnosed with manic depression. After winning several film-festival awards, West 47th Street made its TV bow as an episode of the PBS anthology P.O.V..
by Hal Erickson synopsis