'TO BRIDGE THIS GAP' PHOTOGRAPHED BY ROBERT FIORE, EDITED BY BRUCE RUBIN
About three years ago, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund posted to YouTube a documentary short titled To Bridge This Gap. The film, by Ken Burrows and Brian De Palma, was commissioned by the NAACP in the late 1960s to highlight "the state-sponsored discrimination faced by African Americans in the 1960s and the relentless work by LDF’s staff and cooperating attorneys to establish legal and social precedent while bridging the gap between hard-earned legal victories and implementation of the law by public authorities."
For years, books about De Palma had listed this documentary as a 1965 film titled Bridge That Gap In his book The De Palma Cut, Laurent Bouzereau states, "In 1965, Brian De Palma shot, in New Orleans and in several other southern cities, a film sponsored by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) entitled Bridge That Gap, and in 1966, he did Show Me A Strong Town and I'll Show You A Strong Bank for the Treasury Department."
Similarly, in the Samuel Blumenfeld and Laurent Vachaud book Conversations with Brian De Palma, De Palma says: "With one of my friends, Kenny Burrows, I started a small company to shoot documentaries and industrial films. The goal was to make enough money to finance a feature film. We essentially filmed two commissions. The first, on social housing for African Americans in New Orleans, was placed by the NAACP. The film was entitled Bridge That Gap."
The company formed by De Palma and Burrows was called Aries Documentaries, and the end of To Bridge This Gap includes a copyright date of 1969. In the film, which is about 25 minutes long, one of the lawyers (Michael Davidson) makes reference to the riots of Newark, New Jersey, which took place in 1967. It seems possible that De Palma and Burrows were working on the NAACP doc while also working on other film projects. De Palma's regular collaborator Robert Fiore is credited as the cinematographer, while another regular collaborator, Bruce Rubin, is credited as the editor.
The feature film goal that De Palma speaks about above turned out to be Murder A La Mod, made in 1967 and released by Aries Documentaries. In 1968, De Palma, Fiore, and Rubin shot two stage performances of Dionysus in '69. The split-screen documentary was completed and released in 1970.
To Bridge This Gap is available to watch in its entirety (below) via YouTube and the NAACP LDF.