DCTV Celebrates 50th Anniversary With Documentary Retrospective Featuring Work Of Keiko Tsuno, Jon Alpert And Late James Gandolfini

EXCLUSIVE: DCTV, the nonprofit acclaimed as “New York City’s preeminent community of and for documentary storytellers,” is celebrating its 50th anniversary with a series spotlighting the work of DCTV founders, the filmmaking couple Keiko Tsuno and Jon Alpert.

The series DCTV @ 50 kicks off September 21 at DCTV Firehouse Cinema in lower Manhattan with a screening of Third Avenue: Only the Strong Survive, a 1980 documentary directed by Tsuno and produced by Alpert. The filmmakers will participate in a Q&A as part of the evening’s program.

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The September 26 program for the DCTV @ 50 series will be dedicated to exploring the documentary legacy of late actor James Gandolfini, who joined the DCTV board in 2012, a year before his untimely death at age 51. 

“DCTV knew James Gandolfini as a committed advocate for the rights and welfare of America’s war veterans,” DCTV said in a release. “We proudly worked with him on several documentaries, including Alive Day Memories: Home From Iraq and Wartorn: 1861-2010.” 

Those two documentaries will screen on September 26, followed by a panel discussion with Gandolfini’s son Michael Gandolfini, who will be joined by Jon Alpert and Tom Richardson.

Tsuno first began making films in 1969. She earned an Emmy nomination for producing Cuba and the Cameraman, a 2017 documentary directed by Alpert. He has earned a pair of Oscar nominations, for the 2013 documentary short Redemption, and the 2009 documentary short China’s Unnatural Disaster: The Tears of Sichuan Province. Alpert earned three Emmys for his 2006 film Baghdad ER.

“Together and independently they have documented everything from addiction struggles to the casualties of war to the triumphs and tribulations of college basketball,” a release noted about Tsuno and Alpert. “Their films (and DCTV’s public screenings) have brought about real change to local NY policy and awareness of global issues and revolutions.”

This is the full DCTV @ 50 program, which runs from September 21-28 at DCTV Firehouse Cinema:

Thu Sep 21, 6:00pm

THIRD AVENUE: ONLY THE STRONG SURVIVE and Video Television Review: Downtown Community Television Center 

Q&A with Jon Alpert and Keiko Tsuno 


Directed by Jon Alpert and Keiko Tsuno, 1980, 58 min

This Emmy Award-winning documentary tells the stories of six “ordinary” people who live or work along New York City’s Third Avenue, which runs for sixteen miles through Manhattan, Brooklyn, and the Bronx, cutting through the complex social strata of the city to reveal wildly different economic and ethnic subcultures. The subjects speak for themselves, offering candid glimpses into the disparate worlds of a junkyard dealer who steals cars, a Bowery bum and the wife he abandoned, a welfare mother living in a condemned building with her five children, a male prostitute, a devout Puerto Rican factory worker, and an aging Italian barber and his wife. Called “a triumph of its kind” by The Washington Post, this unsentimental portrait of the uncommon lives of common people is a subjective sociological study of survival in urban America. (Source: Electronic Arts Intermix)

Third Avenue: Only the Strong Survive is a DCTV and WNET/Thirteen production, co-produced by Jon Alpert and Keiko Tsuno. Associate Producers, Victor Sanchez, Karen Ranucci, Eddie Pabon, Maryann DeLeo, Kathii Chen. Winner of a 1980 News and Documentary Emmy® Award, and a 1980 Grand Prize, Tokyo Video Festival.

This film will be preceded by:

Video Television Review: Downtown Community Television Center 

VTR, 1975, 29 min

As an introduction to our series, this interview is a window into the early days of DCTV. Produced as part of the Video Tape Review series of New York public television station WNET/Thirteen, it features interviews with Jon Alpert and Keiko Tsuno interspersed with excerpts from their extensive body of work documenting everyday life in Chinatown and Lower East Side of New York City, from vibrant performances by neighboring arts organizations to a rowdy school board meeting, into Cuba.

Executive Producer: David Loxton-Falcone Jr., John J. Godfrey. WNET Interview: Russell Connor. Produced in association with the Television Laboratory at WNET/ Thirteen.

Fri Sep 22, 6:30pm

LIFE OF CRIME: 1984-2020

Directed by Jon Alpert, 2021, 121 min

Q&A with Jon Alpert

Life of Crime: 1984-2020, is the culmination of 36 years of work from multiple Emmy Award-winning producer/director Jon Alpert. The third and final part of an epic documentary trilogy tells the full story of three friends from Newark, New Jersey whose lives have been defined by and torn apart by their addictions.

With unfettered access, the film bears witness to each of their journeys in and out of prison, rehab, and in occasional jobs as they struggle to end the vicious cycles of drug use and to connect with the families they left behind. 

Life of Crime: 1984-2020 is directed by Jon Alpert; edited by Patrick McMahon, ACE; field producer and audio Rosalina Ramos; assistant editor and conforming editor Naomi Mizoguchi; music composed by Residente. For HBO: senior producer, Tina Nguyen; executive producers, Nancy Abraham and Lisa Heller. Winner of a 2022 News and Documentary Emmy® Award.

Sat Sep 23, 1:00pm


Directed by Keiko Tsuno and Peter Kwong, 1998, 50 min

Less than a mile long, Canal Street is the dirtiest and noisiest, but also the most vibrant and dynamic street in New York City. For over a century, new immigrants have expected Canal Street to furnish the American Dream, to provide an opportunity to work hard and build a future. Emmy award-winning producer Keiko Tsuno and Professor Peter Kwong take us on an insider’s tour of this bustling street, where immigrant businesspeople are caught between the forces of the Law and a street with a law of its own.

Sat Sep 23, 2:30pm


Directed by Jon Alpert, 2017, 113 min

Q&A with Jon Alpert

Emmy-winning filmmaker Jon Alpert chronicles the fortunes of three Cuban families over the course of four tumultuous decades in the nation’s history. This multigenerational portrait of Cuba earned an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Historical Documentary.

Sun Sep 24, 1:00pm


Q&A with Jon Alpert


Directed by Jon Alpert and Matthew O’Neill, 2006, 64 min

The 86th Combat Support Hospital (CSH)–the U.S. Army’s premier medical facility in Iraq–is the setting for this unforgettable documentary. In addition to profiling the doctors and nurses at the 86th who fight to save wounded soldiers, the film provides vivid frontline rescue footage along with tension-filled scenes of soldiers patrolling one deadly stretch of highway. Winner of four Emmy Awards.

This film will be preceded by:


Directed by Jon Alpert and Matthew O’Neill, 2013, 35 min

Redemption is a documentary about New York City’s canners – the men and women who survive by redeeming bottles and cans they collect from curbs, garbage cans and apartment complexes. You’ve seen them combing through the trash, but never got to meet them. The film is an unexpected and intimate look at post-industrial gleaners, struggling at the edge of our society.

Tue Sep 26, 7:00pm

James Gandolfini’s Documentary Legacy 

Q&A with Jon Alpert, Michael Gandolfini, and Tom Richardson

While many knew James Gandolifini for his portrayal of Tony Soprano, DCTV knew James Gandolfini as a committed advocate for the rights and welfare of America’s war veterans. We proudly worked with him on several documentaries, including ALIVE DAY MEMORIES: HOME FROM IRAQ and WARTORN: 1861-2010. As a DCTV Board Member from 2012 until his death, he supported all of DCTV’s work, especially DCTV Youth Media and DCTV Productions. He believed in documentary film as one of the best tools to shift cultural perspectives, and created some very powerful projects in the course of his lifetime.  


Directed by Jon Alpert and Ellen Goosenberg Kent, 2007

A new generation of veterans is returning from Iraq. For these survivors, two days will forever memorialize their lives: their birthday and their Alive Day–the day they narrowly escaped death. This HBO Documentary Films production presents the first-person stories of ten Alive Day heroes as told to Emmy(R)-winning actor James Gandolfini.

WARTORN: 1861-2010

Directed by Jon Alpert, Ellen Goosenberg Kent, Matthew O’Neill, 2010

Executive produced by James Gandolfini (HBO’s Alive Day Memories: Home From Iraq) and produced by award-winning filmmakers Jon Alpert, Ellen Goosenberg Kent and Matt O’Neill, this 75-minute HBO Documentary Films presentation explores combat stress and posttraumatic stress on military personnel and their families throughout recorded American military history.

Beginning with the first documented cases from the Civil War, the film examines occurrences of PTSD through two World Wars and Vietnam, as well as more recent cases involving soldiers who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. The stories are told through soldiers’ revealing letters and journals; photographs and combat footage; first-person interviews with veterans of WWII, the Vietnam War, Operation Desert Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom; and interviews with family members of soldiers with PTSD.

Wed Sep 27, 6:00pm


Directed by Jon Alpert, 2005, 84 min

The Last Cowboy follows 23 years in the life of Vern Sager, a real American cowboy in one of the most isolated places in America – the Badlands of South Dakota. Out on the range with temperatures so extreme a herd can freeze overnight, Vern faces an army of adversaries: cattle rustlers, international agribusiness, old age, the weather, and the wanderlust of his own family.

Wed Sep 27, 8:00pm


Directed by Jon Alpert, 1998, 77 min

Winners of the 1996 NCAA Women’s Basketball Championship, the University of Tennessee’s Lady Volunteers seemed poised to contend for the trophy again. But halfway through the 1997 season, the team was not living up to their promise. They were losing almost every important game of the season. Injury to a star player, Kellie Jolly, didn’t help. It seemed that even the remarkable efforts of Chamique Holdsclaw would not keep the team from falling apart. Could this team really win again? 

Thu Sep 28, 7:00pm

The Reel Change: DCTV Youth Media 

Q&A with filmmakers

At the heart of DCTV is its Youth Media programs. The Reel Change features a selection of impactful youth-made films throughout the decades. Through the lens of our young filmmakers, witness the evolution of social consciousness and activism, and experience the collective voice of young people striving for a better world.

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