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Berlin: Martin Scorsese Screens 'NYROB' Doc as Work in Progress

Martin Scorsese

"I've been reading, or trying to read, 'The New York Review of Books' since 1963," said the "Wolf of Wall Street" director.

Berlin cinema and literary fans packed the theater at the Haus der Berlinale Festspiele in Berlin Friday to catch the first rough, work-in-progress screening of Martin Scorsese's new untitled documentary about the 50-year history of The New York Review of Books. The Berlin Film Festival gave Scorsese a special gala screening of the unfinished film.

Scorsese, along with co-director David Tedeschi, presented the footage: three sections totaling around 1 hour offering an idea of the scope and direction of the project. Based on the screened footage, the documentary will be a wide-ranging look at the big political and intellectual debates The New York Review of Books has fought in its pages since its first issue on February 1, 1963. The footage featured clips and interviews with some of the Review's most acclaimed contributors, including Susan Sonntag, Gore Vidal, Norman Mailer, James Baldwin, Joan Didion and Robert Greenberg.

"I've been reading The New York Review of Books since 1963, or trying to read it," said Scorsese. "[From the start] it was different than any of the other magazines out there. It didn't look like anything else on the shelf."

NYROB editor Robert Silvers, publisher Rea Hederman and Greenberg attended the Berlinale screening and took part in a panel discussion afterward about the paper's enduring legacy and impact on American political discussion and debate. Something Silvers was quick to downplay.

"The biggest mistake is to have any illusion that you will change anything," said Silvers. "The greatest mistake is to think it will make some difference. … All you can hope for is to have something whose quality and insight is adequate."

Despite that caveat, Scorsese and Tedeschi's film puts the NYROB at the center of most of the big issues of the past five decades, from the wars in Vietnam and Iraq, to the revolution in Eastern Europe, to the woman's movement and Occupy Wall Street.

Scorsese and Tedeschi have previously collaborated on the documentaries George Harrison: Living in the Material World (2011) and The Rolling Stones concert doc Shine a Light, which was the opening film of the 2008 Berlinale.

Silvers praised The Wolf of Wall Street director for poring over "some 15 thousand articles over 50 years" and "finding something meaningful in the muck of our work."

Scorsese said he and Tedeschi have the basic structure of the film in place and hope to have the final cut finished by March or April.