Witch City


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"Great. Fascinating. Very entertaining."
Michael Apted
Director: "Coal Miner's Daughter," "Gorillas in the Mist," "35-UP"

"Very funny and very smart. Should play in Salem every day and every night forever."
Bo Smith
Film Curator: Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA

"sad, funny, and revealing look at how America honors its history."
Stephen Rees

Video Librarian

"A fair-minded and brutally honest look at what 'Salem Town' has become, 300+ years after the Witch Trials...With snippets of interviews with various local residents, authors and Witches, the filmmakers allow for a myriad of opinions."
Peg Aloi
Media Coordinator - Witches Voice

"If Hawthorne were around today, he would have made this film."
Mayor Stanley J. Usovicz
Salem, Massachusetts

"The film should be shown in all schools in Salem....All mayors of historical towns/cities should see the film to understand how history or historical background can run amok and be used for commercial gain and notoriety without keeping the importance and seriousness of the actual event intact....It is extremely difficult to explain what goes on here to people who don't live here and I think your film does it extremely well."
Janet S.
Salem, MA

"I think the makers of the film "Witch City" have appropriately created the dichotomy of Salem on film. Witchcraft is the mistress of the city of Salem. She is pimped during Haunted Happenings and kept at bay during the remainder of the year when the rest of the city's history is more conveniently displayed.

Would Jews tolerate the sacredness of their religious traditions being destroyed? Would the Baptists in the South? Would Moslems? I do not think so. They would have many other faiths defending them shoulder to shoulder.  So why, in a city that claims to be invoking a new image of having learned the lessons of intolerance and injustice, still continue to bastardize a sacred holy day of ancient religious traditions still celebrated by many there? The lessons of intolerance and injustice are still being learned, maybe never to be fully embraced."
Jerrie Hildebrand
Salem business owner and Witch

"Very entertaining, thought provoking and funny. Excellent!"
Mary D.
Wayland, MA

"It brings a much needed focus to some of the important issues from the community."
Michael F.
Salem, MA

"All residents should see it. Show to tourists coming to Salem."
Richard L.
Salem, MA

"I thought the film was provocative and insightful. It was good in a David Lettermanish style - cynical and juvenile, but in a good way.
Gail N.
Salem, MA

"I found the film to be at times very informative and at other times lighthearted entertainment."
John M.
Salem, MA

"Loved it, the business needed a zing! You should see what the Shea Brothers have done lately -- Yikes!"
Glenn D.
Danvers, MA

"Required viewing for the Mayor, City Council & Chamber of Commerce."
Peg H.
Salem, MA

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"It's a disgusting piece of work. A low-budget piece of trash."
Bif Michaud
Salem Witch Museum

"I have no interest in it, quite frankly. My general impression is that it tries to characterize Salem as a city trying to make money off the witch trials. I don't agree with that (characterization)."
Neil Harrington  (former Mayor of Salem)
Salem, MA

"Over done. Gives equal time to both Christians and Wiccans, but makes fun of both and makes light of the immoral influence of witchcraft. This is definitely not an educational tool"
Roger H.
Salem, MA

"On my trips to Salem I have found that history has been preserved in a tasteful manner. I feel that the museums, shops and townspeople have attempted to preserve history in a positive manner and I applaud their efforts. As for Mr. Cultrera and his group, I only wish they had spent their efforts in a more positive cause."
R. Fabyanic
Beaver Falls, PA

We Made You Think

"...the debate over "Witch City," a clever documentary about the city's exploitation of the witchcraft hysteria, is turning deadly serious. Although the film highlighted the absurdities inherent in Salem's tourist hype, some folks now seem seriously offended by the Halloween festival, feeling the city desecrates the memory of the accused witches by hyping haunted houses and costume parties on Halloween.

The producers of the film accuse city officials of trying to prevent them from screening it in Salem, although it's been shown here before and will be again, during Haunted Happenings.

But now the debate seems to be not whether the city's Halloween hype is schlocky but fun, but whether it's wicked or offensive. What next? Shall we all observe Halloween in Salem by holding candlelight vigils at the Witch Trials Memorial, while we recall our ancestral sins of bigotry and intolerance? Shall our children be instructed to forgo Halloween candy as a sign of repentance? Or could we lighten up just a little?

Is Salem's Halloween extravanganza tacky? OK, so this is America, and we Americans often do things up a little too large, a little too commercially, for everyone's taste. But it's also a time of innocent fun. No one is making light of the real witch trials — in fact, I'll bet people learn more about the real trials during Haunted Happenings than at any other time of year.   Halloween is here to stay. Can't we all just enjoy it?

Helen Gifford
Salem Evening News' Salem city editor.


To the Editor of the Salem Evening News:
I am responding to a letter to the Editor that has now been published three times.  Written by a Pennsylvania tourist, it takes issue with the depiction of Salem in my documentary, "Witch City."

The writer had not seen this film, but only read an article about it in this same paper.  He suggests that, contrary to its representation in "Witch City," the depiction of history in today's Salem is tasteful and that I should expend my energy in more positive efforts.

As a Salem native, I feel that "Witch City" is a very positive effort. The filmmaking team spent many years and much of our own money in creating this document. We would not have done this if we did not have a love for Salem, matched only by our disappointment in what it has become.

Criticism that is meant to incite positive change is one of the most important parts of our society. I'd hate to think that it has become necessary to agree with everything and everyone just for the sake of a fake smile.  Salem is not Disneyland.  Although some of the current depictions of 1692 seem to be more appropriate for that Orlando amusement park, Salem is a place that has a real history worthy of serious contemplation.  It is therefore disturbing to see Halloween tourists trampling the Charter Street burial ground and loudspeakers disturbing the tranquillity of the Witch Trials Memorial.  But that's just my opinion.

Freedom of choice allows us all to interpret the witch trials as we may -- be it for the purpose of education, spirituality, profit or fun.  Many people in Salem now make their daily bread off their interpretations and that is their absolute right.

If the author of the letter had bothered to view "Witch City" he would have seen that the film does not so much criticize as it does focus - its lens that is - on people and incidents from a five year period in the life of downtown Salem.  My narration is only the voice of someone who grew up in Salem and has seen things change.  The subjects of the film give their interpretation of what they are doing and what others around them are, or should be doing.  The documentary unfolds as incidents in Salem unfolded, with a mixture of righteousness, anger, fanaticism, and humor.  It is for the audience to consider all this and come to their own educated conclusion.

At a recent series of screenings at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, we were applauded by members on various sides of the film's issues. "Witch City" is meant to incite discussion and in March, when the film premieres in Salem, I hope that a lively discussion will follow. You'll all be able to see and criticize for yourself.

Joe Cultrera,
Director, Witch City

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