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The Collector of Bedford Street

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The Collector of Bedford Street is an Academy Award nominated short documentary that follows the filmmaker's 60 year old neighbor, Larry Selman, a community activist and fundraiser who has an intellectual disability.  Every year, Larry collects thousands of dollars for charities while living at the poverty line. When Larry’s primary caregiver becomes unable to care for him, his New York City neighborhood community rallies together to protect his independent lifestyle by establishing an adult trust fund in his behalf.

The Collector of Bedford Street is “the feel good movie of the year” (Hollywood Reporter) that simultaneously “achieved more than the countless professional speeches I have ever given on inclusive communities” (Doreen Croser, ED American Association on Mental Retardation).  Critics rave that “you won’t find a sweeter 34 minutes on TV this year” (US News and World Report) while academics and professionals declare that the film is “an absolute "must buy/must show/must discuss" in colleges and universities” (Rud Turnbull, co-director of the Beach Center on Disability at the University of Kansas).

Director Alice Elliott’s film is a rare treat: it is as heartwarming as it is instructive; as thought-provoking as it is touching; as enlightening as it is inspiring. As the LA Times calls it, it is a “socially conscious celebration of the human spirit."

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Running Time:  34:32
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Library Journal

The Collector of Bedford Street

Produced by Alice Elliott
Directed by Alice Elliott
Distributed by New Day Films, 190 Route 17M, P.O. Box 1084, Harriman, NY 10926; 888-367-9154 or 845-774-7051
VHS, color, 34 min.
Reviewed by Maureen Puffer-Rothenberg, Valdosta State University, Valdosta, GA
Rating: Highly Recommended
Audience Level: College - Adult
Subject(s): Disability Studies, Social Work

The Collector of Bedford Street tells the story of a developmentally disabled man and the neighbors who value him as an asset to their community. Larry Selman lives across the street from filmmaker Alice Elliott in New York City’’s Greenwich Village. He spends his days ““collecting”” contributions from passers-by, raising several thousand dollars each year for various charitable organizations.

Although Larry has an apartment of his own he cannot live independently; his elderly Uncle Murray assists him in variety of ways. Realizing that Murray cannot continue to care for Larry, Elliott organizes the neighborhood block association to establish an Adult Supplemental Needs trust fund that will guarantee Larry financial security in addition to medical and social services.

Elliott’’s multi-faceted portrait goes beyond Larry’’s daily activities and the fact that his neighbors have united to ensure he receives ongoing, appropriate care. The film explores Larry’’s family history and follows his sincerely awkward romance with a developmentally disabled woman. Larry also talks about his spiritual beliefs, occasional suicidal feelings, and his struggle to cope with loneliness.

Larry obviously enjoyed participating in the project and often speaks naturally into Elliott’’s camera. Visiting his parents’’ graves, he invites a passing rabbi to say a prayer, and then quietly asks Elliott if the rabbi signed a release. Scene transitions are punctuated with recorded phone messages Larry has left for Elliott (most of the neighbors receive at least a daily phone call from Larry).

This often humorous and warm-hearted film is highly recommended for college students and other adults who work with the disabled or are interested in inclusive communities.

Copyright 2003. All Rights Reserved. Distributors may use select segments for promotional purposes with full credit given to the author of the review and to Educational Media Reviews Online.

GOODWILL INDUSTRIES-Goodwill Today-enews service


The Collector of Bedford Street, one of this year's Academy Award nominees in the documentary short category, will air nationally on Cinemax on May 14 and 20 at 7 p.m. and on May 27 at 7:15 a.m.

The film tells the story of Larry, a 60-plus-year-old developmentally-disabled Greenwich Village resident who collects thousands of dollars for charity each year while he lives at the poverty level. Larry is worried about what will happen to him in the future. He lives independently, but his only income is an SSI check supplemented by his 82-year-old uncle, who also comes by his apartment every day to help take care of him. Touched by his fears and moved by his spirit of giving, Larry's Bedford Street neighbors give back by establishing the first non-family supplemental need trust fund for him.

Through interviews and vignettes, the documentary offers a multidimensional view of what it is like to be developmentally disabled. Viewers experience the joy Larry feels about his pets, his community, a budding romance and raising money for charitable causes. But the film also shows his despair -- his frustration at his 62 IQ level, his loneliness, his talk about suicide and the conflicted feelings his uncle has about him.

Larry's story serves as a reminder of who we in rehabilitation work for and why we do what we do. Watching his community come together to help the helper demonstrates mission in action, making a difference in people's lives, one individual at a time.

For more information, go to the movie website at To purchase the 35-minute video, go to New Day Films .


The Association of Jewish Libraries recently published a positive review of The Collector of Bedford Street in their quarterly newsletter, saying "This film is highly recommended for all libraries for its depiction of the daily life of a minimally retarded man and the emphasis on the Jewish values of charity and caring for one's fellow man."

Village Voice Spring 2002

"If you'd prefer a glimpse of a real-life community where the only demons are psychological, there's The Collector of Bedford Street, an Academy award-nominated documentary being shown on Cimemax this month. Alice Elliot's moving, personal film tells the story of Larry Selman, a sociable, developmentally disabled man who's befriended dozens of neighbor on his West Village street over the last 30 years. Worried about Selman's tenuous future (he's impoverished, lonely, and depressive), his block association comes together to establish a trust fund for him, effectively creating an ad hoc family in a corner of mean old Manhattan."

The story of Larry's life and how it intertwines with the lives of his neighbors paints an amazing picture of the natural supports that are so necessary if people with disabilities are really going to be part of their community.

Kathleen H. McGinley, Ph.D.
Deputy Executive Director for Public Policy
National Association of Protection and Advocacy Systems
202-408-9514, ext. 102

Having seen "The Collector of Bedford Street" in a room of over 100 professionals and having heard their animated discussion of the "lessons" that the documentary teaches, and being myself a professor of special education and the father of a 36-year old man with several disabilities comparable to Larry Selman, I am utterly convinced that "The Collector" is an absolute "must buy/must show/must discuss" in colleges and universities. Students of courses focusing on disability as a cultural phenomenon or social construct, on disability-civil-human rights, or on the sociology of today's America would benefit greatly from having "The Collector" be part of their education. This documentary is an artful and poetic presentation of good and decent Americans; more, it is a powerful teaching tool and I plan to use it for the rest of my career and in all of my courses.

Rud Turnbull
University of Kansas
Co-director Beach Center on Disability

“You won’t find a sweeter 34 minutes on TV this year.” - US News and World Report

“ This is the feel good movie of the year.” - Hollywood Reporter

“A New York neighborhood legend” - Entertainment Weekly

“In less than 40 minutes you have achieved more than the countless professional speeches I have ever given on inclusive communities...You have made a major contribution to a more hopeful world.” - Doreen Croser, ED American Association on Mental Retardation.

“Director Alice Elliott lives across the street from Larry, and her film ‘The Collector of Bedford Street’ shows him to be quite a character, as engaging as any I’ve seen in recent memory... Once he’s got your attention, he doesn’t let go. Give him a try.” - C. Cooke

“All four of the nominated documentary shorts are strong, socially conscious celebrations of the human spirit....New Yorkers are also seen at their best in Alice Elliott’s poignant 34 minute “The Collector of Bedford Street.” When his mother died in 1968, mildly retarded Larry Selman was taken in by his uncle, who by 1971 found him a small apartment near his own in Greenwich Village. Over the decades Selman dedicated his life to collecting funds for various charities, but now his uncle is 81 and Selman is 60. Since Selman had the good fortune to be living in an increasingly upscale neighborhood of much sophistication and civility, he became a matter of concern to prosperous neighbors who took the unusual step of setting up a trust fund to provide him with security for life. The film also reveals the limits of the concept of IQ. Selman’s may be only 63 and he may be child like in some ways, but he is nonetheless an articulate, perceptive and reflective man.” - LA Times
  • Audience Award, Best Documentary, Horizon (Educational) Award, Aspen Shortsfest
  • Director's Choice Award, Black Maria Film Festival;
  • Family Award, USA Film Festival
  • Henry Hampton Award, Council on Foundations
  • Nominated for an Academy Award® for Best Short Documentary
Alice Elliott Alice Elliott is an Academy Award® nominated director, writer, producer, university level teacher, advocate for the disabled, cinematographer, and the recipient of a 2012 John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship.  Her short documentary The Collector of Bedford Street was nominated for an Academy Award® and aired on HBO/Cinemax. Alice Elliott was the director, co-producer, and the principal vérité cinematographer on her film, Body & Soul: Diana & Kathy, which aired on PBS for National Disability Awareness Month. She was invited by the US State Department to screen Body & Soul: Diana & Kathy in Uzbekistan through The American Documentary Showcase, sponsored by the University Film and Video Association. Alice is a full time faculty member at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, and has been producing documentaries for almost twenty years. Her writing includes the Nickelodeon series Are You Afraid of the Dark?.  A published and produced playwright of both adult and children’s plays, her work includes the book for Wide Awake Jake, co-authoring The Magic Fishbone with music and lyrics by Tom Chapin and Michael Mark. Her other plays, Willing to be Lucky and The Incredible Shrinking Family, premiered in New York City at the Joseph Campbell/Jean Erdman Open Eye: New Stagings series. As a performer, she appeared on ABC’s daytime drama LOVING for ten years and her feature films include Four Friends, directed by Arthur Penn. She has recorded English as a Second Language programs for major New York publishers and was one of the speakers on the TOEFL English Standard audio tests. In addition, she has produced or performed in over 200 commercials. She is a member of Actors Equity, American Federation of Radio and Television Artists, Screen Actors Guild, and New York Women in Film and Television (former board member and secretary).  

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Body & Soul: Diana & Kathy Body & Soul: Diana & Kathy    Two remarkable advocates for people with disabilities - Diana Braun, who has Down Syndrome, and Kathy Conour, who has cerebral palsy - met four decades ago and vowed to fight for independent lives.    Subject:  Aging & Gerontology

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