Film Image
Secondhand (Pepe)
24 minutes
United States/Haiti/Canada
Haitian Creole/English/French
English subtitles

Secondhand (Pepe)

In this documentary about used clothing, the historical memoir of a Jewish immigrant rag picker intertwines with the present-day story of 'pepe' — secondhand clothing that flows from North America to Haiti. Secondhand (Pepe) animates the materiality of recycled clothes — their secret afterlives and the unspoken connections among people in an era of globalization.

In the early 1900s, immigrant Jews from Eastern Europe collected, sorted, and sold secondhand clothing. As the Jewish peddlers made their way through North American city streets, they called out 'Rags, Bones, Bottles!' Today, at the beginning of the 21st century, the used clothing industry has gone global. Billions of pounds go to developing nations each year. Used American clothes play an especially central role in Haiti where, as one peddler reveals, 'It's all pepe, all the time.'

Dreamlike visuals and ethereal sounds intermix the beats of Jewish klezmer and Haitian rara music. Luke Fischbeck (Lucky Dragons) has composed the soundtrack of the film with an artful and nuanced ear, emphasizing the ruptures and looped connections among diasporic cultures. Secondhand (Pepe)'s two stories converge as American castoffs travel from the Jewish memoir reader's rag factory to the Haitian shores. As pepe makes its way to Port-au-Prince, passing through an intricate network of peddlers, seamstresses and entrepreneurs, the past recycles into the present.
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"Shell and Bertozzi's film, SECONDHAND (PEPE), is an imaginative rendering of the ways dispossessed peoples make use of the discarded clothing of a dominant culture. The film makes wonderful use of sound design, live action, old movies, and a Chris Marker-esque belief in the interconnectedness of things to show us how the forgotten clothes in one culture re-surface as fashion opportunities in another. Traveling along an energetic and associative editing scheme, the film not only tracks the secondhand clothing business, but gently allows us to think about the ways the past is re-cycled into the present, especially how detritus from the first world is worn into the imaginative fabric of the third world. A compelling piece of filmmaking." - Robb Moss, Filmmaker
"Weaving the old with the new, the past with the present, the local with the global, and the social with the economic, Shell and Bertozzi have created a stylistically compelling and thought provoking tapestry of a film, providing first-hand insight into the history and culture of secondhand clothing." - Alan Berliner, Filmmaker
"Fascinating!" - Robin Young, Here & Now
"Recommended. This interesting, delightfully meandering, film develops a historical, if impressionistic, perspective on the used clothing industry. It uses disparate sources--a Boston radio forum on 'pepe', as second hand clothing is known in Haiti, a spoken memoir of a Polish tailor who emigrated to the U.S., home movie footage of the 'rag trade' in Eastern Europe of the 1930's, and interviews with the Haitians--then puts together, sometimes with special effects, creatinga collage environment." - Jane Sloan, Rutgers University Libraries, Educational Media online

• Best Documentary, Brooklyn Arts Council Film Festival, 2007
• Best Musical Score, Rhode Island International Film Festival, 2007
• Director’s Citation, Black Maria Film and Video Festival, 2008
• Slamdance Film Festival, UT, 2008
• Society for Science & Literature Conference, 2007
• Society for Cinema and Media Studies Conference, 2008
• Harvard Film Archive, 2007
• The Garment District, Cambridge, 2007
• Elsewhere Museum and Galleries, Greensville, 2008
• Wellesley College, Caribbean Studies Series, 2008
• Laredo Experimental Art Festival, Laredo Texas, 2007
• Nanjing Normal University, University Wide Screening, 2008
• Bangkok Community Museum, 2008
• Documentary Fortnight, Museum of Modern Art, 2009
• Outstanding International Shorts, Museum of Modern Art, 2008
• Ciné Institute, Jacmel Film Festival, Haiti, 2009
• Caribbean Studies Colloquium, Smith College, 2009
• FOKAL (Open Society), Port-au-Prince, 2009
• Bibliothèque du Soleil-Haiti Soleil, Carrefour-Feuilles, Haiti, 2009
• Society for the History of Technology Annual Meeting, Pittsburgh, 2009
• Black International Film Festival, Montreal, 2010
• Maryland Institute of Contemporary Art, Reverse Ark Exhibition, 2009
• Cross-Cultural Cinema Series, Arlington Central Library, 2009
• Rebuilders’ Source, South Bronx, 2009
• Secondhand Culture Symposium, Bard Graduate Center, 2010
• Kresge Theater, MIT, 2009
• Fundraiser for Haitian Earthquake Recovery, Somerville Central Television, 2010
• The Bluecoat, Liverpool, 2009
• Ghetto Biennale, Port au Prince, 2009

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TWN acknowledges that in New York we are on the unceded territory of the Lenni Lenape, Canarsie, Shinecock, and Munsee peoples and challenges the harm that continues to be inflicted upon Indigenous and People of Color communities here and abroad, which is why we all need to be part of the struggle for rights, equality and justice.

TWN is supported in part by the National Endowment for the Arts, New York State Council on the Arts, New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, Color Congress, MOSAIC, New York Community Trust, Peace Development Fund, Ford Foundation, Golden Globe Foundation, Kolibri Foundation and individual donors.