‘Live From New York’ Film by SVA Alumnus Bao Nguyen Captures 40 Years of ‘SNL’ Satire

July 21, 2015

Live From New York!, Bao Nguyen’s (MFA 2011 Social Documentary Film) critically-acclaimed documentary about NBC comedy institution Saturday Night Live, was the center of discussion after a recent sold out screening at Williamsburg’s Nitehawk Cinema, as part of the Summer Documentary Series co-sponsored by the Tribeca Film Institute.snl200Nguyen was on hand along with SNL producers Tom Broecker and J.L. Pomeroy to speak about the film (which opened this year’s Tribeca Film Festival) and take questions from the audience.

Commemorating SNL’s 40th anniversary, Live From New York! examines the show’s legacy as a showcase of satire, taking on controversial issues such as politics, sexism and racism to create a “civilized discourse,” as creator and executive producer Lorne Michaels says in the film. When asked why he chose to structure the documentary the way he did, Nguyen told the Nitehawk crowd that he opted to focus on social themes rather than chronology because he wanted to show how satire is a lens of culture.

From Eddie Murphy’s “Mister Robinson’s Neighborhood” and Andy Samberg’s “Digital Shorts,” to Dana Carvey’s George H.W. Bush impersonation and Tina Fey’s Sarah Palin parody, the film shows how SNL helped transform countercultural ideas into accepted standards. Nguyen traces SNL’s evolution as a barometer of American culture and history, and makes the case that the show was never content with capturing the zeitgeist, but instead guided it. Or, as Will Ferrell says in the doc, SNL is a “living, breathing time capsule.”

Along with Nguyen, several other MFA Social Documentary Film alumni participated in the production of Live From New York!, including cinematographer Caleb Heller (MFA 2011 Social Documentary Film), editor David Osit (MFA 2011 Social Documentary Film), sound recorder Benjamin Nimkin (MFA 2011 Social Documentary Film) and production coordinator Natalie Ruiz Tofano (MFA 2014 Social Documentary Film).

For more information about Live From New York!, click here.

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