A journalist, documentarian, professor and 1998 Northport High School graduate, Glen Osten Anderson premiered his first feature-length documentary at the Harlem International Film Festival this past May, where it won the 2021 Audience Award.
“Coogan’s Way” hits even closer to home tonight, Wednesday, November 24, on WLIW21, Long Island’s PBS station. “Even though I no longer live in Northport, it is kind of a big deal for me that my film is playing on my hometown PBS affiliate,” Glenn said in an email conversation with the Journal.
The film tells the story of Coogan’s Irish pub, a landmark bar and restaurant in New York City’s Washington Heights, a neighborhood that in the late 1980s and early 1990s, was considered the epicenter of America's crack cocaine epidemic. Coogan’s served as “a safe space, a political hub, a cultural center and a home-away-from-home” for a diverse community, welcoming patrons and staff of all races, religions and interests.
“Specifically, it looks at how the bar had a positive impact on the neighborhood and how the community fought hard for the pub when they faced a huge rent hike in 2018,” said Glenn.
Born in Manhattan, Glenn lived in Northport for two decades before graduating from Northport High School. He was a national champion in track in the racewalk event and said that although he didn’t study media/journalism/film while at the high school, his European history teacher, Leonard Romano, and foreign language teacher, Frances Killelea, were tremendous influences on him then, and continue to be today.
Glenn went on to get his undergrad in Hispanic Studies at the University of Pennsylvania and did a research masters in European Literature at Oxford University in the UK. “I knew I wanted to go into academia, but the practical side of filmmaking/media production really called to me more than humanities research,” Glenn said.
While at the NYU Grad Film program (Tisch), Glenn began working as a freelance journalist and sports TV producer. He frequented Coogan’s for everyday events and special occasions, and said it was his favorite spot in New York City. When a drastic rent increase threatened to shut Coogan’s down, its loyal clientele fought to keep it around. And Glenn filmed it all.
But Coogan’s couldn’t survive last year, when Covid-19 began to ravage the dreams of so many small businesses. The beloved bar closed its doors on St. Patrick’s Day, 2020.
Coogan’s Way is having a great run on the film festival circuit, winning multiple audience awards and screening in New York City, Virginia, California and Australia. Glenn is back to teaching at the college level and is now in his second year at The Catholic University of America. “I love being in D.C. and working with students who are excited about non-fiction filmmaking,” he said.
You can watch Coogan’s Way tonight at 9pm on WLIW21. The film includes a cameo from Lin-Manuel Miranda and actor Jared Harris is an interviewee and does voiceover work. Newsday alum Jim Dwyer is one of the film’s anchor interviews, one of his last before he passed away.
View the trailer here: