Hanna Rose Shell

Associate Professor, Film Studies Program
and Art & Art History Department, CU Boulder

Textiles: Social Fabric & Secondhand Media

Secondhand (Pepe)

An experimental multi-media documentary by Hanna Rose Shell & Vanessa Bertozzi.
Produced by Fabrik Films and Secondhand Productions.
Experimental sound composition by Luke Fischbeck (Lucky Dragons).
Distributed by Third World Newsreel.
Email shell@fas.harvard.edu for a preview screener.

Secondhand (Pepe) is a 24-minute experimental documentary about used clothing. Filmmakers Shell & Bertozzi weave two narratives into a visual and sonic journey. 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.

Shell & Bertozzi are a media-production collaborative based in Boston, USA and Grand Manan, Canada. In making Secondhand (Pepe), they worked closely with sound, multimedia and performance artist Luke Fischbeck (www.hawksandsparrows.org). Secondhand (Pepe) draws on Vanessa Bertozzi and Hanna Rose Shell's complementary visions of experimental and documentary filmmaking, visual & oral history, and new media innovation. Shell & Bertozzi filmed Secondhand (Pepe) on location in Haiti, the United States and Canada. Based on their experience, they published a a photo-essay entitled "Textile Skin" in Transition Magazine in September 2006, reviewed by the Wilson Quarterly in January 2007.

Key Production Credits

Directed and Photographed by Shell & Bertozzi
Produced by Hanna Rose Shell
Edited by Vanessa Bertozzi
Sound by Luke Fischbeck
Research by Hanna Rose Shell
Subtitles by Gary Dauphin
Addlitional Sound by Michael Reed
Haitian Creole Translation by Trenton Daniel and Franklin Dalembert
Yiddish Translation by Murray and Sophie Meld
Additional Photography by Randy Bell


Massachusetts Foundation for the Humanities
FOKAL Fondasyon Konensans ak Libete
Fritz Bauer Institute
Center for Jewish Studies at Harvard University
Charles Warren Center for Studies in American History
Factory of Found Clothing, Russia
Schapiro Family Archive
Secondary Materials and Recycled Textiles Trade Association of North America
W.E.B. DuBois Institute for African and Afro-American Research
YIVO Institute for Jewish Research

Additional Production Credits

Produced by Secondhand Productions & Fabrik Films (Grand Manan, Canada & Boston, U.S.) in association with the Film Study Center at Harvard and the Comparative Media Studies Program MIT. Filmed in Haiti, the U.S. and Canada.