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How Big Little Is

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How Big Little Is
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How Big Little Is follows Irving Feller, a Brooklyn fur trader and artist, through the final chapters of his life. Told through the lens of his friend, filmmaker Jenn Nielsen, we accompany him on his last cross-country journey to trade wares with American Indians, witness the closing of his Greenpoint, Brooklyn fur shop, and celebrate his first solo gallery show at age 83. An expedition through love, loss, suffering, and ultimately triumph, we are uplifted by this unexpected intergenerational friendship. It’s the story of two people finding their way together as artists and a meditation on finding your voice- at any age.

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“My message is an immediated plea, not bounded by the past and one unafraid of the future.” - I. Feller, 1957

How Big Little Is captures a unique moment in Brooklyn’s history. A portrait of two generations affect- ing one another positively during a time of major change, both personally and geographically. While it’s the end of an era on many levels, it is not nostalgic for the past, rather it embraces the present.

Irving Feller has been a staple of Greenpoint, Brooklyn since the 1950s. Many locals remember him selling Native American jewelry in front of his Manhattan Avenue fur shop while donning a feathered headdress.

Irving began taking trips to the American west, visiting Native American tribes and trading his wares in the summer months when the fur business was slow. The trip was a practical escape from New York, but also an expression of his values. Through Irving’s personal encounters with anti-semitism as a soldier in WWII, he found great empathy for the Native American experience. While the NY Times and other publications have written about Irving’s uniquely American story, this film captures his life as an artist, a practice that engages simplicity, directness and honesty at its core.

Formally trained as a painter in Paris, Los Angeles and New York, Irving quickly became fed up with the art world and decided to paint for his own satisfaction, remaining in relative isolation until a new wave of artists began moving into the neighborhood 20 years ago. In 2008 Irving lost his beloved wife Selma and soon began making deeper connections with the artistic community which would ultimately bring new meaning to his life, while inspiring a younger generation.