Life in ‘Charm City’ fuels Baltimore profile on PBS


‘Independent Lens’ offering examines violence in Baltimore



Charm City is Baltimore’s nickname, but a documentary tests it.

Making its television debut as a PBS “Independent Lens” presentation Monday, April 22 (check local listings), award-winning producer-director Marilyn Ness’ 2018 profile “Charm City” covers a three-year span in which violence rocked the locale. Amid growing mistrust between Baltimore law enforcers and citizens, knife-possession suspect Freddie Gray died while in police custody in 2015, adding considerable fuel to the discontent.

“Charm City” largely focuses on individuals striving for positive change in Baltimore. Still, Ness allows, “There was a lot of trepidation about what it meant to have a film crew come in. I think our team, which was primarily local (from) Baltimore, was doing its part to diffuse that image. But also, because the media descended as it did around the death of Freddie Gray and the unrest – and we were there for four months before and, much to everyone’s shock, we were there for months and months after all the other cameras left – I think they did understand that we were just up to something completely different.”


“Charm City”

Ness adds that because much of her crew was local, “Everyone felt a real obligation to share the story of the city and get it right.” That view extends to Brandon Scott, Baltimore’s youngest city councilman ever, who figures prominently in the film as an advocate for uniting opponents.

“I think that the violence is trending downward in Baltimore,” Scott says. “We still have a significantly high murder rate, but … Baltimore is known as Charm City because the best thing about Baltimore is its people. We are a lot more than murder and crime in Baltimore. We have a great, growing business community.”

A self-professed fan of the Baltimore-set drama series “The Wire,” Scott is pleased by reactions to “Charm City” from showings at film festivals and in Baltimore itself. “People love it for different (things),” he notes. “It humanizes people, but also, they can see that it shows hope – that there are people that care, and that Baltimore isn’t this place that people want to throw away.”


Jay Bobbin

Jay Bobbin

Jay Bobbin has decades of experience covering the television and movie businesses, winning Tribune Media Services’ Crown Jewel Award in 2008 for his performance in the company. Over those many years of interviewing and writing, he has spoken with everyone from Robert De Niro and John Travolta to Paul McCartney and Tony Bennett … from Meryl Streep and Julie Andrews to Taylor Swift and Carrie Underwood.

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