SF International Film Festival: Boomtown: Remaking San Francisco

Claudia Sanchez
Staff Writer

“San Francisco has always had a housing crisis,” stated Tim Redmond, editor of 48 Hills, a digital San Francisco newspaper focused on bringing attention to the housing crisis.  This inescapable crisis is the main focus of “Boomtown: Remaking San Francisco.”  Boomtown is not a traditional documentary, it is a multimedia art piece featuring film, live performances, and speeches. The film’s title comes from the boom and bust economic cycle, which is based on a system of economic surplus followed by severe economic decline.

BoomtownTim Redmond read a speech about the history of San Francisco’s constant housing crisis, which spans from the Gold Rush. Redmond refers to San Francisco as the “greatest failure of urban planning of all time.” There aren’t enough houses for the people working and living in the city and there is no way to create affordable housing. The most memorable part of this entire segment were the hisses, reminiscent of the most recent “Game of Thrones” episode, directed at photos of Dianne Feinstein, a former San Francisco Mayor, and San Francisco’s current Mayor, Ed Lee.

A few segments included trailers for upcoming films; one was about The Lexington (San Francisco’s first lesbian bar), and another about Coit Tower, which covered its evolution from an urban planning eyesore to its current role as an architectural icon. There was also a trailer for “The Last Black Man in San Francisco,” a feature film.

“The Last Black Man in San Francisco” seemed to be the most interesting and visually appealing of the trailers. Filmed in an almost dreamlike faded color palette, it deals with the effects of gentrification in one man’s life. He witnessed the home his grandfather built be taken away by rising costs, and the resulting destruction of his family; he now faces the dream to re-own his home.

Intercutting the trailer’s and “La Colectiva,” was a performance piece by Melonie and Melorra Green. The Green sisters’ piece consisted of the screen showing a march for the murders of transgender and other LGBTQ+ women of color, as the artists walked into the theater holding lights and a painting as they sang. They then each described their personal reason for doing the performance piece.

Vero Majano’s “La Colectiva” served as the last part of the screening. The found footage documentary showed off San Francisco, especially the Mission, in 16mm film from the 1970s. The footage was beautifully shot in both faded color and black and white as an instrumental track played in the background.

As great as the subjects presented were, the film unfortunately came up short. There needed to be more emotion about the issues San Francisco is facing. It’s horrible that gentrification and poor urban planning are pulling people away from their hard earned homes and businesses, and the emotion was lacking in the documentaries and performance pieces.

The event only described the history and effects of the housing crisis and gentrification, but where are the solutions? What do we do about the closing of The Lexington? What do we do about the deaths of LGBTQ+ people of color? What do we do about the countless evictions? According to the Boomtown screening and “La Colectiva,” we simply take a sleepy nostalgic tour of San Francisco and the Mission and hope that the boom will soon become a bust.

2.5/5 stars

Photo Courtesy of San Francisco Film Society

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