The Bay Area's best filmmakers show their stuff
This weekend, the San Francisco Film Society is showcasing some of the best filmmakers from around the Bay Area. It’s part of an annual festival called Cinema By the Bay taking place at the New People Cinema in San Francisco’s Japantown, and it’s going on right now. SFFS programmer Sean Uyehara joined KALW contributor Kevin Robinson to talk about some of the most striking movies being shown this year. He started by talking about why they hold the Cinema by the Bay Festival.
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SEAN UYEHARA: Cinema By the Bay is intended to shine a light on all of the great films that are made in the Bay Area. Also, work that's made about the Bay Area.
KEVIN ROBINSON: How long has the festival been going on?
UYEHARA: This is the third year, and it's grown each year. It's been really fascinating and wonderful to do because one of the ideas of the festival is to bring together different audiences that have relation or interest in the media that's being made here. And it's been a really good experiment in seeing different people talk to each other and talk to artists.
ROBINSON: You brought a couple clips, so let's dive right into those. First and foremost, let's talk about The Bat. It's a silent film from the '20s, correct?
UYEHARA: Yeah, it's by a director named Roland West. It's actually the precursor to the comic book Batman. Yeah, it's one of the main influences on that comic book series. It's like a thriller/comedy. It's about these people who are in a mansion that are looking for loot in the mansion, and they're getting picked off by this vigilante called "the Bat." So it's a really fun film. And then the musician Ava Mendoza, she's an avant garde guitarist. She's based in Oakland. And I was lucky enough to get her to agree to create a new score for the film. And she's going to be playing with Nick Tamburo on drums. So they're going to be playing live on Friday, November 4th.
ROBINSON: Sean, one subject that's really, really big - I don't think people realize how big it is - is sex trafficking. Mimi Chakarova, who's from the Bay - or she lives in the Bay, now - she has a film called The Price of Sex. You want to talk about that?
UYEHARA: Yeah. What she did was she actually went undercover to investigate sex trafficking rings. And it's a pretty dangerous thing that she did, but she followed different prostitution rings in different countries, and she came up with some really harrowing results. But I think that we're the better for knowing about it. In this clip she's talking about how different women are priced in different parts of the world, and how prostitution is looked at in different cultures.
ROBINSON: Okay, let's take a listen to the clip from the film The Price of Sex.
CHAKAROVA (FROM MOVIE): Price depends on nationality. Chinese women go for the lowest price. Then Africans and Eastern Europeans. Middle-Eastern women fetch the highest amount: up to $1000 per night. The women spill out of the clubs at 3am. Men bargain for discounts. The taxis take them to the hotels. And when the call to prayer sounds at dawn, it reminds a woman their shift has ended.
ROBINSON: Now you brought a clip from another film called Where's My Stuff. Tell us about that film.
UYEHARA: It's a pretty funny film. It takes place right during the dot-com bust. And it's focused on this idea of a storage company that goes under like so many other online dot-com organizations. And the main character, Donovan, thinks, well, "Now all my stuff is gone." But his friend convinces him to go on a pilgrimage of stuff to go find his lost crate of stuff. He doesn't even know what's in it anymore. And it's kind of a funny take on materialism, the structure of business, and sort of the weird idiosyncracies of different people who store their things. So, it's pretty funny.
ROBINSON: And, the clip we're going to be listening to? Can you tell us about that?
UYEHARA: The clip is a setup of the film overall. It features an interview of one of the executives of this storage company gone under, and the helplessness that follows when you've put your trust in a company that just disappears overnight.
ROBINSON: Okay, let's take a listen to the clip from Where's My Stuff.
(FROM MOVIE): Hey, what did you guys do with all the crates ... (EDS. NOTE: SHORTENED FOR CLARITY) ... I don't care about your package. I just want you to tell me where the crates are.
ROBINSON: You just heard a clip from Where's My Stuff directed by local fillmmaker Sam Burbank. It's part of this year's Cinema By the Bay. So Cinema By the Bay - what's your take on Bay Area cinema and filmmakers and where they are today and in California and the rest of the United States.
UYEHARA: Well, the Bay Area has traditionally been known as something of a hotbed for documentary and advocacy filmmaking. And it certainly is one of the stronger parts of Bay Area filmmaking, currently. The Price of Sex would certainly fall into that, you know. But one thing that's burgeoning and I think is becoming stronger is the development of fiction feature-length work. So we have two films like that, we have Where's My Stuff and I Think It's Raining. And I think that overall the collection of flimmakers that are up-and-coming in San Francisco are turning themselves more toward that fiction aesthetic overall.
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That’s Sean Uyehara with the San Francisco Film Society. He spoke with Kevin Robinson, who works with Medium Rare, highlighting the work of women and people of color in the broadcast entertainment industry. KALW’s Jayme Catsouphes produced that piece. You can find more information about Cinema by the Bay, which takes place through Sunday, by clicking here.