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a review from the New Mission News

By Victor Miller

It seems like a hundred years ago that we were being told that dot-com enterprises were the new paradigm, economic miracles that just needed a little lebensraum and cafe latte to go. Digerati from Houston to Hoboken were pouring into our city, gobbling it up and spitting it out in their own image. We locals offered what was widely regarded as a colorful but laughable resistance. Now our would-be displacers are fleeing town or washing our cars. If you blinked you missed it, but Whispered Media provides the instant replay of city gone berserk in "Boom -The Sound of Eviction," a feature-length documentary film about all that was dot and is now just not. The film's focus is the struggle for the Mission District as told by the participants of both sides, politicians, realtors, the usual "author ofS" experts and just plain folks. Anyone who has followed this conflict knows how difficult it is to capture its breadth and complexity. Not only was the "new economy" juggernaut rewriting the social equation, it was simultaneously reconfiguring the physical environment with a construction explosion unequaled since the Gold Rush. "Boom" misses none of this.

The three apparently sleepless filmmakers seem to have recorded the Sturm und Drang of every demonstration, but still found the time to get up close and personal with a variety-pack selection of those championing dot-com Babbitry. In one truly repellent segment with Mayor Willie Brown, his honor shovels up pile after pile of prosperity-will-never-end boosterism that, in light of subsequent events, makes him look like an idiot. (This portion of the film may be unsuitable for young children or old lefties with weak hearts, but it is worth the price of admission alone.)

The generation or semi-generation is not easy to catch on film. Unlike previous historical-cultural phenomena, this one had little in the way of creative deliverables. The Beats had jazz and poetry, the Hippies a flashy psychedelia and some memorable music; the dot-comers produced nothing but a marketing strategy harnessed to an awesome technological delivery system that, stripped of the hype, was just a cumbersome way for people to buy dog food. As "Boom" zeroes in on the d-c party circuit, one gets the impression of an extended senior prom awash in cash but lacking the rebel soul of previous upheavals of restless youth.

The contrarian spirit opposing all this is well recorded in interviews with the organizers of Mission Anti-Displacement Coalition and other local activists who put together the most colorful civil disorder since the late 60s. There's great footage of the various actions that occurred throughout spring and fall 2000. Despite the fact that many people believed their community was undergoing a racial and economic cleansing, demonstrations (though often frenetic) were never violent or mean-spirited. "Boom" shows people rising to the defense of their neighborhood, and doing it with an exuberance that is too often missing in political activism. At a mammoth party for potential investors in the development of the Mission Armory and held in the Armory itself, demonstrators come crashing in and give startled celebrants and a scowling mayor the Mission version of the Bronx Cheer: Aqui estamos y no nos vamos. (It would have been even more fun had the developer not served frozen shrimp.)

But, in the end, the times were characterized by the casual brutality that makes people take to the streets in the first place. Seniors, families, artists and the poor were, by means legal and otherwise, forced from their homes and often out of the city where they were born. As one woman prepares to leave the Bay Area with her kids, she looks into the camera and says, "You need a village to raise a child, and this was my village." Some, like Lola McKay (who died from the stress of impending eviction from her home of 30 years) were just too old and physically frail to resist. "Boom" tells their story and tells it well.