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a review by the San Francisco Independent

Well-made documentary looks
at evictions in Mission District

By Anita Katz
Nov. 3, 2001

A solid piece of advocacy cinema with a compelling local ring, BOOM: The Sound of Eviction, looks at the displacement of Mission District residents prompted by the dot-com explosion. It's a film that will make you, in sync with subjects, mad as hell.

Combining recent and vintage footage, statistical data, and interviews with city officials, dot-commers, developers, activists, and displaced residents, the film follows San Francisco's high-tech wave from boom to bust.

Foremost, it addresses teh eviction of tenants - many of them immigrants, low-income families, and artists - by landlords seeking to cash in on the more profitable leases represented by the Internet businesses. The film also depicts civil action taken by residents who march in the streets, organize political campaigns, and fight City Hall in response to the invasion of their neighborhood by prosperity-minded entrepreneurs out of tune with the Mission's muluticultural, community-oriented character.

The cases documented will be familiar to followers of local news. The eviction of the nonprogit Dancer's Group studio to make way for a high-tech firm prompts neighbors to occupy the site in protest. Demonstrators crash a party at the Mission Armory, where developers are gathering. Residents show up at city-planning hearings to decry the multi-media development proposed for Bryant Square. Grassroots campaigners for the antidevelopment Proposition L and tenant-friendly candidates such as Chris Daly energize residents to get politically involved.

Written and directed by Adams Wood, Mark Liiv, and Francine Cavanaugh, BOOM is a production of Whispered Media, a collective known for making videos about social issues, and at times you feel a bit too much as if you're watching a message film, with heroes and villains presented accordingly.

But the overall picture that the filmakers paint is a thoughtful, informative, and moving one that covers, in about 90 minutes, a lot of ground and concerns. Historical material recalls past development debacles such as the "urban renewal" of the Fillmore district, while, on the lighter side, recently conducted interviews reveal the social life of dot-commers (who hold a lavish "pink-slip party" when the bust hits). Perspectives, presented talking-head style, include those of development proponents such as Mayor Willie Brown and Residential Builders Association head Joe O'Donoghue, activists such as dance artist Krissy Keefer and immigrant-rights attorney Renee Saucedo, authors and journalists, and residents themsleves.

The result is a detailed, textured look at how greed, political arrogance, cultural insensitivity, and classism have caused growing numbers of to be evicted (the numbers of reported evictions tripled from 1996 to 1999, according to the filmakers) in a tight housing market in this city that purportedly knows how. Many such residents, including a mother of five who appears throughout the film, are forced to move out of San Francisco and are none too willing to go lightly.

"How dare you tell me to go across the bay?" one public-housing resident, describing herself as a native San Franciscan, angrily tells officials. Another woman describes the Mission as her "village," a vital support system in helping to raise her children.

Also featured is the late Lola McKay, the 83-year-old Mission resident who fought her eviction and consequently received a yearlong reprieve (though some believe her battle is what killed her).

Such voices can't help but get under your skin, and, on that note, perhaps the most compelling presence in this film is the Mission District itself, in particular, the neighborhood's activist temperament and constructively channeled anger - an ingredient that is essential for the abolishment of virtually any social injustice. These citizens may not win all of their struggles, but as they take to the streets, fight back, and celebrate their sense of community, their spirit can't help but inspire you.