‘Getting films made was expensive, but I had a homegirl working at a dot-com, so she paid for the print using the company card.’
Right around the turn of the century, San Francisco was in the throes of an earlier tech boom, and many communities were feeling the changes. In response, some native Mission filmmakers decided to capture their home on film with documentary and narrative driven films.
Originally shown during the now-defunct Cine Accion film festival decades ago, these five films have been selected and set to re-air Saturday on their 20th anniversary in the Cine + Mas San Francisco Latino Film Festival in a program called “Have you seen her, La Misíon?” The films have been curated by local filmmakers Vero Majano and Sergio De La Mora, and are dedicated to filmmaker Nora Cadena, whose film Ni aquí ni allá [Neither here nor there] is in the program. Cadena died of cancer earlier this year.
“Have you seen her, La Misíon?” is scheduled for Sept. 15 at the Big Roxie theater at 5 p.m. The five films’ total running time clocks in at around 75 minutes.
Mission Local had a chance to meet with Vero Majano for a question-and-answer session.
How long have you been in the Mission?
Born and raised, baby. I’ve been here 51 years. If there was such a thing, I’d almost be a townie. But I’ve traveled abroad: Norway, Paris — you know, I’ve done my Eurotrip. But I always want to come back.
You grew up here. What was it like back then?
It was good. A lot of my work was inspired from it. A lot of us had our nonprofit jobs and we could afford our own pads at one time. There was a big independent filmmaking community here and I even got a chance to show my actual film at ATA (Artists’ Television Access).
How did you find out you liked film?
My mom would just drop us off at Brava Theater and we would watch movies all day. I think I got turned on to movies because I would just get dropped off there and see movies we shouldn’t have seen as kids, like Taxi Driver.
How did you get involved in film professionally?
I made my first film in my mid-20s. This film project I’m co-curating with Sergio De La Mora, he was working at this film festival called Cine Accion and I had just made my first film. I had a grant from the Film Arts Foundation and there was this place where you made films at. I got a grant for first-time filmmakers and I learned how to shoot film, like 16-millimeter film. At the time, I was responding to the grandfather of this current tech boom, so I was responding to what was happening to the neighborhood at the time and my film Calle Chula was my response to that.
What was it like making Calle Chula and what was it about?
It was responding to the changes that I was seeing 20 years ago in the Mission. It was a lot of fun, but a lot of torture, because it was my first project. When I see that film, I geek out on the fact that it was shot on film. When I look at it, I would cringe for the first couple of years, but now I look at it as a document of place and time in the Mission, my voice and my youth. I look at it differently now.
The film is like a street version of Rip Van Winkle; it’s kind of based a bit on that. It’s [the female protagonist’s] journey to find out what the hell is happening — and what’s happening is gentrification. You would call it experimental narratives. Getting films made was expensive, but I had a homegirl working at a dot-com so she paid for the print using the company card.
What are the origins of Saturday’s film program?
The other films all were curated together because they were all about the Mission. Our films would play the circuit together and we had a program back then called “Have you seen her, La Misíon?” and for this program 20 years later we just wanted to use the same title.
I think with showing these films from 20 years ago is a chance to reminisce and for people who have been here to see old visuals. It’s also for people to remember that we have been fighting gentrification for all this time. I don’t use gentrification too much in my work because we’re in post-gentrification; if you’re still here, you survived it or are still trying to survive it.
Let’s go through the list and talk about the films.
Nora Cadena did Ni aquí ni allá and Pepe Urquijo did Algun Dia, where he addressed Proposition 187, the proposition promising to end benefits for undocumented immigrants that was later declared unconstitutional, and its fiction. Then there’s my film, and then there’s Al Hernandez’ That Mission Rising! which is about what was here in the Mission before all of us.
I remember when I saw that film, it inspired me to make my film with a vision and get experimental with it.
The other film is Armand Emamdjomeh’s, New Mission, which he made in 2010. It’s from a couple of years ago and it’s all stills. I think of all the films like a playlist and he’s going to end it because it’s in the present. His is a good end-song for the program.
What other projects do you have going on?
I’m working on a project about Los Siete De La Raza, about seven young men who were accused of killing a white police officer in 1969. I’m telling the story of Los Siete and I do a live narration. It’s going to be premiering 2019 at Brava, to mark the 50-year anniversary of the case.