Bay Area/ San Francisco/ Arts & Culture
Published on November 13, 2017
4th Annual 'San Francisco Urban Film Fest' Begins TonightPhoto: Brenton Gieser

The San Francisco Urban Film Fest (SFUFF) starts today with a week of films, discussions and storytelling workshops that examine the lives of city dwellers.

Now in its fourth year, the festival is exploring the theme of change, both positive and negative. Issues like climate, drug use, income inequality and overcrowded public transit will be up for discussion and study.

For 2017, SFUFF has added four co-curators, festival founder and executive producer Fay Darmawi told Hoodline.

On Tuesday, the festival screens Drugs in the Tenderloin, a 1966 documentary filmed and directed by Robert Zagone when the neighborhood was transforming into a hub for LGBTQ youth and drug users. In 2015, the Tenderloin Museum found the film's last remaining print.

Zagone’s film will be followed by Tender Souls, a documentary by Brenton Gieser that follows three current Tenderloin residents who lead drastically different lives. 

“I think the film comes at an important time in San Francisco's history as we are all participants in the expanding economic divide, the homelessness epidemic, and the overall feeling of helplessness that is casted over our city in regards to these social issues,” said Gieser. 

A single mother is one of the residents highlighted in "Tender Souls." | Photo: Brenton Gieser

The two Tenderloin films will be followed by a panel discussion including Zagone and Katie Conry, director of the Tenderloin Museum. This is the first time SFUFF has partnered with the museum, which will receive all proceeds from the tickets for the November 14th event.

On Wednesday, attendees will focus on community media, mainstream media, policy makers, and grassroots activism at Independent Film Center, a facility co-owned by four film festivals. The venue is a media ecosystem that helps model a potential solution for the future as a cooperatively-owned facility, Darmawi said.

Other films to be screened this week include In the Wake of Ghost Ship and No Vacancy, which tie into a Thursday evening discussion about the struggles artists face as they try to remain in the Bay Area.

In the Wake of Ghost Ship won the Golden Gate Award for Best Short Film at the 2017 San Francisco International Film Festival. | YouTube

SFUFF ends on on November 18th with a series of films about the shifting spaces for LGBTQ housing and nightlife in cities, including a showing of Eulogy for a Dyke Bar, which takes viewers inside the closing night of The Lexington Club.

Activist Cleve Jones will join the discussion that night, along with Lila Thirkield, the previous owner of the Lexington Club, and Natalia Vigil, co-founder of Still Here SF, an annual event that examines the experiences of LGBTQ artists who are raised in the city.

SFUFF starts tonight and will be held at multiple venues, including SPUR, 518 Valencia, the Ninth Street Independent Center, and the Tenderloin Museum.