Donate

Film Review

With 'Straight Outta Hunters Point 2' Filmmaker Kevin Epps Goes Home Again

Large Image

The press notes for Kevin Epps' new documentary begin with a bold claim: "Most San Franciscans, even long-time residents," Epps tells us, "have never spent even 5 minutes in the notorious, conveniently isolated neighborhood known as Hunters Point."

It might seem like he's goading an unspoken, politically incorrect comeback: From the looks of the place, who would want to? But Epps' agenda with Straight Outta Hunters Point 2, which closes out Black History month in a week-long run at the Roxie, is direct and sincere. He wants to show us the looks of the place.

An extension of its 2003 predecessor, his new film makes another roving expository survey of the battered community that Epps calls home. Unambiguously, it's a rough neighborhood. The scene set by Straight Outta Hunters Point 2 accords with the sickeningly common image of a black urban ghetto blighted by violence and cyclical despair. As one agitated interviewee says, "You ask me about my life. What's the point? Feel me?" On some level, this really is the ravaged, futureless 'hood.

The film doesn't flinch from authenticity. It lacks production values, and narrative coherence, but in an affecting way. A portrait too slick or tidily packaged would be at odds with the very rawness of this raw material. The standard of living here is not glossy, nor even, on many occasions, intelligible. With deadly violence looming and high school graduation rates plummeting, the mood is often funerary.

Epps does a lot of hanging out. Without always making proper introductions, he brings us around to greet the neighborhood: kids, cops, a kind-eyed minister, a bleary-eyed parent, a hard-eyed thug. We don't spend much time with any one person, and there is a lot of posturing, but everyone we meet seems crucially like a person and not just a type.

Lacking jobs, affordable housing, hope, health, some Hunters Point residents feel preyed upon from without by corporations, utility companies, and too-aloof city officials, just as they feel preyed upon from within by gangs. It is not hard to understand the sad-angry irony with which Epps calls the neighborhood "conveniently isolated." If it is too true that San Franciscans from other neighborhoods never visit this place, so it is the other way around: for some people, there's just no getting outta here.

Yet there is resiliency in Hunters Point, in the tireless grope for community, for positivity. It flickers unexpectedly, in a raucous street rally, say, or the rare contemplative quietude of a community garden (albeit one that feels as haunted as a cemetery).

He could have been wholly glib about this. He could have said, "Kevin Epps sets foot in Hunters Point so white folks don't have to." But the point of his film, and the reason it's a sequel, is the persistence to resist closing off -- to find, instead, some opening.

Straight Outta Hunters Point 2 plays Friday, February 24, through Thursday, March 5, at the Roxie in San Francisco. For tickets and more information visit roxie.com.

More on Movies

The Latest on KQED Arts

Art School | May 29, 2014

Know Your Graffiti Vocab

Graffiti artist Neon describes the art form's five different formats.   

Art School | Apr 25, 2014

Animated Abstraction with Jodie Mack

Jodie Mack creates stop motion animation using everyday objects and a vintage Bolex camera.   

Theater Review | Apr 15, 2014

Doctor Faustus Gives Hamlet a Schooling in Witty 'Wittenberg'

Martin Luther, Hamlet and Doctor Faustus prove an irresistible combination for a college comedy. By Sam Hurwitt  

Multimedia | Apr 14, 2014

Here's to the Late Adopters

Sometimes it's OK to wait for the bugs to get worked out before jumping into new tech. By Emily Eifler  

Music | Apr 14, 2014

What Is Up With BottleRock 2014?

If I could use only one word to describe the 2014 edition of the Napa Valley wine, food and rock festival's eclectic rundown of artists (based on the opinions I've heard voiced and, to a lesser extent, my own) it would be: huh? By T.J. Mimbs  

Movies

Also on KQED.org this week ...

The New Environmentalists: From Chicago to Karoo
KQED Summer Fun Adventures

This summer, KQED is partnering with tons of fun places in the Bay Area offering exciting adventures and special savings when you show your MemberCard.

Summer Arts Guide
KQED's Hot Summer Days and Night Guide

Our critics pick for the season's best concerts, books, movies, outdoor plays, visual arts and more.