Now Playing! SF Green Film Festival Brings It All Back Home

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Still from Dan Goldes' '5 Blocks.' (Image courtesy of Dan Goldes)

The simple, brilliant theme of the 2019 San Francisco Green Film Festival, which opens Wednesday, Sept. 24 at the Castro, is home. Brilliant, because our environment is wherever we live. While we’re concerned about the plastic-poisoned oceans, the burning rainforest, the fracked Northeast, they are (mostly) far away. As for the lovely sentiment that Planet Earth is humankind’s one and only home, that’s either too existential or too abstract to galvanize most of us.

But our house, our street, our neighborhood, our city—nothing is more real or more tangible. That reality underpins Fredrik Gertten’s quietly inspiring and quietly damning opening night film, Push, which tracks UN Special Rapporteur Leilani Farah’s efforts to defend the international right to housing against—she discovers—The Blackstone Group and similar real estate vulture capitalists. Farah and Gertten are expected to attend.

Still from Fredrik Gertten's 'Push' with Leilani Farah.
Still from Fredrik Gertten's 'Push' with Leilani Farah. (Image courtesy of Green Film Fest)

Push exposes something much more calculated and nefarious than creeping gentrification, but we can’t ignore the tech boom’s effects on the Bay Area landscape. Local filmmaker Dan Goldes’ generous and revelatory documentary, Five Blocks, which receives its world premiere Sunday, Sept. 29 at 1pm the Roxie, gives voice to almost every conceivable stakeholder in the planning and redevelopment of mid-Market over the last decade.

There aren’t any villains in Five Blocks—curses, foiled again!—but rather an appreciation for messy, complicated urban planning. For example, the construction of BART under Market St. in the ’60s had the side effect of destroying a shopping corridor and pushing businesses out. A terrible thing, but there was no place else in San Francisco that was wide enough to accommodate the tunnel. Can you imagine getting around the Bay today without BART?

Still from Christopher Beaver's 'Once Was Water.'
Still from Christopher Beaver's 'Once Was Water.' (Image courtesy of Green Film Fest)

Another eye-opening local doc, Christopher Beaver and Diana Fuller’s Once Was Water (its California premiere is Sunday, Sept. 29 at 6pm at the Roxie), cleverly digs below the surface to uncover the strategies and techniques that the desert playground of Las Vegas uses to conserve and recycle water. (Making visitors feel guilty for using water isn’t one of them. Didn’t you know Las Vegas is the guilt-free capitol of the U.S.?)


The throughlines that connect these three films, along with several others in the SF Green Film Festival, are optimism and activism. Solutions exist, close to home, and more and more people are involved. A movie may not change the world, but it can cultivate community.