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SFUFF Asked to Apply for Seed Fund Grant

Posted November 2nd, 2017 by SFUFF in General

Amidst the hectic preparations for the upcoming SFUFF 2017 (Nov 13 – 19, 2017), I managed to submit a grant request of $5,000 to the Seed Fund (a foundation that seeded SPUR and the Exploratorium among other amazing organizations).  Below is a short excerpt from the application essay (which I was asked to tailor to their theme of climate change). The Seed Fund board meets Nov. 13, so please cross your fingers!  Thank you!


“For the past 4 years SFUFF has incorporated a few key concepts around the issue of climate change into its programming (refer to Appendix B for more details). We tackle climate change through a multi-layered and often controversial perspective that incorporates urban design, regional planning and social justice. At SFUFF, the issue of climate change is not simply an examination of alternative energy sources but that the way we plan our cities plays a major role. One of the biggest blind spots in the recent environmental block-buster film, “Truth To Power”, the sequel to the film “An Inconvenient Truth”, is that there is no examination of the role of automobiles in our culture. Electric cars if not paired with sound urban planning will incentivize sprawl, and a rapacious consumption of land and water and other natural resources needed to support sprawl. The second key concept is that social equity goals must be considered while addressing climate change. Adaptation strategies to climate change are only successful if they take into account the existing inequitable distribution of political power and resources. Otherwise, our most vulnerable populations, the elderly, children and the poor, will be left behind as we build a more resilient world. This multi-varied perspective on climate change will inform SFUFF programming in 2018 and beyond.

SFUFF unique approach to addressing climate change can be seen from a few examples in our past programming including a screening of the original “Blade Runner” film. We used the world in “Blade Runner” as a stand-in for the actual city of Los Angeles and discuss the relationship between environmental and social degradation. Science fiction stories, but especially “Blade Runner” with its acid rain soaked urban scenes, are nimble, entertaining, and useful vehicles to examine difficult issues our society faces.  A popular blogger from Los Angeles was paired with a University of San Francisco film studies professor to keep the discussion lively, in contrast to the somber themes.

In contrast to narrative film, a more direct pedagogical approach is the long-form documentary. For example, the film “Lost Rivers” inspired the audience with stories of four cities around the globe that have embarked on startling “daylighting” projects of urban rivers which entailed the demolition of arterial roads and in the case of Seoul, Korea, a six-lane highway. After the film screening, two landscape sound artists presented their work that “recreated” the lost Hayes River of San Francisco with sound installation on Market Street. To conclude the day, a biologist from the SFPUC spoke about a current project to daylight a creek in McLaren Park as a flood control mitigating measure. The sequencing of presentations is very deliberate as every SFUFF program seeks to make the most impact with the “Lost Rivers” film being shown first to set the global context of local efforts. The Exploratorium sponsored the screening in their Kanbar Forum, and its hands-on science learning focus complimented SFUFF’s program.

For this year’s festival, the brand new political comedy web series “The North Pole” smartly combines the metaphor of the endangered polar bear and issues of climate and change and gentrification in Oakland. Comedy has evolved to be an effective vehicle to examine difficult and polemic issues as evidenced by the immense popularity of late night television shows such as John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight. “The North Pole” deftly uses comedy and strong character driven narrative to ask who are the winners and losers of the tech boom and environmental capitalism?

In 2018, we will continue to use the framework we developed over the last four years to unspool the issues around climate change in the context of urban planning and equity using film and other forms of storytelling. “