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Our Mission

SF Urban Film Fest gathers a diverse, engaged audience and uses the power of storytelling to spark discussion and civic engagement around urban issues. We focus on what it means to live together in a city and make urban planning more equitable and inclusive.

Letter from Fay Darmawi, Founder and Executive Producer

I founded the SF Urban Film Fest (SFUFF) to create a culture of urban planning that feeds grass-roots political activism crucial to sustaining long term support of projects, plans and programs. Although it sounds as if I had a master plan of linking cultural events, urban planning and activism together, in fact, the SFUFF was born out of frustration. After working for decades building affordable housing, I came to understand the limitations of a pure bricks and mortar strategy when in 2012, Governor Jerry Brown was able to dissolve redevelopment agencies (and thereby remove a large chunk of affordable housing funding) with minimal public outcry. I realized we in the affordable housing industry were good at talking among ourselves but not with the general public. When we needed the public to back us up, we had no way to organize discourse because we had not created a basic vocabulary to discuss what affordable housing is, why it’s important and how it was different than the harmful redevelopment agency sponsored developments of the past. At the same time, I was aware of my personal limitations – I was good at finance but really knew very little about social impact communication.

The little I knew was from studying screenwriting. I noticed film was a medium adept at making people understand and care deeply about very complex issues. I was inspired by Davis Guggenheim’s film “An Inconvenient Truth” as it spread climate change concepts into popular culture, and wondered if using film to create dialog and common ground could be applied to affordable housing and the urban planning issues related to it. I also admired how effectively the Ocean Film Festival and the SF Green Film Festival leveraged storytelling and activism in support of the environmental movement. I thought – we need a film festival to de-mystify and excite people about urban planning. In 2014, the SFUFF was born as a platform for creating a culture of urban planning – for both producing cultural events (i.e. films screenings) about urban planning, and for making urban planning discourse be a part of everyday conversations.

Now, in its 5th year, the SFUFF has grown tremendously and I have the pleasure of working with producers whose diverse but complimentary backgrounds elevate the quality and quantity of programming. We come together to produce the SFUFF because we are inspired by all the people who are passionate about their city and actively shape how it grows. We look forward to seeing you at this year’s SFUFF, in the spirit of a gift to our city.