Home is a Hotel, King Coal and Bad Press: Documentary filmmaking and the problem of social, artistic passivity

This is the next in a collection of articles on films from the San Francisco Intercontinental Movie Competition (April 13-23) that were being made available to the WSWS online. The first was posted April 18.

3 documentaries at the San Francisco movie pageant from numerous towns or regions in the US touch on grievous social issues devoid of, on the other hand, creating a great deal of them. Again, this is all too typical of modern documentary filmmaking. “We do not judge, we absolutely really don’t ‘explain’”—with the past term often in quotation marks. 

The filmmakers have no illusion that the powers-that-be will do just about anything to solution the struggling of the inhabitants. Nonetheless, at this point they have a tendency to simply dump the troubles in the viewer’s lap, with the implied message: you determine it out. The passivity is debilitating, and the final results are commonly weak, formless.

Residence is a Hotel by Kevin Duncan Wong opens with an intertitle that reads “In the early 1980s, San Francisco commenced a coverage of applying residential inns as a halt-hole resolution to address the city’s rising drop in reasonably priced housing.”

It carries on, “20,000 individuals which include people are now housed in SROs (Single Place Occupancy).”

“You gotta create your entire lifestyle in a place,” claims just one of the film’s protagonists—a school-educated artist who faces jail time. Cramped and infested with vermin, the SROs are demeaning and psychologically demoralizing, not match for human habitation.

The movie exhibits folks pressured to live in appalling ailments in 1 of the world’s richest cities. In point, in accordance to a recent examine by financial commitment migration organization Henley & Companions (“World’s Wealthiest Towns Report 2023”), the Bay Space has 63 billionaires, much more than any other metropolitan region on the earth, and is dwelling to the third premier quantity of Substantial Net Really worth Men and women (285,000 millionaires and 629 centi-millionaires!), following New York and Tokyo.

Nevertheless in Wong’s movie we see a solitary mom who is on every housing wait list though striving to track down a missing daughter an elderly, virtually blind Hispanic female facing eviction two ex-addicts with a little son a youthful Asian solitary mother accountable for her parents who dwell in a different SRO.

Residence is a Hotel

The film focuses on downtown San Francisco’s impoverished Tenderloin neighborhood (“If you dwell in the Tenderloin and are above 30 [i.e., have survived to that age], you have come a lengthy way”).

“I’m surrounded by all these demons,” states the artist dejectedly as he awaits the consequence of his trial. “You acquire me out of the meat current market, then you are likely to put me in the frying pan. Now you’re throwing me in the fireplace.”