On Saturday, June 15, while the town's crawling with hizzoners and herzzoners, Electric Eye Cinema at the Electric Earth Cafe will offer an evening of counterprogramming for those who don't have a chance of getting within a stone's throw of the Monona Terrace Convention Center. "Shining City on a Hill" features not one, not two, but three documentaries culled from the mean streets of contemporary America. And the two I've seen, Voices of Cabrini Green and Boom: The Sound of Eviction, deserve a place in every mayor's in-box. Electric Eye Cinema is therefore offering free admission to those who can prove they're attending the U.S. Conference of Mayors.
That includes you, Willie Brown. Whispering Media's Boom: The Sound of Eviction traces the effects of the dot-com boom and bust on San Francisco's Mission district ' razed buildings, raised rents on remaining buildings and the replacement of the neighborhood's largely Latino population with rich, young, largely white computer geeks. And Mayor Brown makes several appearances, siding firmly with the developers who are, in his words, "cleaning up" the neighborhood. Only the New Economy's burst bubble slows the gentrification, that and a series of street demonstrations. Proudly partisan, Boom reads like a political pamphlet. Condo-dwelling dot-commers with a weakness for oxygen bars will just have to make their own documentary.
Voices of Cabrini Green takes us to Chicago's once-notorious housing project, where gangs and drugs used to hold the African American population hostage. Today, things have stabilized somewhat, and the major threat is from without, not within. Because it's located right next to the Gold Coast, Cabrini Green is sitting on top of some very valuable dirt; and developers, under the banner of "mixed income," have been moving in with the bulldozers. What Mayor Daley's office doesn't seem to realize is that wrecking balls don't just knock down buildings, they erase whole ways of life, places where everybody knows your name. In this half-hour documentary, director Ronit Bezalel shares some of those names with us and reminds us that, no matter how "bad" the neighborhood might be, there's a there there.
Matt Ehling's Urban Warrior, which is about the militarization of our police departments, wasn't available for screening at press time. It leads off Saturday night's features, which start at 8 p.m., preceded by an Open Reel Hour from 7 to 8 p.m. So, if by that time you're tired of waving placards from several miles away, head on over...and take a mayor with you.