Noe Valley Voice April 2004

Noe Valley Plays a Small Role in S.F. Film Festival

By Chris Wiggum

Noe Valley will be getting a cameo in this year's San Francisco International Film Festival, where two films with ties to the neighborhood make it to the big screen.

"What's the difference between Hunters Point and Noe Valley?" is a question posed by one of 10 teen filmmakers in a local entry in the festival's Youth Works program. The film, a 30-minute short called Bus 24: The Diversity Bus, follows a group of kids, video cameras in hand, as they travel the entire route of the 24-Divisadero bus line, stopping in every neighborhood from Hunters Point to Pacific Heights. They get off the bus just long enough to shop, pose on motorcycles, and interview the residents of the neighborhoods, providing a striking glimpse of how a single bus ride can reveal the various shades, and wallet sizes, of people in this city.

In the film, an interviewee, asked to describe Noe Valley, responds, "A lot of dogs and a lot of kids." This is in sharp contrast to the anonymous teenager at the line's first stop in Hunters Point who says about his neighborhood, "If you're alone, you get jacked." Observations like these, coupled with the youthful vitality of the filmmakers in Bus 24, serve to illuminate the many distinct pockets in the city.

"I learned that S.F. is a real diverse city, and that you can really learn a lot by just riding the bus and looking out the window," says 15-year-old Theo Ellington, one of Bus 24's creators. "The people of Noe Valley are real cool. They seem real community-based."

Another short documentary to be shown at the festival is Café 1996, made by Noe Valley resident Jess Fulton. Fulton, who still lives in the house she grew up in at 24th and Hoffman streets, says the six-minute film is about gentrification in an Oakland neighborhood. But it can't help but reflect her upbringing in Noe Valley.

"Noe Valley has certainly influenced how I think, to the extent of being politically aware and concerned about issues of neighborhood and one's environment," says Fulton. However, she admits that Noe Valley is "something of an ideal" that she uses "to compare against."

Her film follows professional sax man Paul Jones, a part of Oakland's once-vibrant music scene. The black-and-white footage of downtown Oakland and the slow, moody score strike a tone of loss, and help define Jones' place in the changing cultural landscape of his hometown.

"Some of the film's issues concerning gentrification have affected [Noe Valley] too," Fulton says, "but I felt there was something much more poetic and natural about explaining those issues in the neighborhood where I was living in Oakland during college."

Both Fulton and Ellington are excited about being chosen for the festival, which runs from April 15 to 29, at the Kabuki 8 Theatres and the Castro Theater in San Francisco, among other venues.

Bus 24 plays at the Kabuki on April 17 at 3:15 p.m., and on April 29 at 1 p.m. Café 1996 will be shown, also at the Kabuki, on April 20 at 10:30 a.m., April 24 at 4 p.m., and April 26 at 3:45 p.m.

The two filmmakers say they'll be at the screenings of their films, to talk more about movies, buses, and the many shutter speeds of Bay Area living. m

For more information about the 47th San Francisco International Film Festival, go to