Film: The Oak Park Story

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Got this sent in (thanks SK) and wanted to make sure and post on up about the short film The Oak Park Story which is a documentary about a predominantly Cambodian and Latino community in Oakland who joined forces to sue the slumlord of their apartment complex and which'll be premiering at SFIAAFF next month.

The Oak Park Story (22 min, 2010), the new documentary that captures the lives of a predominantly Southeast Asian and Latino community in an Oakland slum, will premiere at the 2010 San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival. The film is directed, edited, co-produced and co-written by Valerie Soe and co-produced and co-written by Russell Jeung, both of whom are professors of Asian American Studies at San Francisco State University.

The film screens alongside Curtis Choy’s documentary about the late great Filipino Al Robles, Manilatown Is In The Heart.

The Oak Park Story (2010, 22 min.) recounts the struggles of three very different families who find themselves together in a run-down slum in Oakland, CA. Khlot Ry arrived first from Cambodia, where she and her granddaughters had fled forced labor camps and invading Vietnamese soldiers. A few years later, Felix and Hortensia Jimenez brought their family across the Mexican-U.S. border without documents, where Felix struggled to earn a living as a day laborer. At the same time, Dan Schmitz left the comforts of his white, middle class upbringing in the suburbs and moved into the apartment directly across from the Jimenez family.

Together, these three households encountered daily life in America’s underclass. Parents raised their children amidst drug dealing, gang violence and prostitution right in their parking lot. Yet their worst problem was their Stanford-educated landlord, who raised rents even when El Nino rains flooded their units. Interviews, home video footage, and photographs from the tenants depict their daily lived experiences in the 1980s and 1990s.

Facing unsanitary housing conditions that led to the hospitalization of several children, 44 households of Oak Park banded together to sue and eventually won a landmark settlement, against their landlord. Despite the victory, this too brought about some surprising, unintended consequences.

The Oak Park Story concludes nearly ten years after winning the lawsuit. What have the children at Oak Park learned from their parents’ organizing? How did the lawsuit impact the lives of the undocumented workers, the refugee families, and the other working poor living there? What ongoing social conditions do they continue to face?

Where: Sundance Kabuki Cinema, 1881 Post Street, San Francisco, CA 94115
When: March 14, 2010 at 2:00 pm and March 15, 2010 at 7:00 pm

Tickets are available at the SFIAAFF website.