Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art

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PostPosted: Thu Jun 08, 2017 10:45 pm 
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The Burnt Ramen story.


War on warehouses

Watch the film HERE.

The "Ghost Ship" tragedy and its aftermath depicted in Jason Blalock's short film for Field of vision is a story of a disaster leading to wide awareness exploited by the right wing. There must be a whole series of social and economic conditions leading to the present situation. It's difficult for Millennials to get jobs, which may lead more young people to linger as bohemians and fledgling artists. Rapid increases in the cost of housing leads these young people to dwell in the only big spaces they can afford to live in collectively, which are substandard and irresponsibly managed. Bohemian collectives tend to be messy, and poverty doesn't lend itself to ship-shape buildings either. But why should the extreme right set its sights on this subculture?

In an important short film made for Field of Vision, Oakland-resident journalist and documentary cinematographer Blalock discovers that "alt-right" trolls (found partly on the site "4chanan" site "politically incorrect") are reveling in how they can profit by the Ghost Ship "Tragedy" (their quote-marks) to "shut down these sh--holes," reporting "artspaces and illegal venues to crush the radical left." "We can really have some fun with this 'tragedy' an anonymous poster proposes. And the obscenity-laden threats and boasts on the anonymous bulletin board go on. "Places to report" listed are in Florida, Michigan, Tennessee, Texas - and "Burnt Ramen," a collective in Richmond, California, just north of the Fruitvale district of Oakland where Ghost Ship was.

This anonymous network speaks of a "Safety Squad" (its organized fingering of artist collectives) with a symbol "SS" patterned like the Nazi Schutzstaffel, and pages with Hitler images.

Blalock's film shows that within two weeks of the Ghost Ship fire Burt Ramen's people were gearing up for a city inspection. A team comes in (we get a glimpse of some of the spaces, which show clutter and lots of loose electrical wiring), and "red tag" notices are put up to vacate: immediately, everyone to leave, that day. The leader says it's been running 18 years. A 2005 documentary shows its performance space was considered a primo center for rock'n roll, a "living work of art" where musicians could "find themselves." Burnt Ramen residents become homeless, and organize to pressure the Richmond Mayor Tom Butt and city council to be lenient. Butt says it is the City Manager's concern and bars debate, after an emotional hearing from residents.

Later, Richmond City Councilman and former mayor Gayle McLaughlan expresses a repeated will to work with the young artists to enable them to move back in the building known as "Burnt Ramen." "We don't want people living in unsafe places but living on the street isn't safe either," she says. "And I personally don't want to see cities without artists." Blalock shows artist spaces in San Francisco, San Leandro, L.A., Culver City, and Richmond, all in California; plus Denver, Baltimore.

Burnt Ramen and the city are working on repairing the code violations, the end notes say, but if not repaired in six months, the city has the right to demolish the building. It sounds like the deadline may be near.

A well-made 21-min. film released June 8, 2017, is about an under-reported new topic. This film is found on THUMP (click here) - the electronic music and culture channel from VICE. It is produced through First Look Media, a multi-platform media company devoted to supporting independent voices launched in 2013 by eBay's Pierre Omidyar. First Look Media produces and distributes feature films, short-form video, podcasts, interactive media and long-form journalism.


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