San Francisco Filmmaker's Short Documentary about Detroit to Screen at 13th Annual San Francisco Frozen Film Festival
By: KazzaDrask Media
Drasky's 24-minute tour of the Motor City connects past and present through a story about a search for a home once owned by her great uncle. Drasky's Uncle Frank moved to Detroit as a young man in the 1920s to work for the Ford Motor Company. The city's then-booming economy provided steady, well-paying jobs for first-generation Americans (like Uncle Frank) and African Americans leaving the Jim Crow South as part of the Great Migration. An upside of the boom for many was the realization of the American Dream at the time: home ownership.
After getting a few tips from her Dad, including a handful of old photos, Drasky sets off from San Francisco, where she's lived for nearly 30 years, for Detroit. Over the course of three years, she makes three trips using frequent flyer miles (this is, after all, a low-budget indie film). Using a combination of footage shot on her iPhone and found footage, much of it from the San Francisco-based Internet Archive vaults, Drasky reconstructs the rise and fall of what was once America's most innovative city. The population rose to nearly 2 million people in the 1950s but is less than 700,000 today.
The film, however, transcends the clips of Detroit's well-known boom and bust and then moves beyond whether Uncle Frank's house is still standing or was one of more than a third that fell into foreclosure and abandonment. Drasky's search leads her to the city's northeast corner, where she meets long-time residents who may not go back as far as Uncle Frank, but can and do deliver insights that will help San Franciscans and others understand why they've stayed and why you don't give up when your city changes.
"There are some significant parallels between Detroit and San Francisco," says Drasky, "Both cities were at the forefront of innovation at the start of a new century: Detroit and transportation in the 20th century and San Francisco and information technology in the 21st century.
"Both cities are currently grappling with housing crises – although at very different ends of the spectrum."
While the collapse of the auto industry was not the only factor contributing to the devastation of a city once so grand it was dubbed "The Paris of the West" – racial tensions, lack of a social safety net and political corruption all played a role – what will keep San Francisco from the same fate?
"People who take pride in their community, which I believe is the real American Dream," says Drasky. "The long-time and native Detroiters I met while making this movie were so proud and committed to their city. They fight every day to keep their blocks clean, their businesses viable and to be a place that is welcoming and diverse. We have a lot of that in place in San Francisco. We need to strengthen it."
"Uncle Frank's House: An American Dream" features an original soundtrack by award-winning songwriter and performer, Detroit local John Greasy. It includes the hit single "Detroit Life". The soundtrack, available on all popular streaming platforms, mixes musical genres to match the century of time the movie covers, from ragtime and jazz to rap and hip hop, with a hearty helping of Motown.
"Like any independent project, our film had heart," says Drasky, "but John Greasy's sound gave it our soul."
* * *
See "Uncle Frank's House: An American Dream (directed by Kathy Drasky, USA 2018, 24:28 min.) at the 13th annual San Francisco Frozen Film Festival (SFFFF), July 21, 12:30 pm at the Little Roxie, 3125 16th Street, San Francisco. The film will be screened as part of a Bay Area Local Filmmakers Program. The SFFFF opens on July 17 and runs through July 21.
Kathy Drasky is a San Francisco-based independent filmmaker who uses digital media to tell stories. Her first film, "Jeanne and Mike: Original Art" was a short film about her parents and the self-made art in their house. It was named one of "the top 250 independent documentaries of 2015" by Spotlight Film Awards. "Uncle Frank's House: An American Dream" made its world premiere at Detroit's only first-run movie theater, the Bel Air Luxury Cinema, on Eight Mile Road in October 2018. It has since been included in online and big screen film festivals across the country. The film recently won Best Mobile Short for the May 2019 segment of the Los Angeles Independent Film Festival and the Spirit Award at the Top Indie Film Awards competition in 2018.
For more information visit http://www.unclefrankshouse.com/
For information about John Greasy, please visit: https://www.johngreasy.com/
For more information about the San Francisco Frozen Film Festival (SFFFF), please visit: https://www.frozenfilmfestival.com/