Following a second showing of the combination film documentary and artistic project, a panel discussion kicked off the conversation in the black box theater at the Grand.
First off, there was no disagreement about Anne’s grit and determination to create her film about the impact on many Tracyites who lost their homes because of foreclosures and short sales during the housing crash.
It is a story well worth telling, and Anné — an artist willing to work in a variety of media and unafraid of trying any number of experimental art forms — put her own stamp on the project.
The heart of the presentation was a series of voiceovers by Tracyites who had lost their homes. Their comments were carried vocally, while images of Tracy neighborhoods, streetscapes and fields were shown on the screen.
I had hoped that these comments would be followed by on-camera interviews with families who felt the pain and disappointment of losing their homes. One person interviewed on camera reappeared several times, but no other people were shown. In the question-and-answer period of Saturday’s discussion, Anné said that most of the people with whom she made contact were unwilling to go on camera.
Comments made by a local tax preparer about the financial aspects of the housing crisis provided insight into the circumstances that forced families to move out of their homes, which were mostly in new subdivisions.
Accompanying views of Tracy street scenes, business streets and nearby fields were a number of views of two boarded-up, abandoned homes, one on East 10th Street and another on East Ninth Street. They sparked many of the differing opinions.
Neither of the abandoned houses had any ties to foreclosures or short sales. After the initial showing of the film in June, Mayor Pro Tem Mike Maciel voiced disappointment that they were included, as they gave the impression that Tracy was a rundown city.
Mike showed up for Saturday’s discussion and, in a subdued manner, repeated his concern about the boarded-up old houses and views of concrete rubble in the old Southern Pacific yard.
Anné acknowledged that the boarded-up houses were not part of the foreclosure crisis but contended that they did represent houses that once were occupied by families now long gone — just as the many families who faced foreclosure are also gone.
The concrete pieces in the old rail yard had interesting shapes that were among her favorite artistic forms in Tracy, Anné explained, and for that reason were included in the film.
When I asked her why these explanations weren’t mentioned in the film, she replied that as a visual artist, she preferred to allow the images to stand on their own without any comments from her.
Personally, I would have left the images out, so they wouldn’t generate any confusion or detract from the main thrust of the film — the voices of Tracy residents who lost their homes in the housing crisis.
But whether you agree with that or not, “Inhabit Your City: Voices of Tracy” brought our attention back to a very difficult, often heart-breaking period in the lives of a number of Tracy families.
As Juana Dement, a Tracy realtor who helped guide a number of families through the short-sale process, said, seeing grown people cry as they realized they were losing their homes was one of the most difficult experiences she has encountered during her long career.
The film focusing on those personal tragedies has to be viewed, in my opinion, as a melding of documentary film-making and an artistic endeavor by an innovative artist — on a topic that is well worth revisiting and discussing.
- Sam Matthews, Tracy Press publisher emeritus, can be reached at 830-4234 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.