Volume 47 Number 45

Season’s greetings


ODC/Dance’s 2013 “Summer Sampler” was a smash. The theater was completely packed, and it looked like the entire staff was present to greet audience members on the way to their seats, glasses in hand without spilling a drop. You couldn’t even get mad at latecomers, because theater director Christy Bolingbroke accomodated them so graciously. This was a party before the first performer even set foot on the Marley floor.

But it was dance that made this evening memorable. The short, tightly run program offered three smart, excellently chosen pieces, including a world premiere.

Does Kimi Okada’s wildly applauded Two if by Sea reference Paul Revere’s lanterns? Perhaps. The fact is that Okada, one of ODC’s three co-founders (she also runs the ODC School), has given the company a delicious morsel of intricate give-and-take pair dancing. Jeremy Smith and Vanessa Thiessen, the latter in her final performance before retiring, engaged each other in a duet in which being a jock, a snob, and a lover are all part of a contentious relationship.

Okada clearly has one foot in vaudeville, and how welcome that gift is. Two started with fiery tap dancing as Smith and Thiessen went at each other like boxers in the ring. Donning soft slippers, they extended their repartees into a whole body language, throwing out challenges and teases with their hips and wildly slashing arms. Though there’s no question that Two needs some tightening — even at the price of cutting some of Teiji Ito and Steve Reich’s rich percussion scores — the work also reminded us that humor in pure dance is very rare, because it is so difficult to pull off.

I didn’t see Kate Weare’s 2008 The Light Has Not the Arms to Carry Us when her own dancers performed it at ODC’s Walking Distance Dance Festival at the end of May. As set on ODC’s dancers, it confirms Weare as an intellectually challenging and fearless dance maker who repeatedly pushes her work nearly over the edge without letting it fall.

Light‘s two parts, a solo danced by an astounding Anne Zivolich, and a bravely rendered duet from Dennis Adams and Justin Andrews, don’t connect — except, perhaps in our heads. On stage, they simply follow each other, letting us hang in uncertainty.

Alone on stage, Zivolich seemed in a relationship with the parallel rectangles of light that became like characters, imposing their presence before slipping away from her. The fierce and nuanced Zivolich portrayed somebody (or something) haunted, terrified, and finally overcome. As she kneeled, a simple bob of her head traveled down her spine into backwards crawls and slides, leaps and headstands. When she spread her legs, the slit in her white dress revealed a dark crotch only to be covered up again. This was powerful stuff, with not a wrong move to be seen.

Looking at Adams and Andrews’ big, steady unisons, you search and find small differences. But when they start enacting partnering sequences, you want to see them go somewhere. They don’t seem to, but you sure end up smelling the dancers’ sweat.

Though it debuted in March at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, ODC’s splendid Triangulating Euclid, choreographed by Weare, Brenda Way, and KT Nelson, looked almost brand new. It’s not just that the ODC Theater is more intimate than YBCA’s Lam Research Theater; it’s also that the Mission District venue has a steep rake so that you look down at (instead of more or less straight at) the dancers. Upstage activities, for instance, acquired more prominence. Nuances and facial expressions became more visible. However, not having wing space impinged on the entrances and exits’ effectiveness. The second viewing also clarified the interlocking of Triangulation’s two parts, much the way the dancers’ transparent white blouses, donned in the latter part of the program, still allowed us to see the initial section’s black leotards and tights.

The piece opened with Yayoi Kambara’s expansively exploring solo set to a voice-over by Karen Zukor, who restored the book on Euclid’s Elements of Geometry and to whom the piece is dedicated. The dancers stepped in to give us choreographic images of Euclid’s concepts, forming themselves into squares, triangles, diagonals, and parallels. This was living geometry that moved through its patterns with the inevitability and serendipity of a kaleidoscope.

When Kambara’s single, huge ronds de jambe smudged Maggie Stack’s carefully “drawn” chalk lines, the dance exploded into a series of highly individualized duets: lush and sensuous for Stack and Corey Brady; volatile and athletic for Adams and Kambara; and, particularly intriguing, one for Zivolich and Smith in which he seemed blind to her pleading. The number two was of primary importance to Euclid; it also is for dance. And what better way to explore its ramifications than to Schubert compositions.


Hello Sailor


SUPER EGO A “yacht” sounds like something I spit up after huffing too much Air Wick Crisp Linen Room Freshener, but apparently it’s that boat from the Duran Duran “Rio” video? And America’s Cup isn’t a Simon Cowell-produced fantasy half-naked athletic protectivewear “talent” contest? Harumph. Well, at least we get a party out of it. In all the boat-race branding hysteria, the people at PUMA are pulling together two months of neato, free, and yuppie-free lineups of daytime and evening parties at its America’s Cup PUMA Yard temporary space at Pier 27. Hip-hop queen Jeanine Da Feen on Thu/8, Dub Mission‘s J-Boogie and Sep on Sat/10, Sweater Funk on Sun/11, etc. — all the way through September. Check this thing out: www.pumayardsf.com.



You know, us nightlife folks aren’t just stunningly pretty faces, here for you to pump full of drugs and good music and then have your way with us, please! Some of us also write books. (Those are like blogs without Google AdSense). Revered DJ Gavin Hardkiss has written a steamy erotic volume about partying in Hong Kong entitled Cubic Lust, and will be reading from it and spinning records at the long-running Qoöl Happy Hour, now at Harlot.

Wed/7, 6pm-10pm, free. Harlot, 46 Minna, SF. www.cubiclust.com



Hot hip-hop vinyl on the decks, four nimble-fingered finalists from up and down the West Coast, a slew of nice gear to the winner, and enough turntable pyrotechnics to heat your summer — hey, all that scratching is making me itch. Johnny Krush hosts, with special guests Teeko, Derrick D, Genie G, DJ Pone, and more.

Thu/8, 9pm-1am, free. Neck of the Woods, 406 Clement, SF. www.skratchpadworldwide.com



Brooklyn-based duo Morgan Geist and Darshan Jesrani, known as Metro Area, traffic in recombinant house textures and live improvisation, building new grooves out of the classic, funky dance floor samples, sounds, and feelings rattling around in the back of your mind. Opening: Christina Chatfield, one of our most exciting techno talents, also performing live.

Fri/9, 9pm-4am, $10–$20. Mighty, 119 Utah, SF. www.mighty119.com



One of the true masters — and one of my all-time faves, natch. You probably know Mr. Krivit as one-third of the NYC Body and Soul consortium, a DJ unafraid to indulge in the deep-jazz side of house, providing a colorful canvas for complex footwork. Disco and Latin grooves are on the palette, too, as well as some surprising applications of Detroit techno.

Sat/10, 10pm-4am, $10. Mighty, 119 Utah, SF. www.mighty119.com



A gaggle of freaky-sexy gays — a gaygle, even — will descend upon the Eagle (fast becoming a nightlife go-to beyond its legendary Sunday Beer Bust and Thursday Night Live) for a night of frenzied, furry fun. It’s all courtesy of Seattle’s cute DJ Nark and his raucous Dick Slap crew, but local DJs P-Play and Robert Jeffrey will hit you upside, too.

Sat/10, 9pm, $5. SF Eagle, 398 12th St., SF. dickslaplyfe.tumblr.com



All aboard for this Sunset party crew annual tradition — this time featuring Toronto’s awesome Stuart Li, aka Basic Soul Unit, who’ll rock us with sparkling house grooves, with jackmaster Sean Hernandez, aka Chicago Skyway, warming up.

Sun/11, 5pm-11pm, $55. San Francisco Spirit, Pier 3, SF. www.tinyurl.com/sunsetboat2013


It takes a village



TOFU AND WHISKEY Paige & the Thousand is the new solo project from singer-songwriter Lindsay Paige Garfield. Or wait, she has also gone by just Lindsay Garfield professionally, as with her former seven-piece indie-folk group Or, the Whale. But what’s in a name?

“I kind of didn’t realize how confusing it was going to be when I decided to name my band after my middle name. But I just thought it sounded better than Lindsay & the Thousand,” Garfield says. “And I really wanted to use ‘& the Thousand.’ She cheerfully adds that I may call her whatever I like.

The thousand part of the band name is a literary reference from one of her favorite books, Watership Down, a 1972 adventure novel about rabbits forced from their farm because their farmer is trying to kill them, and the journey they undertake. (It’s an allegory about struggle against tyranny and the corporate state.) For her part, Garfield says she doesn’t personally identify with that narrative but for her, it brings to mind her Jewish vaudeville ancestors and relatives who emigrated to the States from Eastern Europe. And she wanted to honor their memory and struggles with her new music.

The sound she’s been working on as Paige & the Thousand has roots similar to Or, the Whale but also travels to different offshoots of twangy folk, country, and Americana, even dipping into Celtic traditions, and shows similar chord progressions to her own rich history of Jewish music, which she long ago sang in synagogue choir as a child.

That “& the Thousand” also refers to “all the people that guided me along my musical path, believed in me, supported me.”

Garfield, who lives in Pacific Heights after half a decade in the Mission, tapped into that support for her debut EP, We Are Now The Times, which she self-released late last year. She wrote the songs for it solo, usually coming up with lyrics based on literary or cinematic references, made-up tales, or true-to-life villains, but recorded the EP in a highly collaborative, two-part process. While working on the basic tracks at Magnolia Records in Novato with engineer Jeremy D’Antonio, she enlisted friends from Or, the Whale to come in and layer additional instrumental sparkle. That included bassist Sean Barnett, and Dan Luehring who played drums, along with a handful more.

She then sent the tracks down to LA’s Zeitgeist Studios, to her cousin Mike Feingold, who is also in Erika Badu’s band. Long working with R&B artists, Feingold’s first Americana record was Garfield’s EP. “I sang at his Bar Mitzvah, that’s the last time we worked together,” she says.

Feingold’s fingerprints are all over We Are Now The Times, with production, and with a variety of instruments including baritone guitar and tuba. And he solicited the help of his friends Blake Mills (Band of Horses, Norah Jones) and pianist Patrick Warren (Bob Dylan), along with a musician in New Orleans playing pedal steel, and another friend from Boston on banjo and mandolin.

So the recording of this four-song EP was indeed a national group effort, but the songs at the core of it began with Garfield, alone in her room.

The album closer, twinkling piano ballad “Let’s Descend,” with which you picture barefoot dancing in the dewy summer grass at midnight, was written about a German film called Wings of Desire. It’s one of Garfield’s favorite flicks, which is in turn based on the poetry of Peter Handke. It seems the album title, We Are Now The Times, is also taken from dialogue in Wings of Desire. And she even got permission from the director’s publishing company in Germany to license some dialogue from the film in the song.

So she’s inspired by films and novels, but also the story-song custom inherit in classic folk music. “I’m not a traditionalist, but I do like the idea of telling stories,” she says.

The best example of that on the EP is the made-up story of “Billy’s Blues,” a travelin’ country-hooked blues ditty. “I just wanted to write like, a Bobbie Gentry, ’60s rhythm and blues kind of song, because I really love that stuff,” adding, “I’m definitely working on a bunch of songs that are in that vein now.”

The album opener, “Baby It’s Time,” is a more personal tale about a breakup, a relationship gone sour. On the upbeat countrified track, Garfield sings oh-so-sweetly, “Baby, baby, it’s time/time for you to say you’re mine/baby, baby it’s time/say you want me/and if you don’t just let me go.”

The backstory on plucky “Play the Martyr” most surprised me, and then required a fresh-eared listening. It’s about a cocaine-addicted former boss in the restaurant industry (an industry in which Garfield still happily works, without the asshole). He was a sadistic megalomaniac — a “complete monster” she says — who chased her down and singled her out with his rage. One day she’d had it and quit, so affected by the entire experience that she wrote a song about it. Now go back and listen to that track again.

Music is clearly her release. The Boston native has been writing songs since grade school, but got serious about it in college, while in the music program at the University of Miami. She was endlessly inspired by all the music geeks surrounding her there. Though she eventually moved out to San Francisco in 2002, with the hopes of working in the music industry here, but quickly realized she’d rather be playing the music. So she started a band and began playing little coffeehouse shows. “It taught me about how to treat people [in bands], being good to people who are inspired enough to play my music with me.” She collected experiences, got better, and formed new acts.

She met Alex Robins from Or, the Whale in the mid-aughts through Craigslist. “At that point I was really ready to do something more collaborative,” she says. The seven-piece country collective eventually saw midlevel success, playing shows with groups like Fleet Foxes, the Dodos, and Two Gallants, and performing on Good Morning America. But with seven people, comes seven different needs and ideas. People needed to agree on songs, which made it difficult. And eventually, members wanted to move on, have children, expand.

So all those experiences led Garfield to where she is now: Paige & the Thousand. “Creatively, I wanted it to have fewer boundaries, I wanted to be able to play songs I liked and not have anyone tell me that I couldn’t.”

Paige & the Thousand plays Awaken Café this weekend with fellow ampersand-lovers Robb Benson & the Shelk, EarlyBizrd & the Bees. Fri/9, 8pm, $7. Awaken Café, 1429 Broadway, Oakl. www.awakencafe.com.



Ew, gross, Icky Boyfriends are back. JK, each successive grave-rise from the trashy ’90s-born Bay Area “noisefuck” band is worth mentioning because the local band is just that entertaining live. To get the full lo-fi freakout inherent in the Icky Boyfriends experience, listen to 2005’s 61-track career retrospective A Love Obscene, which features tracks such as “Burrito,” “Passion Assassin,” “Kids in Fresno,” and “King of Zeitgeist.” You might also note the band features current Hemlock booker/guitarist-singer of Hank IV, Anthony Bedard, on drums. Also, I’ve recently uncovered the fact that Bedard and burlesque legend Dixie Evans once went on the talk show Maury, for the episode “My Sexy Lover Is My Complete Opposite.” YouTube it, immediately.

With Wet Illustrated, Violent Change. Thu/8, 9pm, $8. Eagle Tavern, 3981 12th St., SF. www.sf-eagle.com.

Rotfest IV with 3 Stoned Men, Cameltoe, UKE Band. Sat/10, 5pm, $10. Hemlock Tavern, 1131 Polk, SF. www.hemlocktavern.com.



Too-cute Australian quartet San Cisco is riding on a wave of bubblegum indie-pop and garage guitar hooks, with comparisons to Vampire Weekend, new Bible of Teendom single “Awkward” off its self-titled debut LP, and a cover of Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky.” And then there’s swinging pop track “Fred Astaire” outfitted with the cherry red-lipped and pompadoured retro dance hall video you might expect. Abandon hope of true grit all ye who enter here, because this particular track is pure Velveeta cheese, and it tastes great between two slices of soda bread. With Smallpools.

Mon/12, 8pm, $15. Slim’s, 333 11th St., SF. www.slimspresents.com.


Catch a falling star



FILM Now that “train wreck” is an official celebrity category popular media ignores at its peril, certain people and projects are deemed doomed automatically. Lindsay Lohan can’t redeem herself — she’d lose her entertainment value by regaining any respect. Ergo, The Canyons — the first theatrical feature she’s starred in since 2007, the year of triple A-bombs Georgia Rule, Chapter 27, and I Know Who Killed Me — was earmarked as a disaster from the outset.

How could it be otherwise, with the now-disgraced former Disney luminary co-starring opposite porn superstar James Deen in an envelope-pushing screenplay from literary bad boy Bret Eaton Ellis (Less Than Zero, American Psycho)? Its apparent rejection from the Sundance and SXSW festivals, plus Lohan’s widely reported difficulty on set — not to mention Ellis’ dissatisfaction with the “langorous” final results — only heightened a sense that The Canyons would be a pretentious, full-frontal crapfest. Even US distributor IFC has been highly reluctant to let anyone see the film more than a week in advance of its opening dates, as if assuming any reviews would be damning ones.

We live in a reality-TV-dominated world of sharply divided winners and losers now. Now that she’s typecast as an off screen fuckup, Lohan’s professional endeavors must follow suit. They have to be bad, because we enjoy her failing so much.

But The Canyons isn’t exactly bad, despite the gloatingly negative publicity rained on it. (And despite the fact that we do, eventually, catch a glimpse of Deen’s famous johnson.) Instead, it’s a middling exercise in upscale erotic-thrillerdom, beautifully crafted (on a Kickstarter dime), clever yet superficial in terms of psychological depth. Its indictment of jaded LA life centers on glamorous couple Tara (Lohan) and Christian (Deen). The latter is a producer slash trust-fund brat who’s pushed an “open relationship” credo onto his trophy spouse, yet turns pathologically jealous once it’s clear she’s cheating with wannabe actor Ryan (Nolan Funk), the boyfriend of his former assistant Gina (Amanda Brooks).

This isn’t headed anywhere pleasant. Ellis trades on his usual themes of corrosive privilege, sex, and violence to deliver a rather simplistic if sardonic lesson in Hollywood amorality that director Paul Schrader angles toward credibility. His sleek feature is the latest for an important American filmmaker who wrote the scripts for Scorsese milestones Taxi Driver (1976), Raging Bull (1980), and The Last Temptation of Christ (1988), as well as writing-directing such less generally heralded yet admired titles as Blue Collar (1978), Hardcore (1979), American Gigolo (1980), and Affliction (1997).

No one would call the serious-minded Schrader a sexploitationist. Yet many of his films cast sexuality in a queasy, predatory light — the runaway daughter sucked into porn in Hardcore, TV star Bob Crane’s sex addiction in Auto Focus (2002), those murderous-when-aroused Cat People (1982), and the decadent wealthy couples preying on younger specimens in both The Comfort of Strangers (1990) and The Canyons. Schrader turns the latter into a stern, chilly, minimalist exercise in psychological suspense. A little underwhelming at first (in part because Lohan’s performance is little wobbly, Deen’s a tad one-note), it actually improves with repeat viewings.

I caught up with Schrader in a recent phone interview. He said the project came about because funding for another Ellis screenplay he was going to direct fell through. “I said, ‘What you do, Bret, writing about beautiful people doing bad things in nice rooms, is something we can do for much less money.'”

So they funded it themselves (with Kickstarter donors). Originally contacted to make a cameo appearance, Lohan wanted in as both lead and co-producer once she’d read the script. Deen was Ellis’ idea, prevailing despite Schrader’s initial skepticism. “These two boldfaced names from porn and celebrity culture — it just became irresistible. You’ve got to find a way to make some noise on a microbudget film like this,” he says, and that casting turned out to be a publicity godsend.

Asked if it was a difficult shoot, he says, “Every shoot is difficult. Sometimes you run out of money, sometimes the weather turns against you. And sometimes you have high-strung performers. Lindsay needs to live in a world of crisis. It’s unnecessary — but that’s what she needs.”

When it’s suggested that The Canyons is like American Gigolo with women now the primary sexual commercial properties, Schrader corrects: “It’s with smart phones as the primary sexual commercial property.” The characters’ obsessive use of social media — they spend dinners barely maintaining conversation as they stare at their phones, and use Grindr-like apps for casual hookups — is one aspect of their alienated state.

Another is that they work in a film business when “the whole notion of theatrical cinema is changing. That was the concept from the beginning: making cinema for the post-theatrical era.” (The Canyons, already available in streaming formats, opens with a montage of shuttered Los Angeles movie houses.) “This was designed to be distributed through the Internet and cable. I saw these kids as not really caring about movies. I told the cast this was about some twentysomething Angelenos who went to see a movie, but the theater closed. And they stayed in line because they had nowhere else to go.” 

THE CANYONS opens Fri/9 at the Roxie.

The killer inside me



FILM What does Anwar Congo — a man who has brutally strangled hundreds of people with piano wire — dream about?

As Joshua Oppenheimer’s Indonesia-set documentary The Act of Killing discovers, there’s a thin line between a guilty conscience and a haunted psyche, especially for an admitted killer who’s never been held accountable for anything. In fact, Congo has lived as a hero in North Sumatra for decades — along with hundreds of others who participated in the country’s ruthless anti-communist purge in the mid-1960s.

In order to capture this surreal state of affairs, Oppenheimer zeroes in on a few subjects — like the cheerful Congo, fond of flashy clothes, and the theatrical Herman Koto — and a method, spelled out by The Act of Killing‘s title card: “The killers proudly told us stories about what they did. To understand why, we asked them to create scenes in whatever ways they wished.” Because Congo and company are huge movie buffs, they chose to re-create their crimes with silver-screen flourish.

There are garish costumes and gory makeup. Koto cross-dresses as a Wild West damsel in distress. There are props: a stuffed tiger, a dummy torso with a detachable head. There are dancing girls. And there are mental consequences, primarily for Congo, whose emotional fragility escalates as the filming continues.

The Act of Killing is, to be succinct, mind-blowing. It’s overwhelming and shocking. The unseen Oppenheimer — who openly converses with his subjects from behind the camera — is the film’s main director, with assists from co-directors Christine Cynn and “Anonymous;” given the subject matter, it’s not surprising that many Indonesian crew members are credited that way.

To understand how The Act of Killing came to be, I tracked down Oppenheimer, who’s been giving a steady stream of interviews with the film’s release. Initially, he says, he went with Cynn to Indonesia to interview plantation workers who were being poisoned by herbicides. Though the workers were in desperate need of a union, it soon became apparent that “the biggest problem they had in organizing was fear. Their parents or grandparents had been in a strong plantation workers’ union until 1965 — when they were put in concentration camps by the army because they were accused of being communist sympathizers. Many were [eventually] killed by local death squads. So the workers were afraid this could happen again.”

Oppenheimer and Cynn soon returned to make “a film about what had happened in 1965 — the horrors that this community had lived through, and also the regime of fear and corruption that was based on what had happened.” But the task proved more difficult than they’d planned.

“It turned out that survivors had been officially designated ‘unclean’ by the military and by the government, and were under surveillance. They weren’t allowed access to decent jobs. They even had to get special permission to get married,” Oppenheimer says. “So when we filmed the survivors, we would invariably be stopped by the police. They would take our tapes and our cameras, and detain us. It was very difficult to get anything done. And it was frightening, especially for the survivors.”

Along the way, Oppenheimer began visiting neighbors — “initially, quite cautiously” — whom survivors suspected of being involved in the disappearances of their loved ones. “The perpetrators would invite me in, and I would ask them about their pasts, and what they did for a living,” he recalls. “Immediately they would start talking about their role in the killings. Horrible stories, told in a boastful register, often in front of their children, grandchildren, or wives. Then they would invite me to the places where they killed and show me how they went about it. They’d launch into these spontaneous demonstrations. I was horrified.”

He was also intrigued. Before going any further, he went to Jakarta to speak with human rights organizations — making sure it wouldn’t be “too dangerous or too sensitive” to make the documentary he envisioned. “The human rights advocates said, ‘You must continue. You’re on to something terribly important. Nobody has talked to the perpetrators before,'” he says. “And the survivors told us to continue, because [a film like this] will point out something that everybody knows is true, but has been too afraid to say.”

So Oppenheimer returned to North Sumatra, filming every perpetrator he could find. (They were all boastful, he says.) “My questions started to shift from what happened in 1965 — to what on earth is going on now? Are they trying to keep everybody afraid by telling these terrible stories? Are they trying to convince themselves that what they did was justified? Or is it both at once?”

Because the men where so open with Oppenheimer, he felt comfortable asking more pointed questions about their actions. The method of the film, he says, evolved organically as a result. “I said, ‘You participated in one of the biggest killings in human history. Your whole society’s based on it. Your life has been shaped by it. I want to understand what it means, so show me what you’ve done, however you want. I will film the process and the reenactments. I will put this together and try and understand what this means, and how you want to be seen, and how you see yourself.'”

He met Anwar Congo during the course of these interviews. “He was the 41st perpetrator I filmed,” Oppenheimer remembers. “I think I lingered on him because somehow his pain was close to the surface. The past was present for him. That really upset me. And when he danced on the roof [where he’d committed multiple murders], I realized that this was at once a grotesque and horrific allegory for their impunity.”

Congo, whose gangster career began as a movie-ticket scalper, proved a fascinating and troubling main subject. “Anwar would watch the reenactments [of the killings he participated in] and suggest these embellishments. He would feel something was wrong with them,” Oppenheimer says. “But what he felt was wrong with them, but he couldn’t voice consciously, was that what he did was wrong. He didn’t dare say that, because he’s never been forced to admit what he did was wrong. As [another perpetrator says], ‘Killing is the worst thing you can do. But if you’re paid well enough, go ahead and do it, but make up a good excuse so you can live with yourself.’ Well, the government provided a good excuse in the form of propaganda, and Anwar has clung to that ever since. It’s not a surprise that at the end of the film, the reenactments become the prism through which he sees the horror of what he’s done.”

He continues. “People ask me, does Anwar feel remorse at the end of the film? I would say no, because remorse implies a kind of conscious, resolved awareness. Does he regret what he’s done? I would say, categorically, yes. He has nightmares. He is tormented.”

Though The Act of Killing, which is executive-produced by Errol Morris and Werner Herzog, is opening across America, its target audience in Indonesia will have more limited access. Still, Oppenheimer maintains, there’s hope; human-rights organizations have been screening the film for locals, including survivors and journalists. Those who have seen it, he says, have embraced it.

“The film has allowed Indonesians to say, ‘We have to address gangsterism and corruption in the government, and we have to address the fact that this whole system has been built on mass graves.’ It has enabled people to talk, without fear, about what they know to be true about their country. But there is a long way to go.” 

THE ACT OF KILLING opens Fri/9 in Bay Area theaters.

Get tough with defiant disrupters


EDITORIAL It may sometimes seem like we at the Bay Guardian don’t like the technology industry, but nothing could be further from the truth. We tweet, click, post, and share, playing with all the hot new tech toys that spring from the innovative minds of Bay Area residents. This is an important sector of the local economy, one that often empowers people who were just getting by to remain in expensive San Francisco.

Yes, we do regularly criticize tech (and some of its biggest neoliberal cheerleaders in City Hall), as we do to Airbnb, Lyft, and other so-called “shareable economy” companies in this issue. But that’s only because we strongly believe in open and transparent discussions about public policy and the needs of city residents.

And frankly, that’s not happening these days.

Instead of engaging directly and honestly with the people and our elected representatives, Airbnb has chosen to duck its obligations to the city of its birth and dodge attempts to create a public dialogue about its dangerously flawed business model. Same thing with Lyft, another company that acts as if it’s entitled to undermine civic institutions without so much as a public conversation first.

Yes, these companies have come up with cool ideas that have become popular with Bay Area residents. In a city where it was tough to find a cab on Saturday nights, Lyft made it easier to find rides and allowed people to make some extra cash off their cars. Airbnb was also a great idea that makes travel cheaper and more personal.

The beauty of these ideas is their simplicity — but that is also their main flaw, because San Francisco isn’t a simple city. It’s a complex, dynamic city with difficult landlord-tenant dynamics, and a congested city that tries to achieve the right balance of cabs on the roadways, both systems that are the products of decades-long struggles that have spawned reams of regulations.

These tech-savvy fortune hunters, who don’t understand or appreciate that history, think it’s enough to have a good idea and some rich venture capitalists willing to back it. They espouse vaguely libertarian ideas about “disruptive” technologies empowering people, but then they wait for government officials to solve the problems with their business models, raking in millions of dollars in profits in the meantime and delaying their day of public reckoning as long as possible.

For example, in a May interview on KQED’s Forum, Airbnb’s David Hantman was asked why the company was defying a city ruling that it must pay the transient occupancy tax, he said they were waiting for the city to adopt a new regulatory structure first.

That’s not an acceptable or defensible position, and it is only continuing because Mayor Ed Lee has publicly supported the company’s defiance of city law and rulings. Mr. Mayor, if these are the types of “jobs” you’re creating — part time jobs with no benefits in an underground economy that cannibalizes other industries, breaks city laws, and won’t pay local taxes — then this city is in real trouble.

We’re happy to see Board President David Chiu trying to solve Airbnb’s problems, but he needs the support of other top city officials who are willing to put pressure on the company to bargain in good faith. And yes, we’re talking to Mayor Lee, Tax Collector Jose Cisneros, and City Attorney Dennis Herrera, among others.

If you make the city appear impotent to enforce its own laws or too willing to go easy on wealthy corporations, it will only embolden more young opportunists to disrupt the city’s regulatory authority and its social fabric. You work for us, not the venture capitalists, and it’s time to show some spine.