SF Urban Film Fest

A Visual Census
Curated by Fay Darmawi & Omeed Manocheri of the SF Urban Film Fest
4 digital films; 1:03:14

Originally intended to screen inside YBCA’s galleries, SF Urban Film Fest (SFUFF) worked to make 4 short films available for the Come to Your Census: Who Counts in America? digital experience.

Historically, central governments have used a census to determine the feasibility of war, accounting for military-aged males and the total area within their borders. Today censuses determine a community’s representation in government and the amount of socialized resources allocated to them. This is perhaps the most prevalent battleground in modern times, opening up a seemingly academic survey to manipulation, marginalization, partisan gamesmanship, and hostility towards minority groups.

A census reduces humanity to reasoned quantitative statistics, neglecting the emotion that underlays and is vital to healthy functioning communities. SFUFF selected the films embedded below to explore the role of stories, images, and emotions as they shape our perception of a population. We encourage you to think about how a census could be something more.

SFUFF believes that the elements of a visual census, those that portray a shared lived experience, history, and the struggles of thousands of different communities can help deliver the American people a more perfect union. Their call for a visual census is one rooted in the desire to reflect on the rational and emotional reality of our country in order to create more just and equitable cities.

The films were chosen to form a cohesive narrative, and we recommend you to watch them in the order in which they appear below. We have provided a brief description for each to help you bring the intended narrative into focus.


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The Image of the City
Directed: Ray Eames and Charles Eames, Released by Encyclopedia Britannica Educational Corp., 1973.


We invite you to begin your exploration with Ray and Charles Eames’s film The Image of the City. This 1973 educational film sets up how visualizations can be used to relate otherwise disparate information, helping us understand what cities are and what they could be. To fully understand a population it is vital to consider visual artifacts and personal stories in tandem with data and algorithms. The questions of whose stories are told, how, and for what purpose remain core to this exploration.

In the Suburbs,
Directed: Tracy Ward, Copyright: Redbook Magazine 1957


The quintessential image of the American suburb and the American consumer were manufactured in the decade following World War II. Segregation laws, a new socioeconomic class, and ultimately a new economy built on the commodification of goods and services drove young white middle-class Americans from inner cities to suburban living. In the Suburbs is a 1957 film produced by Redbook Magazine, praising suburantites as both citizens and consumers. It is worth noting that the Census Bureau is part of the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Produced, Directed and Edited: David de Rozas 2018


Absent from In The Suburbs is the story of African Americans who, amongst the reasons listed above, were shut out due to racist zoning laws and overtly discriminatory mortgage lending practices. Director David de Rozas’ 2018 short film GIVE is the story of Roland Gordon’s visual census of Black life housed inside San Francisco’s Ingleside Presbytarian Church. With walls covered in a collage of photographs and newspaper clippings, Gordon celebrates a hundred years of accomplishments, bringing voice to his local community and the Black community at large. Both Rozas and Gordon are adding an otherwise unseen chapter to our collective story.

President Trump Remarks on Census Citizenship Question
Produced: C-SPAN 2019


The last video to consider is President Trump announcing an executive order to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census and ordering all federal agencies to turn over documents and data regarding the number of non-citizens in the U.S. to the Commerce Department. This imagery of the President giving a speech in the White House Rose Garden became a dominant narrative that prevailed amongst the national media outlets coverage of the 2020 Census. This announcement may have discouraged the participation of communities most in need of the federal assistance which is allocated based on the results of our decennial census.

A Visual Census is part of Come to Your Census: Who Counts in America?, an art and civic experience intended to drive awareness and mobilize the diverse communities of the Bay Area around the urgent, long-term impact of the 2020 US Census.
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