Artists’ Television Access – or ATA is it’s better known – is based in the Mission District of San Francisco, a popular area that is seeing a lot of regeneration and gentrification. The development of the area, the increase in new bars, and the loss of the old neighbourhood comes up frequently in conversations with ATA staff and visitors. ATA’s programmer, Fara Akrami, mentions the change in the area several times, saying much of the character and culture has gone, with rising rents, techies and posh shops taking their place.
It comes as no surprise that ATA is seen as a bastion of cultural hope; it sits on Valencia St, now surrounded by bars and stores that you obviously need cash to visit. ATA sparkles with bright artists’ video on screens in its window, filtered orange, they crackle onto the street. ATA is volunteer run, much like Star and Shadow in Newcastle, or The Cube in Bristol; it is obviously run with passion and love for the alternative culture it nurtures.
The ATA audience is lively, talkative and engaging; most of the audience is made up of volunteers for the space; Fara insists this is the most volunteers that have attended a screening. It seems to go well, there’s a mixed response at the end, some cool responses, but some positive ones. I did get a great question asking if all films like this in the UK are of such great quality, and was told it’s not often that the whole of a film programme is of such a high standard for all the films.
Fara and I talked before the screening, he had several recommendations to check out in San Francisco: San Francisco Cinematheque, which has a prolific programme, including an experimental programme called Crossroads; Pacific Film Archive at University of California, Berkeley shows lots of international film programmes and themed programmes of artists’ film and other cinema; Other Cinema programme, which takes place at ATA, curated by Craig Baldwin; SF Exploratorium has a screening room showing expanded cinema and docs; Black Hole Cinematheque in City of Oakland; and Shapeshifters Cinema, Oakland, showing a monthly programme of expanded cinema.