Preservation in Progress

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Archive for the ‘Film’ Category

Vanishing Seattle’s New Documentary Film Series

“The ‘vanishing’ part of ‘Vanishing Seattle’ is just one part of the story,” said Cynthia Brothers. “There are also many stories of resistance, resilience, and creation.”

Cynthia Brothers is the founder of Vanishing Seattle, a social media account that is “documenting disappearing/displaced businesses, homes, communities, and cultures of Seattle.”

Clad in one of her signature miniskirt and Vanishing Seattle t-shirt ensembles, Cynthia is stood in the living room of a packed house as she introduced the new Vanishing Seattle documentary film series. The series premiere was at and about Wa Na Wari, a project housed in a 5th-generation Black-owned craftsman in the historically Black Central District neighborhood. According to a sign in the entryway of this legacy home, Wa Na Wari (which means “our home” in the Kalabari language) “creates space for Black ownership, possibility, and belonging through art, historic preservation, and connection.”

Cynthia has teamed up with Martin Tran, a filmmaker and former co-director of the Seattle Asian American Film Festival, for this seven-part film series. The films will expand upon a lot of the same themes and questions that Vanishing Seattle raises with its Instagram chronicles. Cynthia explained, “Vanishing Seattle and this film series involve conversations dealing with change. But not a dichotomy of old: good, new: bad. Instead it asks, ‘What does change mean? What does progress really look like, and what are the ways that change can serve and benefit communities? What’s possible with creative, forward-thinking ideas? What do different solutions to displacement and gentrification look like?’ In the case of places that are vanishing we ask, ‘Why is this happening? What caused this to vanish, and what can be done to prevent this from happening?’”

“The advantage of this project is that film is a lot more dynamic as a medium,” said Cynthia. “Most of the Instagram posts have been of buildings and physical places, and it’s hard to get to the people behind those places with just pictures and captions. The films humanize these places and allow people to share stories in their own words.” While all the films in the series are co-produced by Cynthia and Martin, they engage different filmmakers to tell various stories about different communities. “One of the principles of this film series is that the filmmakers have a personal connection to the community and the place that they want to make a film about,” Cynthia pointed out.

“Some of the things we struggle with in using film pertain to timing,” described Cynthia. “Everything is happening so fast, in some cases, places are gone before we can find a filmmaker to tell its story. It is also hard to be selective. There are countless stories to tell, so many places to talk about. Often, there are multiple stories attached to a single place and the shorter the film is (the films are just 7-10 minutes long), the harder the choices are that you must make. We’re always asking ourselves, ‘Are we doing this justice?’”

“The goal of the series is to raise general awareness of these places and communities, through their stories,” explained Cynthia. “It’s about capturing and sharing places that are built into the structure that make Seattle unique. We all lose out when we lose these places. They should be important to us as a city. With many of these films, there is an active opportunity to support small businesses and places that provide space for art and culture to thrive.”

In the living room of Wa Na Wari, Inye Wakoma, one of the founders of the project and the grandson of the owner of the home where Wa Na Wari is based, warmly emceed the evening’s program. People sat cross-legged on the floor or in chairs, stood in the dining room and hallways, and trailed up the stairs. Food and drinks were generously offered, and the upstairs rooms were activated with exhibits by Black artists. A Shelf-Life Community Stories neighborhood cultural mapping project was on display, and a vintage rotary phone that you can pick up and hear oral histories through sat on a little table beside a wooden chair in the hallway.

An open door labeled "Shelf Life Community Story Project" leads to a room adorned with sketches of storytellers. A computer in the corner has headphones for listening to the stories.

The Shelf Life Community Story Project space in Wa Na Wari

Performances by storyteller-rappers and poets (namely Yirim Seck and Ebo Barton) preceded the screening of the film, which was directed by devon de Leña and CHIMAERA. The film rolled and Wakoma was then on screen talking about the gentrification and displacement currently happening in the Central District: “The biggest thing that folks are trying to pinpoint is ‘How do we actually survive this? And then, how do we come out on the other side of this, in some way that actually feels whole?’ We need imaginative responses, ways of imagining ourselves in the future that have everything to do with us getting there on our own, in ways that make sense to us.” 

Watch the film Central District: Wa Na Wari here, and be sure to follow @vanishingseattle on Instagram to stay informed about future screenings and other opportunities to get active! You can also read more about Wa Na Wari and the Vanishing Seattle film series in these Crosscut articles.

Eyes of the Totem

Eyes of the Totem film still

A silent movie, shot in 1926 around Tacoma and thought to be lost forever, was recently rediscovered by Tacoma’s Historic Preservation Office and is scheduled to be re-premiered on September 18, 2015, at Tacoma’s historic Rialto Theatre. The film, The Eyes of the Totem, was directed by the legendary W.S. Van Dyke through H.C. Weaver Studios, which operated in a large facility near Titlow Beach nearly 90 years ago. The film took its name from the still standing Tacoma Hotel totem pole, and features historic sites around Tacoma and Mount Rainier as its backdrop.

Van Dyke made two other films for Weaver Studios before going on to Hollywood to direct The Thin Man series and Tarzan the Ape Man. Weaver Productions went under when the public’s attention turned from silent films to movies with sound. Historians spent decades searching for a remnant of the cinematic work, but came up empty, until Lauren Hoogkamer, Tacoma’s Historic Preservation Coordinator, stepped in last year. “Right away I was pretty confident that I was going to find it,” said Hoogkamer, “As an historian and a journalist, I always feel you can find it if you really dig.”

Hoogkamer contacted the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, which has a collection of Van Dyke’s papers. Among the collection were the five reels of Eyes of the Totem, which hadn’t been opened from their case since the 1920s. When asked about the cost to get the film back to Tacoma, the museum gave a $40,000 fee; the cost was eventually negotiated down to $4,500.

In late 2014, the reels were digitally transferred to a DVD. Surprisingly, after more than 80 years, it was discovered that the fragile nitrate film had experienced minimal damage. It was a “one in a million find,” according to Hoogkamer.

As part of its re-release, local composer John Christopher Bayman is working on an original musical score to accompany the silent film. “This movie strikes me as having a sense of humor,” Bayman said, “I’m so glad this movie was found and the story can be told.”

The film is a crime tale that goes unsolved “until the eyes of the totem shed light on the mystery,” said Hoogkamer. An exhibition trailer will be produced, along with additional programming and background materials highlighting the film’s historic context.

A group of dedicated history buffs and Tacoma-philes, known as Team Totem, is working to bring the film back to Tacoma and restoring the five-reel feature film. They’re seeking to raise $25,000 for the costs of composing that score, transferring the film from its original nitrate, and preparing the other programming.

If you’d like to be a part of this unique opportunity to see Tacoma’s history come to life, there’s a Kickstarter campaign where you can donate and read more about the film, the studio, and the golden era of film in Tacoma.

Supporter thank yous include Beautiful Angle posters, Eyes of the Totem t-shirts, original letterpress artwork, seats to exclusive early premiere screenings, and more. At last check they had raised $13,755 of the $25,000 goal, with 26 days left! The deadline to contribute through Kickstarter is June 29, 2015.

Photos: Eyes of the Totem film stills courtesy of Team Totem

Film Screening at UW – “Structural Engineers of the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair”

structural eng_world's fair poster

The documentary, “Structural Engineers of the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair,” will be screened on Thursday, April 24, at UW. Presented by the Structural Engineers Foundation of Washington, this is a great opportunity to learn about the seminal work of the engineers who helped create and design iconic fair structures such as the Space Needle, U.S. Science Pavilion (Pacific Science Center) and Washington Coliseum (KeyArena).

The event is jointly sponsored by the University of Washington Department of Architecture and Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. 

WHEN: Thursday, April 24, 2014. Reception at 5:30 pm; film screening at 6:00 pm. UW calendar listing
WHERE: UW Campus, Architecture Hall 147 (Auditorium)

The Greenest Building – Seattle Screening, March 13


What: The Greenest Building: Documentary Screening and Discussion

When: Thursday, March 13, 2014, 6 – 8 pm

Where: Seattle Central Library Auditorium, 1000 4th Ave, Seattle, WA 98014

Registration: Free/donation

Over the next 20 years, Americans will demolish one third of our existing building stock (over 82 billion square feet) in order to replace seemingly inefficient buildings with energy efficient “green” structures. Is demolition in the name of sustainability really the best use of natural, social, and economic resources? Or, like the urban renewal programs of the 1960s, is this well-intentioned planning with devastating environmental and cultural consequences?

Attend a free showing of The Greenest Building, an hour-long documentary produced by filmmaker Jane Turville. The film presents a compelling overview of the important role building reuse plays in creating sustainable communities, and explores the myth that a “green building” is a new building and demonstrates how renovation and adaptive reuse of existing structures fully achieves the sustainability movement’s “triple bottom line.” The film reveals: (a) how reuse and reinvestment in the existing built environment leads to stronger local economies that can compete on a global scale, (b) that sense of place and collective memory, while intangible, are critical components of strong sustainable communities, and (c) the direct correlation between reuse of existing buildings and a significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, degradation of the natural environment and overuse of precious natural resources.

If you’re interested in buildings, community development, sustainable communities or just plain want to find out if existing buildings really are worth keeping, plan to attend this special event. Turville will introduce the film and moderate a discussion by a panel of experts, including Chris Moore, Executive Director, Washington Trust for Historic Preservation; Michael Malone, Principal, Hunters Capital; and Mark Huppert, Senior Director, Preservation Green Lab at National Trust for Historic Preservation. The event is organized by Historic Seattle and is co-sponsored by the Seattle Public Library, Hunters Capital, RAFN, Preservation Green Lab, ULI Northwest, Washington Trust for Historic Preservation, AIA Seattle, and Seattle Architecture Foundation. To register, go to

California Arts & Crafts Film Nights at Washington Hall

BeautifulSimplicity blog

Historic Seattle invites you to enjoy three outstanding films produced by Paul Bockhorst on Arts & Crafts architecture in Southern and Northern California and the visionary architecture of Bernard Maybeck. Historic Seattle supplies the place—Washington Hall—and the popcorn and pop. You’ll see familiar and not so familiar examples of buildings and interiors by the region’s most accomplished and imaginative designers with commentary and critique by outstanding scholars and authors.  

February 7 – Tonight’s film: Beautiful Simplicity: Arts & Crafts Architecture in Southern California

Southern California was fertile ground for the Arts & Crafts movement, which called for simple living, closeness to nature, the unification of art and craft, and regionally appropriate forms of architecture. The movement influenced a number of important architects working in Southern California and produced a wide array of houses, churches, schools, and other buildings that reflect Arts & Crafts values. Beautiful Simplicity examines the rich body of Arts & Crafts architecture in Southern California, from Santa Barbara to San Diego. It introduces viewers to more than a dozen architects who pursued Arts & Crafts ideals, including Charles and Henry Greene, Irving Gill, Arthur Benton, Sumner Hunt, Frederick Roehrig, Louis B. Easton, Sylvanus Marston, and Arthur and Alfred Heineman. It also highlights the significance of the Craftsman bungalow, which helped democratize home ownership in America.

Sponsored by Northwest Film Forum

Tonight’s film event is from 7:00 pm – 8:30 pm, at Washington Hall (153 14th Ave., Seattle’s Squire Park neighborhood). Free parking is available in the adjacent lot or on-street parking. Online registration for tonight’s movie is closed but you may pay at the door. Individual tickets – general public: $15; members: $10; students: $5. You may also purchase a film pass for all three films online or at the door: $35 general public; $25 members; $15 students.

To register for the February 14 and 21 screenings (or film series pass), call Historic Seattle at 206-622-6952 or register online for the February 14 (Designing with Nature: Arts & Crafts Architecture in Northern California) and February 21 (Pursuing Beauty: The Architecture of Bernard Maybeck) film screenings.

Coast Modern Film at Northwest Film Forum Dec 11-13

coast modern screenshot

Here’s your opportunity to view the film, “Coast Modern,” at the Northwest Film Forum December 11, 12 and 13. Tickets available online.

If you attend the screening on December 12, you may enjoy a pre-screening happy hour at 6pm, hosted by ARCADE. The bar will be open with special happy hour prices, and Coast Modern producer Leah Mallen and directors Gavin Froome and Mike Bernard will be at the Film Forum for an in-person introduction and Q&A following the 7pm screening.

From the NWFF website:

Coast Modern turns the lens on the sleek interiors and lush gardens of stunning examples of modernist architecture, from Vancouver, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Portland and Seattle, from the early 20th century to the second wave of post-war America to today’s current modernist renaissance. Featuring conversations with architects and their patrons, the films asks if Modernism’s time has finally come, or whether it really went away.”

Architecture and Harry Potter

Screenshot of Architectural Digest photo gallery for Deathly Hallows: Part 2. Grigotts Wizarding Bank interior. Photo: Architectural Digest

In honor of opening day in the U.S. (July 15) of the last Harry Potter film, let’s take a look at how integral architecture is to “Deathly Hallows: Part 2.” Check out this Architectural Digest article about production design. Don’t miss the photo gallery. Talk about amazing sets! This last movie outdoes itself. MAin2 will find out tonight!

Watch “The Greenest Building” Film

Screenshot from The Greenest Building website

Don’t miss this showing of a new film about conservation and the rehabilitation of old buildings and why it’s the “green” thing to do.  Check out “The Greenest Building” website for more info.

Airs this Sunday, April 24, at 2:00 pm on KCTS 9.

From the film’s website, “Over the next 20 years, one third of our nation’s existing building stock (over 82 billion square feet) will be demolished in order to replace seemingly inefficient buildings with energy efficient ‘green’ buildings. Is demolition on this scale really the best use of natural, social, and economic resources? Or, like urban renewal programs of the 1960’s, is it part of a well-intentioned planning strategy with devastating environmental and cultural consequences? ‘The Greenest Building’ provides a compelling argument for conservation, rehabilitation and adaptive reuse of our existing building stock as the single most effective strategy for reducing, reusing and recycling one of our most important consumer products – our buildings.”

Making Faces: Metal Type in the 21st Century

If you dig design then don’t miss “Making Faces: Metal Type in the 21st Century,” a documentary about creating new metal type. The film is playing at the Northwest Film Forum (co-presented by the School of Visual Concepts) in Seattle on November 12 and 13. Here’s a description from the Northwest Film Forum, “This fascinating design documentary captures the personality and work process of the late Canadian graphic artist Jim Rimmer (1931-2010). In 2008, P22 type foundry commissioned Rimmer to create a new type design (Stern) that became the first-ever simultaneous release of a digital font and hand-set metal font. Rimmer was one of only a few who possess the skills needed to create a metal font.”

The director, Richard Kegler, will be in attendance at the Seattle screenings.

If you’re wild about typography and graphic design (all us design geeks are), you’ve probably seen “Helvetica,” a fantastic documentary about the ubiquitous modern type. If you haven’t seen it, check it out on dvd.