Walking Cinema: Museum of the Hidden City

A 'live' documentary about San Francisco’s struggles for equitable housing policies amidst a whirlwind downtown revitalization.



Michael Epstein





Running Time

60 mins 

Watch the Film



SFGFF Film Program:

SF Green Film Festival Screening: May 29, 2015

Walking Cinema: Museum of the Hidden City is a 'live' documentary about San Francisco’s struggles for equitable housing policies amidst a whirlwind downtown revitalization. Comprised of immersive video and live music and narration, the production explores the lives of unique residents of San Francisco’s rapidly-revitalizing Mid-Market neighborhood.

The performance focuses on one of these characters: Yesenia Ramirez, who went from sleeping in her car to entering the housing lottery and winning an affordable unit in a sleek luxury highrise called “NEMA” (short for “New Market.”) As with over 500 American cities, San Francisco has an inclusionary housing program that mandates developers to include a percentage (currently 12%) of affordable units in new residential construction. Behind this program are decades of evolving housing theory that started with urban renewal, then large-scale public housing, and now mixed income developments.

The project’s webiste (www.seehidden.city) will feature several profiles of contrasting Mid-Market residents told as a series of short videos and interactive panoramas. The Ramirez’s story, for instance, is broken down into 5 video shorts chronologically moving from homelessness to the proverbial deluxe apartment in the sky. Interstitially placed between each video are interactive panoramas of various street and interior environments that correspond to the video stories. The panoramas allow audiences to immerse themselves in the telling details of the built environment through short, popup videos that explain the theory, innovative ideas, and policy questions lurking in everyday objects. For instance, in the NEMA panorama the front door of NEMA and a neighboring affordable housing unit become jumping off points to learn more about contrasting theories of “poor doors” for mixed-income developments.

The final component of this multi-platform story is a series of site-based installations along that reveal flashpoints in San Francisco housing history. Seminal events such as the razing of the Fillmore in the 1960’s, the fight against Moscone Center in the 70’s, and the BART excavation dramatically affected housing policy. These stories are told as “peephole cinema” shorts located right in the places where these events occurred.