Kevin Epps on His Life-Changing Straight Outta Hunters Point Documentaries

The impact of Kevin Epps' 2003 documentary Straight Outta Hunters Point runs so deep in the neighborhood where it was filmed, kids who have never met the director have the title of his film tattooed on their arms and backs. Its long-anticipated sequel, which debuted at last year's San Francisco Black Film Festival and starts tonight (Friday) at the Roxie, shows a shade less overt violence than the original, which kickstarted a nationwide trend toward harrowing 'hood videos. But it is no less chilling in its exploration of the deep and systemic issues that continue to plague the neighborhood and its residents. These include gut-wrenchingly low high school graduation rates and a palette of ailments such as asthma and cancer that some attribute to the screaming problem of hazardous waste from the PG&E power plant and the contaminated vestiges of the Hunters Point Naval Shipyard.

Epps, who's a Fellow at the DeYoung and curates different film series and panel discussions at the museum each month, calls the sequel an homage to his home and the fuel for a diverse career in film and television. He also labels it a snapshot of a neighborhood that's quickly changing under widespread redevelopment. We spoke with Epps a few days ago.

Describe the impact the first film had on your life.

Well, I was caught in the cycle of all of the black market activity, I wasn't separate from that, so I was trying to figure out what direction to take my life to. And that film affected my life like it affected some people who participated in it, where it gave them a mirror reflection of who they were and what was going on around them in their community. Even though I created it, I was also a spectator in terms of being able to learn from the community and get a lot of insight from different people who could share something that was meaningful. It was all that kind of stuff that came out of it for me in terms of it being a learning experience.

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