April 16, 2018  (Web Review)

Company Town

(2016) 77 min. DVD: $350. Bullfrog Films (www.bullfrogfilms.com). PPR. SDH captioned. ISBN: 1-941545-81-5.

Reviewer rating: 3.0/4

The eponymous “town” in Deborah Kaufman and Alan Snitow’s documentary is San Francisco, and the focus here is on the impact that the tech industry has had on the Bay Area city. “The tech boom has displaced ethnic communities and driven the middle class out of the once free-spirited city,” Company Town declares. “A grassroots backlash against the tech invasion could swing an upcoming election, sending a powerful message.” The 2015 election for District 3 supervisor pitted anti-corporate campaigner Aaron Peskin against pro-development champion Julie Christensen, both candidates who go to great lengths to use carefully coded language designed to appeal to all sides. The candidates spend time questioning the impact of locally-headquartered Airbnb on San Francisco’s economy, with Peskin making valid points on the absurdity of having a “sharing economy” championed by the home-rental service. The film also focuses on the effects of gentrification on the working-class Mission District and Chinatown (but not, oddly, the predominantly LGBT Castro District). As a study of a major metro area facing economic upheaval through disruptively excessive gentrification fueled by jacked-up real estate prices resulting from a single growth industry, Company Town offers serious food for thought about the future of American urban centers. Recommended. Aud: C, P. (P. Hall)