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Neighborhood dramas comprise SF Noir film
Film producer Lou Dematteis, actress Lulu and writer Alejandro Murguía take a break during the filming of SF Noir at Esta Noche bar on July 19. Photo Beth Laberge

In the works and scheduled for release in summer 2013 is a film titled “SF Noir,” based on stories of corruption, family relationships and murder, with a cast and crew made up of Northern California and Mission natives.

After reading the story “The Other Barrio” by Alejandro Murguía, which he found in an anthology called “San Francisco Noir,” award-winning Bay Area filmmaker Dante Betteo thought to himself, “I want to produce this.”

When Betteo told co-producer for the project Lou Dematteis about wanting to use Murguía’s story in a film, Dematteis responded “He’s a friend of mine!”

The producers have made it a point to build a team of Northern California talent especially based in the Mission. Award-winning music producer Greg Landau has signed on as the film’s composer. The team also includes production designer René Yañez and co-founder of San Francisco’s Galeria de la Raza.

Dematteis describes the film as real although not a documentary. The stories unfold simultaneously showcasing what is taking place socioeconomically, artistically and culturally in the diversity of city.

“We’re living in the golden age of noir, of scoundrels, of shysters and of hustlers,” said Murguía, a professor and writing specialist in Latina/Latino Studies at San Francisco State University.

“The Other Barrio” follows a San Francisco Housing Authority investigator, Bob Morales, who is exploring a deadly fire in a residential hotel while facing corruption and his own personal demons. In the film, Morales is played by Richard Montoya, who is a member of Culture Clash, the prominent Chicano/Latino performance troupe founded in the Mission District.

The plot of the film takes three dramas from three San Francisco neighborhoods. The second story is based on David Corbett’s “It Can Happen,” a short story about an African-American family in Hunters Point. While the third story focuses on the Golden Dragon Massacre, an assassination attempt by two Chinatown gangs at the Golden Dragon Restaurant in 1977, where five innocent bystanders were killed and 11 others were injured.

Murguía said it is super exciting that his story is turning into a film. “It’s in the back of every writer’s head, the possibility that my work could be translated into media.”

He has a cameo scene at the club Esta Noche on 16th Street, that was filmed on July 19. As extras walk on the set, they are greeted by other actors and members of the production team, and by Yañez with kisses and hugs. On stage, transgender dancer La Jessica, played by Brian Patterson, is being cheered on by a crowd of dancers as techno music plays from speakers.

Mission locals will recognize many scenes filmed at other local spots and streets including sets on 24th Street, Dolores, Van Ness and Mission alleys.
“The story has everything: arsons and fires, drag scenes, great love scenes, suspense—typical Mission District. Not bad for a story, right?” said Murguía.

Betteo and Dematteis hope to create something genuine, that audiences will take away with a sense of reflection and values, as an individual and as a society.

“We are telling stories people can relate to,” said Betteo.

“So much of society is predicated by people wanting more money. We want audiences to reflect on what’s most important in life relationships: family, health, art, music, creativity, things of non-monetary value. Making money is not the most important thing,” said Dematteis. “At the end of the day, it’s not about greed or who makes the most money, it’s about living life.”

“We hope audiences appreciate the beauty of San Francisco through the film,” said Assistant Director Stephen Lee.

The community can help the project by passing the word and by creating a buzz for it. For more information and production updates visit sfnoirthemovie.com.

Story by: Annelie Chávez