On Wednesday, April 29, 2015, the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability, in partnership with the Oregon Chapter of the American Planning Association, hosted the Portland Is Growing Film Festival at McMenamins Kennedy School. A standing-room-only crowd of about 130 people filled the gymnasium, including members of United Neighborhoods for Reform, the Albina neighborhood, and the local filmmaking community.
The event featured films covering a variety of perspectives on growth and development in the city. Through their lenses, filmmakers shared stories about demolition and infill, gentrification and displacement, coal trains, the Memorial Coliseum, bicycling, urban design and more.
Some of the highlights included Ruth Ann Barrett, who created her short video using her iPhone, encouraging the audience to “flex their civic engagement arm, not just their consumer arm.” Rick Potestio’s presentation about focusing growth around parks or “commons” met with some vocal resistance from the audience. Karina Adams’ plea for bird-friendly design was graphically portrayed in the movie she made as a student at Portland State University. And even a 35-year-old Douglas fir tree made compelling viewing as the audience watched it being systematically de-limbed and cut down.
Two films stood out as poignant reminders of how far we’ve come but how much more we need to do to address displacement and gentrification. Future Portland by journalist Ifanyi Bell and Kathleen Holt of Oregon Humanities features slow moving shots of Portland interspersed between interviews with several prominent African Americans living in Portland, who talk about the loss of community and connection when whole swaths of people are displaced. And Richard Wilhelm and Sue Arbuthnot’s digest of their full-length feature film Imagining Home about how Columbia Villa became New Columbia was a touching close to the evening.
If you missed the event or would like to rewatch the videos, visit the film festival page. Then enjoy the work of local filmmakers and hear different stories of Portland’s past, present and future.