About the Film
In a rapidly gentrifying city, the construction of a luxury condominium threatens a local mural forcing the artists and a neighborhood to rally to protect its history, voice, and land.
Two Oakland artists, Pancho Peskador, a Chilean studio painter, and Desi Mundo, a Chicago-born aerosol artist, form an unlikely partnership to tackle their most ambitious project to date, a four-story mural in the heart of downtown Oakland. Their site is situated at a unique intersection where Chinese and Afro-Diasporic communities face the imminent threat of displacement and gentrification. Prior to painting, the mural faces numerous obstacles: complex negotiations with profit-minded property owners, satisfying a community of diverse residents, and resolving the artists’ own aesthetic conflicts.
As the mural takes shape on the wall, Oakland’s unique cultural legacies come to life through historical flashbacks. Past exclusionary policies replay themselves in the present as gentrification threatens to uproot long-term residents. The mural is fraught with its own challenges. A disgruntled neighborhood resident launches a vendetta against the artists, unleashing a blizzard of letters to city officials and newspapers. Simultaneously, the property owner of the mural site schemes to demolish it and construct the city’s largest luxury condo. Nonetheless, Desi and Pancho conclude the mural with great fanfare and a vibrant celebration.
Three months later, news comes that another forthcoming condominium development will obscure the mural, which has become a source of neighborhood pride. Despite last-ditch opposition to the condominium, it receives city approval, effectively dooming the mural. Meanwhile, the city unveils its urban planning process for the downtown district. Ultimately displaced, the mural becomes a spark for the community to rally to protect cultural arts, and coalescing the community resistance to gentrification.
Chilean born immigrant artist emerging into Oakland street art and mural scene, Pancho grapples with the challenge of his largest scale piece while trying to survive as an artist as the cost of living in Oakland skyrockets.
A Chicago-born aerosol writer based in Oakland, Desi struggles to balance the logistical, artistic and political aspects of creating a massive mural in gentrifying downtown Oakland.
“The Harpist from the Hood,” Destiny Muhammad is a jazz musician and poet living and working in the Malonga Casquelourd Center for the Arts.
Master drummer and drum maker, Mosheh Milon struggles to maintain his craft as the rents in Oakland soar.
Widely recognized as the Godmother of Oakland Afro-Diasporic dance, Ruth Beckford witnesses her depiction as the centerpiece of the Universal Language mural, only to have her image threatened to be obscured by the development of a large market rate condominium.
A co-founder of the brand-new Black Arts Movement and Business District, Ayodele Nzinga joins forces with members of the Chinatown Coalition to form the Coalition for Equitable Development in demanding community benefits from developers.
As the Communications Director for the Community Rejuvenation Project, Eric Arnold is present throughout the design and implementation of the “Universal Language” mural, ultimately placing him at the negotiating table with corporate developers as a founding member of the Coalition for Equitable Development.
The daughter of Oakland’s first Asian American female mayor, Lailan Huen, has fought to earn her own stripes as an organizer and activist. A core member of Oakland’s Chinatown Coalition, she helps lead the fight to protect the “Universal Language” mural and demand affordable housing.
A founder of the Samba Funk Afro-Brasilian dance group based out of the Malonga Casquelourd Center for the Arts, Theo Williams fights to protect his community’s cultural legacy.
ZHAO JIAM DE
After surviving cancer, Zhao Jiam De is nominated by the community at Hotel Oakland low-income Chinese Senior Center to be a leader of its 15 resident co-managed health education groups to fight isolation and promote good health.
SUPERVISING SOUND EDITOR
STILLS ANIMATION & ASST EDITOR
JESSE ANDREW CLARK
SPECIAL PROJECTS AND GRAPHICS
POSTER DESIGN, GRAPHIC ANIMATION & PROMOTIONS