A Really Great Documentary You Should See: New Urban Cowboy: The Labors of Michael E. Arth

Although not technically “MUNI” related, I wanted to get the word out about a documentary at the 6th Annual SF Documentary Film Festival that is well worth the time and trouble to go see – New Urban Cowboy: The Labors of Michael E. Arth.
I had the opportunity to meet the filmmaker, Blake Wiers, earlier this year and see a rough cut of the film and even in its unfinished state, it was a remarkable film. The story itself seems simple – Michael Arth, an architect and urban planner, decides to put his theories to the test by selling his home in California, moving to Deland, Florida, and doing what no sane person would do – buy houses in the crappiest part of town (“Cracktown”) and try and make it into something better. And guess what? He did!
What’s interesting about this film is that it shows the power of doing something about a problem, instead of talking and doing nothing. When you see the before and after pictures of this neighborhood (which is now called the “Garden District”) you’re simply amazed. But when you realize that this happened not with endless bureaucracy, or politically connected nonprofits, but instead by the hard work and determination of someone who decided to do something, then you realize that there’s more to this story than just that of some guy fixing up a neighborhood.
I am looking forward to the final cut of the film next week, and would urge you to check out the film if you can. Too often, as citizens of Our Fair City, we are resigned to accepting things that don’t work : MUNI, housing, job creating, whatever, and look upon city problems as too complex and “unsolveable”.
Sadly, we also have a leadership class that’s all too willing to reinforce this view. Seeing this film makes you realize that sometimes you don’t need endless talk and studies and whatnot to make a difference – sometimes you just need a nail gun and the will to do what’s needed.

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