Alumni Filmmaker Screens New Doc on 60s Era Racism & Forced Relocation in Bay Area

As California’s reparations task force approved a potentially groundbreaking list of recommendations earlier this month, The Apology (Mimi Chakarova), a new doc about the forced relocation of Russell City, a majority Black and Brown community in the 1960s Bay Area, was screened for a sizeable crowd in Hayward, including former Russell City residents and their descendants. The screening was held in the same Veterans’ Memorial Building where the Alameda County Board of Supervisors held public hearings about the redevelopment plan that would eventually force residents from their homes.

The Apology is the sixth documentary feature by Chakarova, a SebDocs alumni filmmaker. The film investigates how Alameda County and the City of Hayward dismantled Russell City in 1963, pushing 1,400 residents out of their homes and off their land. The impact of this dispossession was compounded by the fact that most of Russell City’s Black and Latino residents made a home in the unincorporated area after being barred from purchasing land elsewhere. For the folks who lived in the south Oakland locale, it was a beloved village that housed 13 businesses, seven churches and 205 families. All lost to make way for a 200 acre industrial park.

Chakarova’s shorts have shown at the most recent two SebDocs festivals, and share both thematic and formal similarities with The Apology. Her mixed media documentary short The Block, which examines life on the longest block of one of America’s most progressive cities,  won the Audience Award for Best Short at this year’s festival. Her animated short The Mirror, which weaves together the personal experiences of 9 black women as they recount interacting with white people, showed at the 2022 festival.

As with Chakarova’s other work, The Apology is a mixed media doc, using archival footage, animated photos and illustrations to tell the stories of more than 20 Russell City residents and their descendants, as they have unfolded over the past 60 years. The film explores the historical significance of an apology, and examines what it means to make amends for a past that continues to mark the present.

For more information about the film, the history it tells and details on how it was made, check out a a with Chakarova and the film’s producer Aisha Knowles, “The Making Of The Apology,” presented by the Hayward Historical Society, or the film’s website.

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