Filmmakers Merav Walket(left) and Kossisko Konan(right)
Filmmakers Merav Walklet (left) and Kossisko Konan: they hope their film, 2037, will start a dialogue about gentrification. Photo: courtesy Walket and William Converse-Richter

Two Berkeley artists have teamed up to offer their take on Bay Area gentrification and displacement. And they are doing so through a horror sci-fi film called 2037. The movie takes place in the not-so-distant future, and shows what life in the Bay Area could be like after it’s fully gentrified and many of its residents have been displaced.

Kossisko Konan and Merav Walklet says 2037 aims to show the negative outcomes that can accompany the drastic changes wrought by gentrification. The post-gentrified world the film portrays may be a closer reality than people think: according to a study conducted by UC Berkeley’s Urban Displacement Project, 53% of all low-income households in the Bay Area live in neighborhoods that are at risk of being gentrified, and researchers expect that number to grow as the years go by. Which means we can probably expect to see more long-time Berkeley and Oakland residents forced to relocate through rising housing costs to suburban areas like Pittsburg and Antioch.

Konan and Walklet were born and raised in Berkeley, and have seen the effects of gentrification first-hand. They’ve seen long-time neighbors forced to move because of rent inflations. They’ve had friends displaced because the owners of their apartments or houses have decided to sell the property to developers. They’ve witnessed the closing of local small businesses because they can’t afford the rising rents.

Kossi is mostly known for his work as a singer/songwriter and  Merav has a background in creative writing. The two believe that film is one of the most impactful forms of art, and they hope 2037 can start dialogue about the issues of gentrification and displacement, much like the film Fruitvale Station did for police brutality and unjust killings.

2037 is due to be released this fall. We caught up with the filmmakers to find out more about the film and why they made it.

What are your creative backgrounds, and has film always been a passion?

Konan: I’ve always been into music and drawing. I went to Berkeley Arts Magnet, and at that school they were always pushing us to express ourselves creatively. My childhood years were fueled by expression through creativity. Whether it was music, drama, dance, writing, I did it all, and all those crafts have followed me into adulthood.

Walklet: Writing has always been my favorite creative medium, but I have a background in visual art as well. Film has been a passion of mine since I was a kid… Edward Scissorhands and Beetlejuice were my favorite childhood movies. So, while I was studying modern literature/creative writing at UC Santa Cruz, I decided I wanted to finally bring my own writing off the page. What I love most about film is that it converges so many artistic mediums.

So how did this idea for the movie come about?

Walklet: One day Kossi and I were talking about films and what some of our favorite genres are. I’ve always been a huge horror fanatic and I was trying to explain to him why it was my favorite style of film. I just kind of threw the idea out that it would be cool to write our own movie.

Whose idea was it to use the film to address gentrification?

Walklet: The idea came from both of us.

Why were you interested in gentrification and its impact?

Konan: My art is inspired by what I observe around me, and in the world. I’ve noticed many things have changed locally, but I’m more interested in the larger implications of these changes.

What are some of the biggest downsides of gentrification and displacement that you’ve seen?

Walklet: The cost of housing in San Francisco and Oakland is outrageous, but that’s old news. The beatniks could never afford to live here now. What’s worse is, many of the people moving here don’t even know who the beatniks are.

In what ways have gentrification and displacement had an effect on your lives?

Walklet: I can’t afford to live where I grew up, if I want to be an artist. I could work for a startup, but that’s not what I want to do with my life.

Konan: The Bay Area has always had a rich art culture. There are a ton of artists who live out here. It’s no secret that artists don’t make a ton of money. So with gentrification causing an increase in rent, food, and other expenses, it makes it hard to be able to afford to live in cities like SF , Oakland and Berkeley. It saddens me that artists are forced to leave just because they can’t afford it anymore. These people have added so much to Bay Area culture. They’ve helped the Bay Area become what it is. Homeless people and artists are heavily affected by gentrification, so we decided that we are going to give a portion of whatever we make [with the film] to that cause.

You were able to fund the movie through a crowdfunding campaign that raised $3,000. Was it hard convincing people to support your vision?

Walklet: It wasn’t hard at all getting people on board. We made a GoFundMe site letting people know about the film, released a short trailer, and in a matter of weeks we reached our goal.

Konan: People were extremely supportive, it was nice to see so many people get behind this.

Merav on the set of 2037
Miranda Swain on the set of 2037

Where did you find the actors for the film?

Konan: Most of our actors are from right here in Berkeley: people we went to school with, long-time friends. We wanted to make this as authentic as possible so pretty much all those involved with the movie are from the Bay Area.

Walklet: Many of our actors had no professional experience, which I think was a huge positive. Kossi and I could not be happier with who we cast.

How important was it to for you to make this an all Bay Area production?

Walklet: It was extremely important to both of us. The story was heavily influenced by what’s happening right now in the Bay Area, on so many levels. Keeping the production local helped us stay connected to our muse at all times.

Tell me about the movie, what’s been the best part of the process?

Konan: Everything has been so organic and fun, it’s hard to just single out one thing. There was a scene where we had a car chase. It was crazy. A guy drove by in a flaming car that was about 15ft high. We asked the driver if he’d be okay with us using his car for a scene and he agreed. So we put up a bunch a fake roadblocks and shut down the street and had him chase down Merav. The police showed up like an hour later and they were laughing about how some women came running down the street screaming help there’s a car shooting fire everywhere they just drove off after that and let us keep shooting.

Walklet: I played my own stunt-double, ha!

Konan: Which was cool because you could see the fear in her eyes, she could have actually been hurt, and we were all standing around just as scared as she was. The energy was great.

One to watch: Berkeley drummer James Small (05.03.16)
One to watch: BHS grad, musician Spencer Stevens (04.26.16)

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Delency Parham

Delency Parham is a graduate of the University of Idaho where he played football and majored in journalism. He graduated from Berkeley High in 2010, which is where he discovered his passion for writing....