Trump Admin To Lift Child Detention Limits, Red Flag Law, Electric Charging Stations
KPBS Midday Edition / August 21, 2019
The Trump administration is moving to end limits on how long the government can detain migrant families and children. Also, a new study suggests that California's red flag law may help prevent mass shootings, 3,000 electric charging stations for trucks and buses are coming to San Diego, veterans who participated in nuclear weapons testing will be awarded certificates for their sacrifice. The U.S. Camel Corps captured author Téa Obreht’s imagination and inspired her new novel, and the San Diego Underground Film Festival, which begins Thursday, deviates from the norm.
Speaker 1: 00:00 Despite findings that the Trump administration has not been adequately providing for immigrant children in detention, the administration is taking steps to increase the length of those detentions, new regulations that would override the established Flores settlement are expected at the end of the week. The Flores court agreement maintains that the U S cannot hold migrant children with or without their families for more than 20 days. The new regulations would allow the government to detain children and families indefinitely. Joining me to discuss the proposed regulations and reaction to them is KPBS reporter Max Rivlin Nadler and Max. Welcome. Hi. The Flores settlement agreement has been in place since 1997. What does it say?
Speaker 2: 00:44 The settlement agreement? A consent decree basically is hold the government to certain conditions. The for the safety and wellbeing of children in immigration detention. Um, it's been modified multiple times most recently, which ended up with the 20 day limit that you can hold children or their parents. Um, it also dictates things like the access to sanitation, access to counselors, access to medical providers, um, things of that nature, which the government has repeatedly gone back to court to try to push up against. So this was settled after 12 years of litigation because this case that this stems from was in 1985 and then eventually the Clinton administration made a settlement and this is something that the federal government has either regretted or pushed back against since then.
Speaker 1: 01:34 What are the new regulations the Trump administration wants to issue
Speaker 2: 01:38 the new regulations would move those 20 day caps, which is not something that the government always abides by. They often blow right past that 20 days, but they try to keep it in that area to indefinitely for the duration of a family's immigration case. So that would mean if you are applying for asylum, this could change a 20 day limit where you would be released to a sponsor or US citizen sponsor or family member to now months and years. Because these cases take a really long time to get through the courts. And on top of that, the government always has the ability to appeal and then ask for you to stay in detention and ask a judge to allow that. So it really broadens the horizon of how many people and for how long they can be detained.
Speaker 1: 02:25 Can New White House regulations overrule a court settlement?
Speaker 2: 02:28 That is to be determined. So one thing that has already been filed is these rules were proposed a year ago. The council that originally argued the Flores agreement had already provided to the court their objections to it within the next seven days. They're going to supplement those objections. And now that the rules have been formally published, they're actually going to be formally published later this week. So it's up to the district judge in Los Angeles to make the decision whether these comply with the actual stipulations of the settlement agreement.
Speaker 1: 03:03 What does the administration say about why it wants to change the length of time it can detain immigrant children and families?
Speaker 2: 03:10 They believe that this is a huge loophole in our immigration system, that because people know if they come with children, they could stay in the country for months, years even oftentimes working, settling down, creating roots in the United States while their immigration case plays out in court. And not only that, have access to a lawyer, which often strengthens their asylum cases because they're able to collect evidence, they're able to actually get legal assistance to navigate this really labyrinth and system, um, that, that it's encouraging people to cross the border to come to the United States. And this is viewed as a deterrent that if you're going to have to spend years in detention in conditions that are less than standard, this will deter you from coming to the u s right.
Speaker 1: 03:56 Because we just recently heard about the substandard conditions in which children were being held at ice facilities in Texas. What does the government say about its ability to care for kids in detention if they're going to be held so much longer?
Speaker 2: 04:09 Yeah, it doesn't say much. We've heard, um, again and again reports from these office of refugee resettlement detention centers. Uh, for children and for families up to 20 days, which have brought to light bad sanitation, zero access to things like fresh food, people going without medical treatment for quite a while, overcrowding and then things as serious as sexual abuse. And you know, even in some cases, violence by the guards against the children.
Speaker 1: 04:40 Now what's the procedure that the Trump administration will have to go through to try to get these regulations in place?
Speaker 2: 04:47 So the first step that will happen is they'll go to the district court judge in Los Angeles, Dolly Gee, who controls the settlement agreement. Right now they'll say, these are the regulations because this floor settlement agreement only said that the government would come up with new regulations that would be in line with the settlement agreement. So they'll say, this is in line with this. The District Court judge will most likely say, well, clearly this is not, and then it'll play out in court for a few years. So you'll see, you saw this recently when it came to last week's nine circuit decision that said the government had to provide things like shampoo and soap and toothpaste to children while in detention. This was something that in 2017 the district court had decided, but the government fought it for years in court. So if the district court strikes this down, they will go to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals where, um, you know, a lot of Trump administration priorities come to die. But it's a bit a much more mixed bag lately. Of course, if it doesn't find success in the ninth circuit, it could go all the way to the supreme court. And ultimately during that entire time you could basically have a situation where people are in legal limbo and it's unclear whether the government will move forward with these new rules or not.
Speaker 1: 06:03 This afternoon, Max, you'll be visiting the southwest key facility in alcohol, which houses detained migrant kids and they're planning to protest these changes.
Speaker 2: 06:12 They're planning to protest these changes, although the protest itself was planned before this because the southwest key facility in Elko and it has been a source of, uh, reports of very low standards of living for um, migraine children. We're talking about neglect, um, spoiled food. Um, basically, you know, things that we find common with private detention facilities, which has cutting corners, um, lack of access to health care as well as bad working conditions for the people that do take jobs there as well. So, uh, southwest key and El Cahone and all around, they have two other facilities I believe in San Diego County have been sources of widespread reports of neglect. And this is something that people, if we are going to go down a road that ramps up the amount of people in detention in the u s the immigrant families, these detention providers, these private facilities are going to bear the brunt of that. And so seeing how they've already treated the people in their care is something that people want to bring attention to before it's rapidly expanded.
Speaker 1: 07:16 I've been speaking with KPBS reporter, Max Rivlin, Adler and Max. Thank you.
Speaker 2: 07:20 Thank you.
Speaker 1: 00:00 The concept behind California's red flag laws are simple. If you remove guns from people who were found to be dangerous to the public, there should be fewer instances of gun violence, but since the law enacted in 2016 is so new, it's been hard to know if that concept has been working. Now the first study of red flag laws in California, it has been released and it's findings indicate that the laws may be working to reduce the chances of mass shootings. The studies results may help support efforts to enact national red flag laws. Jordan, we as Dr Garren winter moot, he's lead author of the study and director of the Violence Research Prevention Program at UC Davis School of medicine and Garren. Welcome to the program. Thanks for having me. How did you go about conducting a study on the red flag law? What did you look at?
Speaker 2: 00:51 We have a list of all the cases in which these orders were issued during 2016 to 18 the first three years of the policy being in effect, we're in the process of getting records from the courts where the orders were issued and that's where our data come from. As those records were coming in, we found frankly unexpectedly that they were being used fairly often in efforts to prevent mass shootings and so we added an element to our project and focused on as it has turned out so far, the 21 cases in which mass shootings, where the violence that the order was intended to prevent and the study simply describes what happened in those 21 cases.
Speaker 1: 01:39 How serious were the threats of these mass shootings in some of those 21 cases? Could you give us perhaps one or two examples?
Speaker 2: 01:47 Sure. One involved a disgruntled former employee. We have several of those who made a very credible threats to kill his coworkers and shoot up the workplace. One of the employees of that company contacted law enforcement who did their due diligence and discovered as best they could tell. This gentleman did not own any firearms, but he had just purchased a 12 gauge shotgun. We have a 10 day waiting period in California that was ticking away. It was during that 10 day waiting period that law enforcement went to. The judge made the case. The judge issued the order. Law enforcement contacted the dealer and said, don't you release that firearm? And the man never acquired the shotgun. When they searched his house, they did not find any firearms, but they found 400 rounds of ammunition for that shotgun.
Speaker 1: 02:42 I guess my question though is does the fact that there were no mass acts of violence or shootings in any of those 21 cases, does that prove that they'll red flag law works?
Speaker 2: 02:53 No, it does not. And this is really important. Thank you for the question. We can't prove that the orders made the difference. What we have is there was a threat. Firearms were part of what, uh, created an elevated risk. The firearms were recovered or purchases were blocked and those events did not occur. We know in general that threats of mass shootings are much more common than mass shootings. And we're all very grateful for that. So we can't say that zero out of 21 if you will, is a departure from expectation. I, I don't think that we will get better data. We'll probably see more cases, but to really prove it, we'd have to do a randomized trial. Now this is a thought experiment. Let me, let me walk through why this will never be done. We would have to take some large number of people who threatened mass violence and had firearms and in half those cases do something to recover the firearms and in the other half of the cases simply let events proceed.
Speaker 2: 04:05 That's just not going to happen. I understand your point. Now. Gun groups have raised concerns about red flag laws and fringing on due process rights. Did your work, did your study reveal any downsides to California? The Red Flag Law? Well, let's, let's stick with due process. Um, due process is built into every s every provision of the law, which by the way, I, I helped draft. So there is no such thing as a restraining order without the involvement of a judge. Even at three in the morning, there is a formal conversation. It is a transcribed by a court reporter. I've read the transcripts, it's part of the court record. The orders that are more common that require a petition also require the judge to follow specified rules of evidence in emergency situations. There isn't a hearing, it's an emergency. We need to do something within hours. Um, but the emergency and the temporary orders only last for three weeks.
Speaker 2: 05:10 If there's going to be a longer term order, a hearing is required and the burden of proof is on the person requesting the order to demonstrate by clear and convincing evidence. That's the phrase in the law that the order is worthwhile. And we've seen cases where those petitions were filed in the orders were not granted. And finally I'll mention there was concerned about the possibility of abuse in California from the beginning I think. And so we went back and added provisions to the law. It is a crime in California to file such a petition based on false information or with the intent to harass someone. Now based on the results of your study, what would you say to policymakers who are currently debating what to do about guns in this country and debating about whether to enact national red flag laws? I would say this, we can't prove that the orders work, but if somebody were to ask me the next time we're faced with such a situation, elevated risk, firearms, a credible threat, should we do something to recover the firearms?
Speaker 2: 06:21 I would say absolutely the, the nation is riveted by mass shootings. We learned from a new survey a couple of days ago that 25% of the population is significantly concerned and has changed the way they conduct themselves in public. These events are changing the character of American life and not for the better. In situations like that policy makers, we as individuals have an obligation to do what we can based on the best evidence available. At the time I've been speaking with Dr Garren, Winton [inaudible] is director of the Violence Research Prevention Program at UC Davis School of medicine and thank you very much for your time and information. Thanks again for having me.
Speaker 1: 07:07 The city of San Diego was leading the state in the number of gun violence restraining orders filed by the court. In response to the red flag law, San Diego counties, gun owners group made a statement which said, in part conceptually, we agree that dangerous people should not have access to weapons, but the way gun violence restraining orders are being implemented in California and specifically by San Diego city. Attorney Mara Elliott provides few protections and could become rife with abuse. Executive Director, Michael Schwartz also said, if someone is breaking the law, law enforcement already has the ability to confiscate firearms.
Speaker 1: 00:00 State regulators have just approved a program that will bring 3000 electric charging stations to San Diego for trucks and buses. San Diego gas and electric will spend more than $107 million over the next five years. On the effort. The utility says the cost will be shouldered by rate. Payers will see a small increase in their monthly bills. The Electric Station program as part of the state's climate action plan mandate. It's also hope that electrifying transport trucks will improve the chronically polluted air in the neighborhoods near the port of San Diego, including Barrio Logan, Logan heights, and Sherman Heights. Joining me is San Diego Union Tribune, energy reporter, Rob Nickel, Leschi and rob, welcome back. Thank you back. Are there currently charging stations for electric medium duty and heavy duty trucks in San Diego?
Speaker 2: 00:48 It's hard to say because most of these heavy duty trucks are commercial trucks and that means if they are being charged through through an electric charging station, that means they're normally in private hands. You know, a private company like Rob's refrigerated truck delivery service and so those kind of, those numbers are hard to come by, but generally speaking there aren't very many electric medium duty and heavy duty trucks out there.
Speaker 1: 01:15 So not only are there probably few charging stations, there aren't even many electric big rigs on the road right now. Yeah, exactly. SDG and e got approval for this in an effort to comply with state law. What does that law mandate?
Speaker 2: 01:30 That's set bill three 50 back from 2015 it basically retries to have the state reduce the amount of greenhouse gas emissions throughout the entire state. So the Senate approved that legislature approved it, governor Jerry Brown, then governor Jerry Brown signed it. Then the California public utilities commission was then charged with coming up with a way to implement the program and then they went to the investor owned utilities including San Diego gas and electric and said, come up with some programs to reduce these greenhouse gas emissions. San Diego gas and electric has come up with a, about three years ago they came up with a, a program called a power year drive and that was to build charging stations almost all for passenger cars. This is the first one that really tries to tackle heavy duty and medium duty trucks
Speaker 1: 02:25 being an impact, good replacing gas and diesel trucks and buses with electric trucks and buses have on greenhouse gas emissions.
Speaker 2: 02:33 Well they say that the a amount of commercial vehicles and there's about 3000 in the San Diego area, the heavy duty and medium duty vehicles that they contribute a great deal to the ozone problems and also to the greenhouse gas emissions problems in San Diego County. And this is the first step towards trying to curb that.
Speaker 1: 02:57 As you mentioned, uh, more electric trucks
Speaker 2: 03:00 should also help with air pollution because the neighborhoods around the port especially been suffering with pollutants for years, haven't they? Yes. And this particular program, which is still a named, the San Diego gas and electric medium duty and heavy duty truck, uh, uh, electric electrification program. One of the things that it's trying to emphasize is that when they put in these charging stations, eventually, um, the 3000 charging stations that a good portion of those are put in those areas that have been adversely affected by air pollution. Places like Barrio Logan, like you mentioned now the utility is passing on the costs to rate payers. How much will it cost? The average residential customer, they're going to end up paying $4 and 57 cents a year. That works out to 38 38 cents a month. It depends on how you look at it. You know, some people might say, well, I'm paying $5 almost $5 more per year.
Speaker 2: 03:59 That's, and I don't drive an electric vehicle. So, and, and I've received, since we've written this story, I've received some comments and people saying that, but on the other hand, other people come back and say, well, 38 cents a month isn't that much. Now the program will include electric school buses. Tell us about that. Yes. And that's, there's a pilot program included in that in which the big batteries that are required for heavy duty or a medium duty truck, like a school bus that they will, um, charge during the time of the day when there's lots of solar on the system for example. In fact, there's so much solar sometimes at the state power grid ends up giving it away. So this program, this pilot program with the school buses would charge, would make an effort to charge the school buses during the day when there's plenty of, uh, of energy out there.
Speaker 2: 04:53 And then later in the day when solar drops off because the sun sets and then they could send that back to the grid. So there's plan there to try to do that. And that could, that could lead to some revenue for the school district because they could sell that energy back to the grid when the grid needs it, you set a percentage of the charging stations will be going in the neighborhoods around the port. Where else are these electric charging stations? Gonna turn out STG needs still has to figure that out. And there'll be going in over the next five years. Yes. The program starts in 2022 and I've been speaking with the San Diego Union Tribune Energy Reporter, Rob Nikolsky. Rob, thank you so much. Thank you. It's good to see you again.
Speaker 1: 00:00 The Department of Defense plans to award certificates to as many as half a million veterans who were exposed to radiation during nuclear weapons tests. The veterans served between 1945 and 1992 but Stephanie Calambini reports for the American homefront project that many of the so-called atomic veterans are not impressed.
Speaker 2: 00:22 84 year old Tom Botchy of Ormond beach, Florida is flipping through a scrapbook. He keeps of old pictures and articles about his time in the air force. Dash was our flight crew here. Nach me. He never went to war, but he still feels like he was part of history. In 1958 Bauchi was involved in dozens of atomic tests on the n a we talk atoll in the Pacific. He serviced planes that flew through mushroom clouds after explosions while he and his comrades watched an awe from the island. Maybe 10 miles away.
Speaker 3: 00:56 You were a young kid, you know, you're out there and say, wow, look what they're doing. Look at this. You know, and they never told us, you know, the radiation, uh, after effects or anything.
Speaker 2: 01:06 Archie points himself out in a photo of young men wearing khaki shorts, short sleeve shirts and baseball caps.
Speaker 3: 01:12 That was our protective clothing for the atomic bombs.
Speaker 2: 01:16 After decades of being sworn to secrecy, atomic veterans were finally able to share their experiences in the late nineties many realized they suffered from similar health problems and the VA expanded benefits for some whose diseases the government deemed were linked to radiation exposure. Bace his heart problems didn't qualify, but he pushed for years with the National Association of atomic veterans to at least get a service medal.
Speaker 3: 01:42 It felt that there needed to be some recognition of those of us that were there that did this, you know, for the country but forgotten.
Speaker 2: 01:51 But the military says giving out metals for non-combat hazardous service is inconsistent with its awards program. Still the government is now acknowledging the atomic veterans. Congress required the Pentagon to issue certificates to eligible vets who request them. They haven't started going out yet, but some veterans and their families are disappointed they'll only receive a piece of paper.
Speaker 4: 02:14 That's an insult really to these men.
Speaker 2: 02:17 That's Judith Frederick, her late husband Walter was involved in nuclear tests in Nevada in 1955 the army veteran died in 2017 after battling radiation related skin cancers and to nerve disease for decades.
Speaker 4: 02:31 A metal is something special and the atomic veterans are a special class. They gave their lives for this country and they are still giving their lives for this country. Just like anybody that goes to Afghanistan, Vietnam, Korea and get shot.
Speaker 2: 02:49 It's not the first time non war time veterans have lost a similar fight. People who served during the Cold War era also pushed for metals but got certificates retired. Fred Bork is a military historian who's written about awards. He says he understands why the atomic veterans want to metal but says it's reasonable. The Pentagon limits who gets them.
Speaker 5: 03:09 There's only so much money to go around and if I'm trying to really take care of my people who were on active duty and I want to motivate them today that my policy and my focus has to be on the present and the future
Speaker 2: 03:25 still. Judith Frederick is holding out hope she'll get a medal for her husband one day. Although she says he was so fed up with the military and the VA, that by the time he died, he had no interest in an award. Let's just say he thought it was too little, too late. I feel a little differently about it. Sitting at her Fort Lauderdale kitchen table, she clutches a letter he wrote to the government in the 80s as he fought for compensation. It's signed yours truly Guinea pig. Frederick says she wants the metal to help her grandkids. Remember her husband's service and sacrifice. I'm Stephanie Columbian here in Tampa. This story was produced by the American homefront project, a public media collaboration that reports on American military life and veterans funding comes from the corporation for public broadcasting.
Speaker 6: 04:18 Uh.
Speaker 1: 00:00 When writer Taya all breads remarkable debut novel. The Tiger's wife was published in 2011. It was a sensation, the book one accolades, including the orange prize for fiction and a million copies were sold around the world. The young author also joined the ranks of the New Yorkers, top 20 fiction writers under 40. Now our bread has a new novel, it's called inland. It takes place in the American wild west of the 18 hundreds, which is perhaps a surprising location given. She was born in Belgrade in the former Yugoslavia and lived in Egypt before settling in the U s [inaudible]. Talked by Skype to midday edition cohost jade Hindman about her new book. And here's that interview, Jay. A welcome.
Speaker 2: 00:46 Thanks for having me. So as an immigrant to the u s it struck me that your new book is about the American West in the 1890s. How did you come to be interested in that
Speaker 1: 00:57 subject?
Speaker 2: 00:59 So I, uh, as as as you say, I'm, I'm an immigrant. I came here at the age of 12. Um, we left the former Yugoslavia during the war. Um, and I grew up all over the place and Cypress and Egypt and various parts of the states once we moved here. Um, so home for me has never really been anchored to place, uh, as much as it has been to people. Um, but when I first visited the mountain west, I was completely blown away by it, uh, and very overwhelmed by this sense of having arrived at some sort of central city, you know, having arrived home. Um, which is weird because I don't have any cultural or familial connections there, you know, no one I know has ever lived or, or, or been there. Um, really. Um, and I really wanted to explore that feeling. And during the course of my research, I stumbled onto this incredible story about these two women who are trapped on their homestead by a creature of possibly supernatural origins.
Speaker 2: 01:59 Um, and the podcast that, uh, outline this story related the, this campfire yarn from Arizona to the history of the Camel Corp, uh, which is a little known episode of American history where in the military brought camels over from the Ottoman Empire to stake out what is now route 66. Um, and I couldn't believe I hadn't heard of this. Um, and the story was all about people from a part of the world, uh, with which I share many, many cultural connections. Much of where I come from was under Ottoman rule at the same time that where these people came from was, and, and I was just drawn in by all kinds of questions about the real characters and the imagined characters and the landscape. And here we are. Yeah, no, all of that sounds fascinating and something that just really captures the imagination. You mentioned your research. Can you talk to me about the research that you did to write this book?
Speaker 2: 02:54 Yeah, absolutely. I, um, I, there wasn't a lot of information the, the project, the Camel Corp project because, um, it was considered a failure here at the time. It was very short lived. And so very little, uh, very few primary sources exist of the period. Um, the, the two main ones are the diaries of, uh, military men. Uh, Edward Fitzgerald Beal and his assistant, uh, may Humphrey Stacey. Um, and they wrote about, uh, the crossing that the animals undertook from, uh, New Mexico to California. Um, and it was fascinating to read, um, but they also didn't quite get down to the bones of what it was I wanted to write about, which was the experience that these men who had come over from, uh, the Ottoman empire, Haji Ali and Greek George. Um, and so I really immersed myself in the, in the newspapers at the time in homesteading diaries and journals that people wrote, um, trying to get access to what people had to say about their lives when they weren't saying it in an official capacity, if that makes sense. Um, and then I, I went on the camel route. I, I drove along route 66, uh, along the campsites that the camel corps established and, and yeah, it was pretty immersive.
Speaker 1: 04:14 Hmm. And just last week, inland was included in President Barack Obama's summer reading list. Uh, do you know if he's reading your book?
Speaker 2: 04:23 Aye. Aye. Aye. Aye. Aye. Aye. I hope so. I really hope so. I was absolutely floored when, when, when I found out, um, it's just the greatest honor I can imagine. And to have the book listed with so many other writers who am I so admire and, and whose work I love. It's just, uh, it's just staggering.
Speaker 1: 04:41 Right. You know, and I want to talk a little bit about your inspiration as a writer. I read that Tony Morrison who died this month was one of your favorite writers. A what, what inspires you as a reader?
Speaker 2: 04:54 Um, yeah, she was, she was an inspiration, um, in so many ways. Um, I think what inspires me as a reader, um, certainly something that Tony Morrison always exercised is, um, you know, this incredible, incredible complexity and depth of language. Um, and I think that that really shows a tremendous amount of trust in the reader. Uh, and, and, and, and, and belief in the willingness of the reader to come along with you. On this journey. Um, the relationship between a writer and a reader, I, I think is a, is a packed, um, one in which the reader accepts kind of on faith that the writer will give them all the information that they need in order to make sense of and appreciate the story they're being told, uh, at the highest possible level at the, at the level of, of emotional and psychological engagement. Um, and, and I mean that's something that, that Tony Morrison did in every single one of her works. Um, but, but it's also something that I, you know, you can tell really early on whether that, um, whether that hand is reached out to you as a reader, uh, and, and, and it's a wonderful, wonderful experience to be invited in that way, I think.
Speaker 1: 06:16 And when you were just 24, you, you were named by the New Yorker as one of the top fiction writers under 40. So I'm wondering whether now, uh, with two novels published, what advice you might have for other young writers or aspiring writers that you've learned about working in this field.
Speaker 2: 06:34 Oh, wow. Absolutely. I have so much, you have so much advice, but I think that the most crucial one that, that I've learned, uh, over the last eight years is that there are no wasted drafts. Um, I think so much of the pressure of writing is to show your work, you know, to prove that you're working, to maybe publish everything you write. And that's not necessary. The drafts that you write that only you see, and that may lead quote unquote nowhere are actually, um, they're, they're building your knowledge base and they're making you more aware of, of how you write and what you want, uh, of yourself as a writer and, and, um, what your overall project is. And so there are no waste the drafts at all, no matter how terrible it feels to throw something away or put it away or, uh, how disconnected you end up feeling from a project at the end of it. It's taught you something and, and you should take that lesson. Uh, you know, you've earned it. There's a lesson in all things.
Speaker 1: 07:34 I've been speaking to [inaudible] author of the new book inland. Taya, thank you so much. Thank you so much. And Taya Obert will be speaking at Warrick's books in La Jolla on Thursday night at seven 30. Teo was speaking to midday edition co-host jade Heideman.
Speaker 3: 07:54 Uh.
Speaker 1: 00:00 The San Diego underground film festivals celebrates its fifth year and continued growth. The festival showcases experimental work across a diverse range of genres and media festival organizers, Ryan Char and Rachel Naco Atossa speak with KPBS arts reporter Beth OCHA Mando about what defines underground. This is going to be the San Diego underground film festivals fifth year here in San Diego. So first of all, Ryan, why don't you start by explaining, how do you define underground? Under [inaudible]
Speaker 2: 00:33 ground is like a really broad term, but we feel underground is any type of media or thing that deviates from the norm that you're being fed through Hollywood through even regular film festivals. There's a lot of different people that make media and cinema and music that don't fit the commercial qualities. Be it because it's too weird or too wild or too thoughtful even it's just a more niche.
Speaker 1: 01:06 And Rachel, would you want to add to that? Yeah, I just feel like that we, we tried to, like our interpretation of underground is that we try to, um, I guess include a lot of different types of work, a lot of different types of people. A lot of our work even, um, that we show is like documentary but also hybrid experimental. Sometimes we have a lot of um, narratives that also bridge with documentary. You can't really put like just a finger on just what exactly at each type of film is because they are so, um, they all, they really do kind of like crossover several types of genres or mediums. So yeah.
Speaker 2: 01:42 And also I feel that underground is so, such a fluid term that say in 10 years, if the media that we're playing now becomes more accepted, then we wouldn't be playing it. If marvel films or superhero films become more antiquated than the underground film festival will only play Superhero films in 10 years or whatever. Whenever that happens, if it happens in showcasing underground films. When you are selecting the films that you want to show, are you looking at both the content and the way the films are made? When a submission is turned into us, we look at everything, every aspect of the film, including how it was made, how it was funded, the types of people making it and the types of crew involved kind of the more information the better usually. So we really request that filmmakers write a lot about their films, not just with like, oh, I made it on this type of camera. But it's like the process, the influences, the, you know, different, different aspects of that.
Speaker 1: 02:44 This year you guys are having some world premiers that you're very proud of. Can you talk a little bit about some of those? Start with a Paulos Zuniga who is a San Diego local. His um, thesis film for his MFA, Acoustic, um, was going to be playing on Sunday night and yeah, that's going to be a world premier. We're really excited for that. The film looks amazing. That's one um, wasteland, which is another feature by Johnny Phillips, um, is an animated five-part anthology that kind of explores on mental illness. And um, one of our other world premieres is a performance by a [inaudible] Fernandez. And the music is by Dios Curie and they're flying up from Wahaca and they're doing a projector for formance that involves analog and digital elements. Oh and Melissa, sorry, Melissa Ferrari is also another performance that we're going to be world premiering. It's her thesis, um, MFA Thesis Project. And it's a phantasmagoria which uses a pre electricity projection technology, the magic lantern.
Speaker 2: 03:48 And you've mentioned a couple of times that you have performance. This is an underground film festival, but do you feel it's important to kind of expand that and go beyond just film? So talk a little bit about why you feel that's an important component to this festival. I feel like that's the future. The future of cinema I think is the interactive aspect of it. There's been a lot of talk about, you know, the struggling movie industry, struggling Hollywood. Even. I read an article that Sundance was looking, cause they're getting a new director and they're trying to find someone who can help navigate, you know, a, a less than traditional, uh, route for independent cinema. And we feel at San Diego underground that it's the interactive element. You want to go see something that you can't just see online. You want to go see something that you can't even see in a theater.
Speaker 2: 04:39 You want to have to have the performer, the filmmaker right there. We have a lot of interactive cinema where people will use projectors and then perform with it. And it's not a new idea. But now I think instead of a novel art idea, I think it's almost imperative, like a very important aspect to the cinema growing, including like I think of projected performance as 16 millimeter, but then, uh, you know, Ar VR, if you can use your phone in the middle of a performance, you know, it's like, instead of silence your cell phones, it's like a cell phones encouraged, you know?
Speaker 1: 05:17 Yeah. The immersive experience or the immersive aspect of the expanded cinema performances. It's just, I think a lot of fun. Um, and also we know that, um, San Diego is more of a theater town over a film town. And so I think that kind of really helps to bridge the gap. At least, you know, here for our community, um, to show that, you know, the live performance and aspect and the like, you know, pre-filled, um, actual print can like kind of merge together to create a really great experience. All right, well, I want to thank you both very much for coming in and talking with me. Yeah, thank you. That was Beth Haka Mando speaking with San Diego underground film festivals. Ryan Becerra and Rachel Naco Atossa the festival runs Thursday through Sunday at the 10th Avenue Art Center.