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Globe Trekker: San Francisco
Globe Trekker San Francisco
Actor: Justine Shapiro
Director: Ian Cross
Genres: Special Interests, Documentary
NR     2004     1hr 0min

San Francisco sits in the northern part of California and is generally recognized as one of the most liberal and attractive cities in the United States. Home to the flower power generation and a thriving cultural mix, San ...  more »


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Movie Details

Actor: Justine Shapiro
Director: Ian Cross
Genres: Special Interests, Documentary
Sub-Genres: Travel, Documentary
Studio: Pilot Productions
Format: DVD - Color
DVD Release Date: 01/01/2004
Release Year: 2004
Run Time: 1hr 0min
Screens: Color
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 1
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English

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Movie Reviews

Beautiful host visits a beautiful city
Andrew Olivo | Oregon, United States | 08/22/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Globe Trekker is a travel series produced by Pilot Travel Guides. The hour-long program airs every week on PBS. Each episode features a new country, region, or city. There are about 10 or so alternating hosts.

Justine Shapiro is one of Globe Trekker's most charismatic and charming hosts, and in this episode she just so happens to be paired with one of the most charismatic and charming cities in the world. Justine's journey starts with a beautiful night's stay in a "penthouse," which is actually a tastefully decorated shack on the roof of a hotel in downtown San Francisco. The next day, after taking in a beautiful morning view of the city from her penthouse, Justine takes one of those iconic trolleys to Chinatown. "Yes, people do fall off of these trolleys sometimes," the trolley operator says dryly in response to Justine's question, "It's a lot of paperwork when it happens."

Upon arrival in Chinatown, Justine explains that early in the 20th Century many Chinese people moved to San Francisco in search of more opportunities, but instead they were often met with racism. The Chinese fought back by becoming a very self-sufficient community, creating a virtual city within a city, complete with Chinese stores, schools, and newspapers. Justine says that being in Chinatown feels a lot like being in China, which is logical since Chinatown is the biggest concentration of Chinese people outside of Asia.

Justine's next stop is North Beach, the Italian district, which she describes as having been the center of the Beat Generation movement in the 1940s and 50s. In City Lights bookstore, which was a favorite Beat hangout, Justine meets the storeowner, and one of the few remaining true Beats, Lawrence Ferlinghetti. When asked why they were called the Beat Generation, Ferlinghetti offers the curious explanation of, "Well, Kerouac had this idea that it was to do with the Beatitudes. He was in search of enlightenment. I think he thought he could find it through alcohol, which is probably why he drank so much." Later, Justine attends a spoken-word session at another Beat landmark, Vesuvios. I love this part of the show because my favorite writer, Anais Nin, was somewhat affiliated with the Beat generation. This segment alone got me interested in Jack Kerouac.

"As just about everybody knows, San Francisco is a mecca for the gay community," Justine says as she opens the next segment. Justine takes part in a walking tour called "Cruising the Castro," which is led by a woman named Trevor. Trevor explains that prior to 1849, San Francisco was a small backwater town. But when they struck gold, 40,000 people, from all over the country, flooded the city. Trevor adds, "When you take into account that most of those 40,000 were 18 to 25-year-old men, well, need I say more?" According to Trevor there was even a group of gold miners that openly referred to themselves as "The Lavender Cowboys."

The visit to the Castro ends with a stop at the "The Names Project," which is a museum dedicated to the thousands of gay men from the Castro area that have died of AIDS. Before wrapping up the walking tour, Trevor says that the AIDS epidemic is an illustration of societal programming. "Men are taught that sex is a privilege," Trevor says, "and when you pair men, you have a double dose of that societal programming." Trevor says that it is not the same with women, which is why lesbians are the lowest risk group in the population with regard to AIDS infection. "Those people who say AIDS is a punishment for homosexuality," Trevor says, "have to accept that apparently lesbians are the chosen people." What Trevor means, obviously, is that AIDS isn't a punishment for homosexuality -- or else lesbians would be infected at the same rate as gay men.

Justine later visits The Haight, or the Haight/Ashbury district. This is, of course, the birthplace of the hippie movement. Justine finds that the district has been transformed into something of a flower power theme park that no real hippie could afford to live in anymore. There is a remnant of the true 60s, however, that Justine is able to find: The Red Victorian. Managed by artist Sami Sunshine, The Red Victorian is a bed and breakfast, as well as something a hippie museum, with hippie artwork on display, hundreds of peace sings on display. "I was so happy to be a part of the 60s," Sami tells Justine. "I've taken all the idealism of the 60s and given it this place as a safe haven." This is actually my favorite segment of the show. Hippies are much maligned these days, and often it seems that those who were real hippies in the 60s subsequently turned their backs on the 60s. It was refreshing to see someone who was a real hippie in the 60s who still embraces it fondly. I would've made a good hippie.

The Red Victorian has a different theme for each room. Justine settles on the Flower Child Room, with an authentic hand crocheted hippie quilt displayed on the wall.

And in between the above-mentioned visits, Justine finds time to take part in "art attacks" across the city, visit Alcatraz and talk to a former inmate, celebrate Day of the Dead in the Latin Quarter, take a trip to Muir Forest National Monument to see the Redwoods (the tallest living things on earth), take a surfing lesson, experience "critical mass" (the one night a month when bikes take over the streets, purposefully blocking traffic), and partake of the local Vegan food culture (which she doesn't like).

Globe Trekker: San Francisco is hands-down the best Globe Trekker episode I've ever seen. But then, I'm biased. Justine Shapiro is my favorite host, and San Francisco is one of my favorite cities. My own life is in many ways a product of the influences of the communities Justine visits. In a very real sense, my life is a direct result of one specific community -- the Italian community. My grandparents' people were from Genoa, Italy. People from Genoa who immigrated to the United States typically settled in two places: New York and San Francisco. I was born in the San Francisco Bay Area, and my last name is relatively common in the area.

"Hate. Haight! I've got a new complaint!" ~ Kurt Cobain

The only thing Justine forgot was a visit to the California Academy of Science. As a child, whenever we would visit family in the Bay Area, I would always beg my mother to take me to see those huge T-Rex fossils, the two-headed snakes, and those cool alligators that eerily stared up at us onlookers, perhaps hoping that one of us would fall in. Taking the train from Sunnyvale to San Francisco with my mother to see that exhibit is one of the happiest memories of my childhood. I just remember this great sense of excitement to know I was going to be going to the exotic San Francisco!"
Good video for those interested in a "hippie" perspective
Paul | London, Ontario | 08/17/2007
(3 out of 5 stars)

"This profile does a good job of reinforcing the image of San Francisco as a hippie mecca. If that's the San Francisco you're interested in then you'll enjoy this DVD. I found it, though, to be too outlandish and would have enjoyed a more conservative and mainstream take on the city by the Bay.

From a practical perspective most of the hotels and activities will likely be unsuited for backpackers: the hotels are too pricey and the activities too time consuming, seasonal, or too expensive. Also, a day trip to the wine country or Yosemite are curiously missing.

The price here on Amazon is excessive for a 45 minute video with little lasting appeal. I was lucky enough to find this at the library and borrowed it because I was interested in visiting the city. Unfortunately, the San Francisco shown here is not the one I'm interested in visiting."
A total waste of time and money
G. Foster | Mobile, AL United States | 02/18/2008
(1 out of 5 stars)

"If you want a brief, poorly executed tour of San Francisco counter-culture then this is the DVD for you. However, if you actually want to learn about the city and/or plan your trip there, find something else. A total disappointment."