Snitow-Kaufman Productions was formed in 1993 to produce film, video and educational media for the general public on social issues from race relations to globalization. We are a non-profit, tax-exempt organization based in Berkeley, California.
"Snitow and Kaufman bring a fair-minded skepticism to everything they film." – Michael Sragow, The New Yorker
"Never ones to flinch from controversy, the two hit all the pressure points." - B. Ruby Rich, SF360
Our Work

In Production

Town Destroyer

The Mural Controversy by Deborah Kaufman and Alan Snitow

How does a changing society deal with controversial works of art?

What does this country owe people who have been historically wronged?

A conflict over WPA-era murals at a San Francisco high school has become a high-profile battle over censorship, the safety of BIPOC students, the meaning of trauma, the rights of artists, who gets to interpret history, and even how to define a political ally.

The case of the George Washington High School “Life of Washington” murals by communist artist Victor Arnautoff is a lot more complicated than the debate over Confederate statues. There is broad consensus for taking those statues down, with most hold-outs being on the far right of the political spectrum. But the call to paint over the Washington murals sharply divides constituencies generally considered “progressive” and anti-racist.

Mural critics see the depictions of slaves and a dead Indian as racist stereotypes that harm students and reinforce racism. Mural supporters say the artist intended those images as criticisms of Washington as a slave owner and Indian killer. They want to “teach the murals.” Such teaching would include not only Washington’s role as founding father, but also as slave owner, land speculator, and to the Iroquois the general known as “Town Destroyer” who ordered the “total destruction and devastation” of their villages and crops.

Students, parents, the SF School Board, local politicians, and national thought leaders have weighed in, asking:  can a work of art that forces us to confront injustice cause such pain that it must be censored?

In our forthcoming film, artists, activists and scholars respond to the questions raised by the controversy. Native American artist and past program director at the SF Arts Commission, Barbara Mumby (Konkow-Maidu), frames the debate in the context of the genocidal history of colonial settler conquest. African American artist Dewey Crumpler contends that ‘response murals’ he painted at the school in the 1960’s would be meaningless without the Arnautoff murals as context and contrast. Others in the film include UCLA historian Robin D.G. Kelley, National Museum of the American Indian curator Paul Chaat Smith (Comanche), artist Judith Lowry (Maidu-Pit River), Rick West, Jr. (Cheyenne) of the Autry Museum, memory scholar Jessica Young (Seneca-Cayuga), and Pete Galindo of the Great Wall of Los Angeles mural project.

Our participants speak to the difficulties and imperatives of building alliances at a time of rising white nationalist movements. “The common ground we seek is not a pre-existing condition or a birthright,” says National Museum of the American Indian curator Paul Chaat Smith, “It is something that must be won.”

Executive Producer for Town Destroyer is Peggy Berryhill (Muscogee).

Help us make this film:

Contributions of any size are welcome and will be acknowledged. Make checks payable to “Snitow-Kaufman Productions” and send to: Snitow-Kaufman Productions, P.O. Box 7402, Berkeley, CA 94707.

In Release

Company Town

2016, 77 minutes

The once free-spirited city of San Francisco is now a “Company Town,” a playground for tech moguls of the “sharing economy.” Airbnb is the biggest hotel. Uber privatizes transit. And now these companies want political power as well. Meanwhile, middle class and ethnic communities are driven out by skyrocketing rents and evictions–sparking a grassroots backlash that challenges the oligarchy of tech. Is this the future of cities around the world? The feature-length documentary, “Company Town,” is the story of an intense election campaign to determine the fate of the city at the epicenter of the digital revolution. Produced and directed by Deborah Kaufman and Alan Snitow. Edited by Manuel Tsingaris. 2016, 77 minutes

Broadcast on over 150 PBS stations in October and November, 2017.

If you missed the broadcasts, the film is Now Available from Bullfrog Films
To preview or purchase the film:
Institutional, community group, and home video rates available

Mill Valley Film Festival
Sonoma International Film Festival
Roxie Cinema, San Francisco
Elmwood Theater, Berkeley
Stranger Than Fiction–IFC Center, New York City

“It may just be the finest political film of the year.” –Film Critic Kelly Vance, East Bay Express

“Catnip for political junkies.” — Film Critic Walter Addiego, San Francisco Chronicle

“Fascinating, wonderful, and lively.” — Tim Redmond, 48 Hills

“Company Town” is a shot of political energy, just when we need it most — a valentine to the weird and wild hurly-burly of the electoral process at the grassroots level, from where true democracy springs.” — David Talbot, founder of Salon and bestselling author of  “Season of the Witch” and “The Devil’s Chessboard”

“I was thrilled by Company Town‘s virtuoso storytelling, its compassion, and the message that democracy can actually win the fight (sometimes!) against our corporate overlords.”  — Josh Kornbluth, Monologuist & Filmmaker

“Riveting…This high minded film lets the personal stories it has uncovered speak the truth to us in a way that “disrupts the disrupters…the best kind of story-telling.” — Steven Hill, Huffington Post review by the author of “Raw Deal: How the Uber Economy is Screwing American Workers”

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