The Mural Controversy

(working title only)

The Mural Controversy by Deborah Kaufman and Alan Snitow

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

How should we teach American history?

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

These are some of the questions we are addressing in our new feature length documentary film about the recent controversy over Depression-era murals at San Francisco’s George Washington High School.

The conflict began when Native American critics of the “Life of Washington” murals demanded they be painted over because they include a life-size corpse of a dead Indian and images of Indian warriors with scalps in their belts. The critics said these are racist stereotypes even if radical artist Victor Arnautoff intended the murals as a critique of Washington’s participation in genocide against Native peoples. They want an end to the harmful school tradition of students saying “Meet me under the dead Indian.”

Defenders of the murals assert that the artist’s intentions do matter and that the murals represent the real history of this country. They want the school to “teach the murals” as part of the curriculum. Covering the murals, they said, would be “identity politics gone off the rails” and an act of reprehensible censorship against a leftwing artist who studied with Diego Rivera.

Heated debates over the future of the murals spilled into the community and the national press, and there were near riots at hearings and forums throughout the city. The fight – taking place in the wake of battles over Confederate monuments across the U.S. – has become the catalyst for a national discussion about the meaning of reparations, the obstacles to progressive coalition-building, the issues of generational trauma and identity politics, and the ways in which America’s history of genocide and slavery is taught and memorialized. As Roxanne Dunbar Ortiz asks in An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States, “How might acknowledging the reality of US history work to transform society?”

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.

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”

“Drones in my Backyard”

2013, 13 minutes

Drones in My Backyard is a funny and scary video mash-up about the coming of aerial drones to the United States. One day a drone appears in the filmmaker’s backyard, hovering over his head. It’s the catalyst for an extended meditation and free association on the presence of drones in war-making, the role of drones in surveillance, and the thrill of flying when you put on goggles to see what the drone sees. Whether it’s the Predator, The Argus, or cute little Hummingbirds, drones of all shapes and sizes are flying to a rock and roll beat. We see them following us… and listen to the incessant buzzing of cameras overhead.

World Premiere: Mill Valley Film Festival, 2013
Silver Chris Award, Columbus International Film & Video Festival
Science Books & Films Best Video of 2014

“Does a spectacular job of exploring the implications of drones entering our domestic air space…[A]sks all the right questions.” Ken Rinaldo, Director, Art and Technology Program, Ohio State University

To preview or purchase the film:
Institutional, community group, and home video rates available

“Between Two Worlds – The American Jewish Culture Wars”

2011, 70 minutes

Who speaks for a divided community at the crossroads? “Between Two Worlds” is a groundbreaking personal exploration of the community and family divisions that are redefining American Jewish identity and politics. The filmmakers’ own families are battlegrounds over loyalty to Israel, interpretations of the Holocaust, intermarriage, and a secret communist past. Filmed in the U.S. and Israel, this first person documentary begins with a near riot at a Jewish Film Festival in San Francisco, reveals the agonizing battle over divestment from Israel on a university campus, and shows the crackdown on dissent in Israel itself. “Between Two Worlds” has the exhilarating energy and fierce commitment of Jewish conversation itself.

Cine Golden Eagle Award
World Premiere: Toronto Jewish Film Festival, 2011
U.S. Premiere: IFC Theater, New York, 2011
In Competition: Jerusalem International Film Festival, 2011
Broadcast – Free Speech TV, 2012
On the web at Docuseek:

“One of the best films I’ve ever seen about the contradictions of American Jewish life.”
—Peter Beinart

—Critic’s Choice, Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times

To preview or purchase the film:
Institutional, community group, and home video rates available

“Ezekiel’s Wheels”

2007, 15 minutes FREE ON LINE!

Poet Shirley Kaufman gives a tour-de-force reading of her new work in the short film “Ezekiel’s Wheels”. The poem, a contemplation of loss, longing, and the nature of true seeing, was inspired by her experience of losing her sight. Emerging from eye surgery, Kaufman had visions like those of the exiled Biblical prophet Ezekiel. Apocalyptic fires in the sky, wheels within wheels, and a valley of bones are encountered on a journey that leads from destruction towards revelation. Kaufman, an American who has resided in Jerusalem since 1973, is the author of eight books of poetry, and is an award-winning translator.

World Premiere: Jerusalem Film Festival, 2007
U.S. Premiere: San Francisco Jewish Film Festival, 2007
Port Townsend Film Festival
Webcast – Culture Unplugged, 2012

Complete film on Vimeo:
For more information contact –


2004, 62 minutes 

Global corporations are rapidly buying up local water supplies. Communities suddenly lose control of their most precious resource. “Thirst”, a character-driven documentary with no narration, reveals how water is the catalyst for explosive community resistance to globalization. A piercing look at the conflict between public stewardship and private profit. Shot in Bolivia, India, Japan and the USA. Spanish, French, and Portuguese subtitles.

Cine Golden Eagle Award
The Chris Award, Columbus International Film Festival
First Place, EarthVision Environmental Film Festival
World Premiere: Full Frame Film Festival, Durham
Hot Docs Film Festival, Toronto
Margaret Mead Film Festival, New York
World Social Forum, Porto Allegre

clappingman“A provocative look at the current and upcoming water wars. After seeing ‘Thirst’, it will be hard to ever take water for granted.” – San Francisco Chronicle

“See this film and be inspired to act.” Peter Gleick, Pacific Institute

PBS “P.O.V.”, 2004

On the web at Docuseek:

To preview or purchase the film –
Institutional, community group, and home video rates available. With companion study guide.

Thirst: Fighting the Corporate Theft of Our Water

Thirst: Fighting the Corporate Theft of Our Water

A Book By Alan Snitow & Deborah Kaufman, with Michael Fox. Jossey-Bass, an imprint of Wiley & Sons, 2007, Cloth, 275 pages

Beginning where the documentary film leaves off, Thirst investigates eight recent high-profile controversies over the corporate takeover of water in the United States and illuminates how and why ordinary people are fighting back both here and abroad. Engrossing and alarming, these character-based stories focus on citizen battles to maintain public control of local water systems and on struggles to challenge the bottled water industry.

2008 Nautilus Book Awards Gold Winner – Conscious Media/Journalism

“A riveting and engaging account.”
Carl Pope, Sierra Club

“Passionate…every American should read it.” Maude Barlow, United Nations Senior Advisor on Water

C-Span book talk at Barnes and Noble, Stockton, CA:

To purchase the book visit – or

“Secrets of Silicon Valley”

2001, 60 minutes

A one hour documentary film revealing the hidden downsides of the Internet revolution. “Secrets” is also a funny and moving meditation on America’s love affair with technology. Told without narration, the film chronicles a tumultuous year in the lives of two young activists, Magda Escobar and Raj Jayadev, grappling with temporary work, the digital divide, toxic waste, and the growing gap between the haves and the have nots in the New Economy.

“Secrets of Silicon Valley’ is a hit.”
– The New York Times

“A great documentary. This could be the new Harvest of Shame.” Alex Bennett, C-Net Radio

Secrets of Silicon Valley will make you think, reflect, discuss, argue. You won’t be seeing this on the network news.” Jan Wahl, KCBS Radio

“A pungent if sympathetic look at the undersung, underpaid hordes of blue-collar workers who do technology’s dirty work.” Variety

New York Times feature story:

PBS “Independent Lens”, 2001
On the web at Fandor

To preview or purchase the film –
Institutional, community group, and home video rates available.

With companion study guide:

“Blacks and Jews”

1997, 85 minutes, Co-Produced with Bari Scott

An 85 minute feature length documentary film – made collaboratively by Jewish and Black filmmakers – examining key contemporary conflicts between the Black and Jewish communities. An invaluable tool for increasing mutual understanding and building coalitions for social justice, not just between Blacks and Jews, but among all groups.

“Provocative and absorbing…’Blacks and Jews’ will undermine stereotypes, inspire discussion and help repair a wrongly damaged relationship.” Roger Ebert

“This 85 minute film will ignite you!” Mandy Patinkin

New York Times feature story:

Sundance Film Festival, 1997
PBS “P.O.V”, 1997
On the web at Fandor:

To preview or purchase the film –
Institutional, community group, and home video rates available. With companion study guide:

“Blacks and Jews: Ambivalent Allies” Radio Series

1994, Four 1 hour shows
Co-Produced with Bari Scott and KPFA/Pacifica Radio

Bari Alan David

A four hour radio series looking at ethnic identity, stereotypes, racism and anti-Semitism, the Civil Rights Movement, and the potential future cooperation and conflict between the two ethnic groups. A cultural journey through music, storytelling, poetry and interviews throughout the U.S. With Cornel West, Michael Lerner, Henry Louis Gates, Letty Cottin Pogrebin, Anna Deavere Smith, Steven Spielberg, and Patricia Williams.

Available from Pacifica Program Service – 800-735-0230