Between the Sun and the Sidewalk

BETWEEN THE SUN AND THE SIDEWALK follows two fiercely dedicated young Latino political organizers leading a team of new recruits to mobilize their community to support a sugary drink tax. When the state government passes a stealth law to ban all local soda taxes until 2030, these young activists fearlessly battle the corporate lobbying efforts to block them.

In their goal to ignite a grassroots movement for health justice, the young organizers, Christian and Aurora, are undaunted. Tested during their fight for democracy and the right to vote on local issues, the film’s heroes overcome doubt, fear and powerful resistance as they dare to fight back against the goliath American beverage industry.

This story of hands-on community organizing reveals how, through collective participation at the grassroots level, people can make meaningful change that benefits everyone.

  • Helen De Michiel
  • Helen De Michiel
  • Helen De Michiel
    see above
  • Emmy Scharlatt
    In Her Own Image
  • Sean Havey
    Director of Photography
    features: Anthem; Underrated; Homeroom; The Force
  • Brian Woods
  • Jack Fanburg
    Executive Producer
  • Jan Boynton
    Executive Producer
  • David Madson
    Executive Producer
  • Jacob Bloomfield Misrach
    Original Music Score and Arrangement
  • Project Type:
  • Genres:
    Social Issue, Politics, Democracy, Community Organizing
  • Runtime:
    1 hour 16 minutes
  • Completion Date:
    September 12, 2023
  • Production Budget:
    185,900 USD
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Country of Filming:
    United States
  • Language:
  • Shooting Format:
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
Director Biography - Helen De Michiel

HELEN DE MICHIEL is a filmmaker, author and independent media leader based in the San Francisco Bay Area. Her accomplishments in feature length narrative and documentary, installations, and new media projects have earned her many prestigious awards and fellowships. Her films are included in media collections at The Museum of Modern Art in New York, The Exploratorium in San Francisco, and The Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. She co-authored Open Space New Media Documentary: A Toolkit for Theory and Practice, writes on issues in documentary practices, co-creative filmmaking, and community engagement. She teaches in the Film Department at The California College of the Arts in San Francisco.

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Director Statement

I am interested in exploring documentary form and style in tandem with substantial community engagement/interaction design and event co-creation with partners. My films open up dialogue with individuals and broader communities to question, reflect, feel and understand specific local knowledge and other's lived experiences, especially now in this time of political uncertainty and tumult.

Since this story was unfolding over three years, we drew upon a fluid, closely observed verité style. The TOLA organizers allowed us to engage the cohort in periodic group dialogues about what they wanted to see in the final film. Over time, as their own experiences deepened, so did their insights into what would be necessary to include in the story. Their participation in the process of giving the story depth has been key to the structure.

Starting with a simple action -- an individual reaching out to another in authentic connection -- may spark what organizers -- from Martin Luther King to Dolores Huerta and Barack Obama -- have described in their own writings and speeches as the transformative “power of one.”

I have always been drawn to the power of one. I have created two other documentaries in this trilogy around local, pioneering food movements: the episodic feature documentary, Lunch Love Community (2015), and the short film Berkeley vs. Big Soda (2016). In my writings I argue for co-creative and collaborative practices that can innovate, expand the documentary form, and transform dialogues about issues that matter.

I have deep experience creating and presenting my films across a range of screen platforms – from the cinematic theatrical to museum installations, from broadcast television to the internet. Because it explores political organizing in action, BETWEEN THE SUN AND THE SIDEWALK required specific creative decisions be made throughout planning and production.

Since 2014, I developed positive and trusting relationships with the TOLA organizers. The protagonists authorized us free and unconstrained access to their activities, knowing that the film will offer an honest, independently developed perspective on a grassroots campaign from the bottom up. The film portrays the complicated challenges, rewards, and importance of community organizing. Before production began, the protagonists entered into an agreement together with the producers to abide by a hands-off approach.

Since the Stockton organizing story had been unfolding over three years, I drew upon a close-up observational style of filming action in the field. Because of my interest and expertise in participatory models of making media, the TOLA organizers allowed me to periodically engage them during three different workshops and group dialogues to uncover and record what they wanted to see in the final film. Over time, as their own experiences deepened, so did their insights into what would be necessary to include in the story. These insights from the story’s protagonists make up the story spine and underlying themes. They also have informed how the outreach and distribution plan is now unfolding.