‘Understanding what we see’

Film featuring Bob Hansman by recent Sam Fox School graduate debuts at Tivoli July 18

Recent graduate Jun Bae (center) works with students in the Sam Fox School's Alberti Program last June. (Photo: James Byard/Washington University)
Recent graduate Jun Bae (center) works with students in the Sam Fox School’s Alberti Program last month. On July 18, Bae will screen his documentary “Bob’s Tour — Understanding What We See,” which explores the community activism of associate professor Bob Hansman, at the Tivoli Theatre. (Photo: James Byard/Washington University)

The camera pans across a dozen crumbling facades. “We did this,” says a voice, shaking with emotion. “We did this.”

The words are at once elegy, indictment and call to action. The voice belongs to Bob Hansman, a longtime community activist and associate professor of architecture in the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts. Over the years, Hansman has introduced thousands of students to the struggling neighborhoods of north St. Louis — and to the racial, social and urban histories that have shaped them.

In “Bob’s Tour – Understanding What We See,” Jun Bae, a 2016 graduate of the Sam Fox School, offers a striking portrait of both Hansman and the city he loves. At 7 p.m. Monday, July 18, Cinema St. Louis will present the feature-length documentary as part of its annual Whitaker St. Louis Filmmakers Showcase.

“Bob was the first professor I met at Washington University,” said Bae, who was born and raised in Tokyo. But as a freshman, “I couldn’t contextualize the things he was talking about. I didn’t know anything about St. Louis.”

That changed two years later, in August 2014, as protests roiled in nearby Ferguson. “I experienced teargas for the first time,” Bae said. “I was completely shocked. I’d been blind to the city’s racial divide.” Photography and filmmaking allowed him “to react and respond to the injustice and energy.”

“Bob’s Tour” began last fall as a class project in “Tale of Two Cities: Documenting Our Divides,” a seminar led by Denise Ward-Brown, associate professor of art. Bae spent months filming as Hansman spoke with groups of students, faculty and other community members; and months more editing the footage. He completed post-production in May, shortly before graduation.

“It’s the story of the ‘divided city’ of St. Louis but it’s also a biography of Bob,” Bae said. “His life is a testament to the problems we face to this day.

“A lot of the things Bob talks about are things you’ll never learn from a textbook.”

Bob Hansman speaks with students in Ivory Perry Park in 2014. (Photo: Sid Hastings/Washington University)
Bob Hansman speaks with students in Ivory Perry Park in 2014. (Photo: Sid Hastings/Washington University)

St. Louis filmmakers

The Whitaker Showcase runs July 17-21 in the Tivoli Theatre, 6350 Delmar Blvd. In all, it will feature more than 400 works, ranging from full-length features to compilations of shorter works, spread across 12 film programs.

A panel discussion with Bae, Hansman and Hansman’s son, Jovan, will immediately follow the July 18 screening of “Bob’s Tour.” In addition, Bae’s short, “Exodus,” will be screened July 17, as part of a program of short documentaries.

Other works by Sam Fox School alumni include two shorts by lecturer Zlatko Cosic (MFA ’11): the documentary “St. Louis Spin (Trumpo Mix)” July 17; and the dramatic “A Murmuration” July 19.

Also on the bill are “My Identity” by Yasmin Mistry (BFA/BSBA ’01) and “A Period Piece” by Julie Wilhelm (BFA95/MBA ’02), both screening July 17; “Me N’ the Devil Blues” by William Morris (BFA ’85) July 19; and “Snottington University” by Zak Zych (BFA ’87) July 20.

Tickets are $13, or $10 for students, and are available at the Tivoli box office and online. For more information, visit http://www.cinemastlouis.org.