By Noma Faingold
The textural artistic flourishes by director Gaby Scott, in her documentary short “Angela Wilson: A Butcher’s Story,” mirror the care her subject takes with every aspect of running her Bernal Heights shop, Avendano’s Holly Park Market, from slicing salami to planning exactly how she will butcher the animal hanging before her on a meat hook.
Scott circles the subject in slow motion, using cinematic techniques that look like the pre-fight scene in Martin Scorsese’s “Raging Bull.”
Angela Wilson, 47, who narrates the film, says her martial arts background translates to her current craft.
“You have to do things in a certain order for them to work. Doing butchery is much like that,” she said.
Scott, 33, a six-year San Francisco resident who recently moved to the Inner Sunset, says visually she wanted the film to have two qualities: “Vérité, having customers come in and it being very natural. I also wanted to do night shoots to play with shadows, darks and lights – moodiness.”
The style of Italian painter Michelangelo Merisi Caravaggio was an inspiration, she said.
“I wanted it to be an elevated world and portray Angela as an artisan,” Scott says. “I was trying to convey the butcher as a sculptor. It takes a lot of mastery.”
Credit the filmmaker, who earned a master’s degree from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in visual and critical studies, for making a seven minute short, which entices audiences to want to see more.
“Angela Wilson: A Butcher’s Story” will premiere at the SF Doc Fest in the Shorts 4: Bay Area Stories program, on June 10 and 12. It will also be screened at the 42nd annual Frameline Film Festival in the Up Close & Personal Shorts Program on June 22.
Scott said she was purposeful in using high-contrast lights and darks to illuminate a message or two in the film. While presenting the meaningful, romantic side of daily rituals at the shop in a nostalgic way, “A Butcher’s Story,” juxtaposes how difficult it is currently to maintain a small business in San Francisco.
“There are some real problems in the City,” says Scott. “Showing two sides – light and dark – is a way for me to get people to pay attention to this.”
Wilson, who opened the market in 2007, after cooking in San Francisco restaurants for 13 years, loves that she has built a community-oriented, environmentally responsible small business, where the staff is like a family. But she does not know how sustainable it will be during the tech boom and the changing landscape of the City.
Avendano’s Market on Cortland Avenue has never been anything else but a butcher shop since it opened in 1901. It had been closed for a while before Wilson took it over.
“What we have here in this shop is a tribal mentality,” Wilson said. “It’s the feeling like we fit into this group here and are working together. Even though we don’t make a lot of money, we belong to a group.”
Scott, who works as a commercial editor at the production company Avocados and Coconuts, said another motivation in making the film was to debunk the myth that meat and butchery is a man’s world. Her interest was sparked by a scene from the 2016 Michael Pollan documentary series “Cooked.”
“There’s this backyard pig roast with all of these older white men. The message was that there’s just something about meat, men and barbecuing that just goes together,” recalls Scott. “What? This is bullsh__. It pissed me off. I wanted to prove him wrong.”
Scott had, in fact, built her own smoker in her backyard, determined to make pastrami and she knew women who went to meat camps to learn how to butcher. She also knew Wilson, a butcher who owned her own shop.
“How bad-ass is that?” she asked.
It is movie worthy.
“Angela Wilson: A Butcher’s Story” will premiere at the SF Doc Fest in the Shorts 4: Bay Area Stories program, Roxie Theatre, June 10, 12:30 p.m., and June 12, 7:15 p.m. For more information, go to the website at www.sfindie.com. It will also be screened at the 42nd annual Frameline Film Festival, at 1:30 p.m., on June 22, at the Castro Theatre. For more information, go to the website at http://www.frameline.org.