This master class with film director and new media artist Helen De Michiel shares the process of making her new feature, BETWEEN THE SUN AND THE SIDEWALK

In a region where 39% of young people under 30 live with diabetes or pre-diabetes, BETWEEN THE SUN AND THE SIDEWALK focuses on a public health battle being waged at the local level -- against the harmful beverage industry and the over consumption of sugary drinks. In cities across the US -- from Philadelphia to Oakland -- and in countries like Mexico, soda taxes on beverage distributors have been used to support community-based health education

"These sons and daughters of farmworkers, of domestic workers – most of them barely 18 years old – are our future leaders. They are learning to lead by doing, by organizing and by fighting for what they believe in. Adelante!"


Dolores Huerta, American labor leader and civil rights activist

Join the Conversation!

Helen De Michiel as well as participants in the Between the Sun and the Sidewalk will discuss the process of producing documentaries in new ways and across platforms on social justice issues

Wednesday, April 5,  at 7- 8:30 p.m.  

The event is hybrid.  De Michiel and collaborators will be on Zoom.  The audience will be in Park Auditorium in person. 

Trailer for the feature-length film in progress, BETWEEN THE SUN AND THE SIDEWALK (Helen De Michiel, US, 2023)



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.


Be sure to watch these excerpts PRIOR to the hybrid event:


What does it mean to build people power in a community? With excitement and expectations, the new TOLA organizing recruits enter the Stockton Project to lay the groundwork for a local sugar sweetened beverage tax. 

2. CHALLENGES   (4:40)

This work is hard!  Where’s the discipline and motivation when you are assigned to get six thousand surveys in 100 degree+ heat? Obstacles, conflict and frustrations inevitably emerge among the TOLA Fellows.

3. FROM ME TO WE  (4:15)

The organizers learn to find common ground and alliances in town, and their new connections with energized local youth rocket the project forward (and getting those six thousand surveys!)


Learning to fight for democracy and the right to vote: the day that the young organizers go to the California state capitol to protest and oppose -- on the floor of the assembly — the stealth AB1838 Bill which will crush their chances for a public health victory.


“Organizing is just the beginning!” The young people are rising up, speaking out, getting involved, and mobilizing citizen participation towards the next historic, important 2024 election.



Helen De Michiel  is a Bay Area-based director, writer, and producer whose creative media making work moves across independent film and digital platforms. Beginning in the 1980s, she produced pioneering series The Independents and Alive TV for public television, created  innovative community media projects with youth, and began writing regularly about issues in the public media and arts field.  Her many films and videos are included in museum collections across the country.

She is deeply involved in co-creative and participatory media practices, including combinatory storytelling which I call open space new media. I co-authored Open Space New Media Documentary: A Toolkit for Theory and Practice (Routledge 2018) with film historian Patricia Zimmermann.  My episodic documentary, Lunch Love Community (2010-15) circulated as an open space project across live and online communities. Along with Berkeley Vs. Big Soda (2016), it continues to make a real impact for global food justice.

She founded and directs Thirty Leaves Production. From 1996-2010, she served as the Executive Director and then Co-Director of The National Alliance for Media Arts and Culture (now The Alliance). From 2002-2007 she served on the Peabody Awards Board of Directors

She teaches in the Film Program at California College of the Arts in San Francisco. Her new documentary project, Between the Sun and the Sidewalk, will be released in 2023.



Christian Garcia was born and raised in a farm labor camp in Watsonville, California. His parents and two older brothers emigrated from Jocotepec, Jalisco in the late 1980s. The first of his family to graduate from college (CSU Chico), Christian was part of the first TOLA class (an intensive 16-week program for individuals and organizations to learn basic organizing skills) and then worked for The Unity Council in East Oakland. He returned to TOLA as the first Executive Director, where he was instrumental in developing the curriculum and organizational structure.

For over a decade, Christian has coached new organizers and provided direction, training, and strategic advice on voter engagement and community outreach for healthcare districts, school districts, community-based organizations, cities, candidates, and other causes.

Fluent in Spanish, Christian believes in supporting and training community members who don't typically engage in the political process so they can become more active. He has learned that collective community and group action cannot be successful unless we create the space for people to share their personal stories, core values, and passion for change. Christian is committed to working with people who are passionate about people and making changes that give others an equal voice in their communities.

Most recently, Christian joined the Reproductive Freedom Movement as Vice President of Government Relations and Communications at Planned Parenthood Northern California.