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One Day in San Francisco

Profile Spotlight: Hervé Cohen

Please meet Herve, who is teaming up with Pierre Forcioli-Conti and SPUR to tell stories this Saturday about city residents and their relationship with public transportation.
Who are you and what is your profession?
My name is Hervé Cohen. I am a documentary filmmaker and cinematographer. I have traveled the world doing what I like the most: making documentary films and capturing human stories, generally about memory, exile, or education. I speak 5 languages and have lived in Paris, New York, Jacmel (Haiti), Miami, and have been living in San Francisco for the past 4 years.
Can you tell us a little about your background and upbringing?
I was born in Paris. My mother was a school teacher and my father was a lawyer who worked from home. He often shared with us at the dinner table the many incredible stories he had to deal with every day. He also shared his anxiety which was induced by a very overwhelming type of work. He gave my 2 brothers and I the love for human stories and storytelling, as well as the idea of justice and political awareness. I became, at 17, a member of Amnesty International, while pursuing a passion for photography. And right after high school, I was torn between studying anthropology and law. 5 years later, I graduated from a Law School in Paris, but then my creative mind won, and I quickly dived into the film world. By the way, my 2 other brothers also work in film...
What inspired you to become a filmmaker?
Actually, my early desire to become an anthropologist didn't leave me, and combined with my passion for travel, photography, and music, pushed me in the direction of being a filmmaker, in order to fulfill all these obsessions.
What do you love about SF?
Coming from Paris, France, I must admit that there were not that many places I could live in the US. I love San Francisco, for so many little and big things. Things I miss from Paris - open air markets, art-house movie theaters, love for good food -  and things I could not find in France: an open spirit and a relaxed atmosphere. I love SF because it's a city at a human scale.
What do you fear most for SF?
What I fear for SF is also what I fear for Paris or what happened in New York City: I fear that the city would lose its special spirit, and its diversity - ethnic and social diversity. I am afraid it's already happening.
What do you hope for SF in the next 20 years?
I hope for SF to be a place that still welcomes new ideas, sticks to its original spirit of openness and tolerance, to be a beacon for risk takers and a real human melting pot.
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