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April 1, 2014 > Independent film festival showcases local and international talent

Independent film festival showcases local and international talent

By Jessica Nol Flohr

The film industry has rapidly evolved since its inception in the late 1800s. Films progressed from short, silent clips to full length, multi-reel movies in less than 30 years. Not long after feature length films entered the scene, moviemakers began to organize festivals to showcase their creations for arts patrons as well as others in the entertainment industry. Today, the movie business is celebrated around the world with multiple international film festivals.

The first film festival was held in Venice, Italy in 1932. The Venice Film Festival held its 70th annual festival in the summer of 2013. Numerous film festivals cropped up around the world through the 1940s and 1950s. In 1953, San Francisco established its own international festival. The Sundance Film Festival, one of the more widely known film festivals, began in Utah in 1978. It is one of the largest independent film festivals to date.

The Bay Area is no stranger to the entertainment industry. In 2002, the East Bay became host to the Oakland International Film Festival. Established by the Oakland Film Society, the festival is now in its 12th year. The purpose of the Oakland International Film Festival is to Òshowcase independent films made by Oakland filmmakers and filmmakers from around the world.Ó The theme this year is ÒDestination East Bay,Ó representing a desire to highlight the East Bay as a hub for the arts.

This year, the festival of hard-to-find local and international films is making several stops in the East Bay. The festival encompasses the first weekend of April. Opening in the evening on Thursday, April 3rd, the festival begins in Oakland. Screening on opening night runs from 5:30 to 8:45 and 9:15 to 11:30 p.m. at the Grand Lake Theater and Cana Cuban Parlor. Day two takes places at the Historic Bal Theatre in San Leandro and Sweet Fingers Jamaican Restaurant, with screenings beginning at noon. The third day will be back in Oakland at GeoffreyÕs Inner Circle. The festival closes on April 6th in Berkeley at the Black Repertory Group Theater.

Though San Leandro is not new to the Oakland International Film Festival, the Historic Bal Theatre is. The theatre was built in 1946 and, in spite of attempts to shut it down, has been in continuous operations since. It is family owned and operated and hosts special events, comedy shows, films, and live music.

Dan Dillman and his wife purchased the theatre in 2008. Dillman, who has a background in music, film, and technology, says, ÒThis theatre allows me to do the things I love. We get to be the beacon in the sky for the arts in San Leandro.Ó He is thrilled to be hosting one of the days for the prestigious film festival at the Historic Bal Theatre this year and hopes that it will be the first of many opportunities to support local filmmakers.

Screenings at the historic San Leandro theatre will run in four blocks of time from noon to midnight on Friday, April 4th. The day opens with a short film titled, ÒUna Hora, Un Paso,Ó from directors Aitor Iturriza and Bernat Gual. Una Hora, Un Paso is about a Spanish man who has been imprisoned in Egypt for 17 years. He writes poetry and dreams of returning to Spain. After being interviewed by a group of reporters, a terrible event occurs.
On opening night, the festival sets the tone with ÒToussaint LÕOverture,Ó a feature film from French-Senegalese director Philippe Niang. Toussaint, a Haitian slave, becomes a French Army General and a symbol of independence and liberation for the Haitian people. Afterward, a discussion panel will be held.

In all, the Oakland International Film Festival is screening 42 films. Tickets are purchased for particular screening blocks. The full program can be downloaded from, and festivalgoers can also purchase tickets for screenings from the site. This is a great opportunity to view local, independent work and support the arts in the Bay Area.

Oakland International Film Festival
5:30 p.m. - 11:30 p.m.
Thursday, Apr. 3
Grand Lake Theater
3200 Grand Ave., Oakland

12:00 p.m. - 12:00 a.m.
Friday, Apr. 4
Historic Bal Theatre
14808, E 14th St., San Leandro

12:00 p.m. - 12:00 a.m.
Saturday, Apr. 5
GeoffreyÕs Inner Circle
410 14th St., Oakland

12:00 p.m. - 12:00 a.m.
Sunday, Apr. 6
Black Repertory Group Theater
3201 Adeline St., Berkeley
Tickets $10+, per screening session

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