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Oakland International Film Festival Rolls Out the Red Carpet

October 10, 2008

By Angela Woodall

Everyone was a star Thursday night as the red carpet rolled out for the Oakland International Film Festival.

Movie talk and Bay Area celebrity chatter filled the block around the Grand Lake Theatre, where the festival — now in its seventh year — will run until Thursday.

The opening night effort was aimed at showing people that film festivals are “not just frivolous,” said event coordinator Jackie Wright, as a calypso version of “I Will Survive” played in the background. “They really can be important.”

The purpose of the festival is to expose new types of movies, said Kajay Dunkerson, 17, who was joined by four other students from the Bayview Foundation Film and Music class in San Francisco. Their film “Hood Life” is due to be released in February.

The festival, launched in 2002, is the brainchild of David Roach and fellow members of the Oakland Film Society, Johnny Drake, Sharon Norwood and Paul Roach. The Oakland filmmakers created the festival to benefit the community and provide a vehicle for moviemakers to promote their work.

“There’s so much creative talent here,” David Roach said.

The year 2002 was a momentous one, with fallout still descending from the 2000 presidential elections, Internet dot-com bust and the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks — not the easiest time financially to start a film festival in a city that struggles to make a name for itself artistically in San Francisco’s shadow.

“However, there’s never a wrong time to do the right thing,” David Roach said, quoting Helen Keller.

So far, the festival has grown slowly, he said, as the Film Society has tried to lay the foundation for a robust, mainstream venue that will create jobs and drive creativity. To accomplish that feat, David Roach said, the society is trying to get the mayor’s office, city agencies, merchant associations and schools on board to support the festival’s growth to “make Oakland a destination.”

David Roach said he travels widely to find films for the venue, including to the Cannes and Sundance festivals, looking for documentary and narrative pieces that carry a common thread of human experience, which is reflected in the offerings that began Thursday with Oakland-produced “Equinox” and “Traces of the Trade,” a film about the slave trade that takes place in Rhode Island, Ghana and Cuba. Other offerings — some of which will be shown again during the week– come from Latin America, Africa and Europe, including “Charcoal Traffic,” the first fictional film shot in Somalia in more than 15 years. It is a dramatic story of two brothers trapped in a murderous cycle of environmental and cultural devastation in the East African country still scarred by war, political turmoil and famine. It will be shown the last day of the festival.

The festival begins Day 2 at 6 p.m. today with “Mrs. Brown’s Beauty,” a 12-minute documentary featuring the artwork of 79-year old Inez Brown, who discovered her artistic talent at the age of 74.

That is followed by “Ezra,”"No es una Buena Idea” and the Oakland-based “Hood Games,” about the effort to build a skate and mural park at DeFremery Park in West Oakland. Other nights provide a documentary about the hip-hop scene in Cuba and the reality of politics in the Caribbean island, gay sensibilities during the Harlem Renaissance, pharmaceutical abuse and, Day 7, “Koryo Saram,” about the Stalin-era expulsion of Koreans from the Soviet Union to the hinterland Central Asian steppes.

“The James Baldwin Anthology” follows, documenting the life and times of the author and Civil Rights activist.

“Public Enemy: Welcome to the Terrordome,” opens Thursday, Day 8 and the final curtain call. It will be followed by “Made in Japan” and the sole romantic comedy, “Broke Joe Needs Love Too,” about love and the value of a man. It is described as “love versus materialism,” starring Jon Henry Doyle, Leona Harris and Eric Ward.

Once the festival wraps up Thursday, it will be time to start planning the next one.

The festival fills an important void, said Arif Khatib, founder of the African American Ethnic Sports Hall of Fame, which produced a short film “Because They Believed.”

Khatib stood with Rosie Bonds, a 1964 Olympics competitor and aunt of Giants slugger Barry Bonds, and Don Johnson, a legendary tennis player. That void, he said, was left by the demise of Oakland’s Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame, which ended in 1993.

The festival is “badly needed because we have incredible talent here.”

That’s all for now, ladies and gentlemen. But if you have a cool shindig, e-mail me at awoodall@bayareanewsgroup.com or visit the Night Owl blog /www.ibabuzz.com/nightowl for more events and oddities.If you go– The Oakland International Film Festival runs from Thursday until Oct. 16 at the Grand Lake Theatre, 3200 Grand Ave. The films are divided into blocks, from 6 p.m. to 8:15 p.m. and from 9 p.m. to 11:15 p.m. Tickets are $10 per block of movies. Passes for all seven days are available for $99 to $250, plus processing fees. — Details, ticket prices and a schedule of films are available at www.oiff.org. The e-mail is info@oiff.org. — The Vine wine bar, 3343 Lakeshore Ave., will stay open until 1 a.m. to accommodate after-festival entertainment.

Originally published by Angela Woodall , Oakland Tribune.

(c) 2008 Oakland Tribune. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All rights Reserved.




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