Arts & Events

New: Oakland Hosts a Wonder of a Film Feast: Matatu Film Festival Runs August 15-17

By Gar Smith
Wednesday August 14, 2013 - 06:25:00 PM

San Francisco has made a habit out of hosting scores of local and international film festivals. Now it's Oakland's turn, thanks to some dedicated East Bay souls who are determined to start something great and lasting. The Matatu Film Festival is well worth a look. Miss this and you'll miss your chance to see some rare and wonderful examples of award-winning world cinema. 


The short, power-packed festival features "a collection of African stories from across the planet that have faired well on the festival circuit," says Broaklyn Film and Theater Co. (BRTC) founder Michael Orange. "We've been bringing a lot of films here recently that wouldn't ordinarily make it to Oakland, and I'm hoping to get the word out about these, as they're each playing just once and deserve much longer runs." 

Screenings begin at 7 p.m. at The New Parkway (474 24th St., Oakland). Tickets are available at the door for $10 or online at: 

Orange is enthusiastic about the line-up for his first-ever Oakland-based film-festival. BFTC's eclectic collection of world cinema includes "a body of stories concerned with global journeys of humility, pride, resistance, and faith, conveyed through film. From stories of black on black gentrification in South Africa, to post-Duvalier Haitian immigrants living in Brooklyn, to one man's process of coming to peace on his last day on Earth." 

"The festival launch is important," Orange tells the Planet, "because its success leads to our ability to follow up with screenings for underserved communities in Oakland." That's why a portion of the proceeds from the screenings will go to promoting BFTC's mission "to share these stories and performances with those who've not the access, time, or financial means." 

So what's on the bill for this inaugural three-day film blitz? Here's the schedule. The following films will all screen at the New Parkway, starting at 7 p.m.: 

August 15: Stones in the Sun (Haiti) 

August 16: God Loves Uganda (Uganda) followed at 9 p.m. by Dear Mandela (South Africa) 

August 17: Stolen Seas: Tales of Somali Piracy (Somalia), followed by Touba (Senegal) and concluding with Alain Gomis' radiant, metaphysical tale, Tey (Senegal). 

A closing-night party will wrap up the proceedings at the New Parish (579 18th St., Oakland) with live performances by Rich Medina, Kinghost, Nina Sol and J Boogie. 

Why Matatu? 

In Kenya and neighboring East African nations, matatu is the Swahili word for the privately owned (and highly decorated) minibuses that serve as local taxis.  

"Matatu not only offer a means of travel," Orange explains. The matatu also offers "a means of navigable access to what is new and current in the world. Until recently, matatu were the only form of public transport available in Nairobi." 

The idea for Oakland's Matatu Film Festival was inspired by the original matatu's ability to transport poor people beyond the boundaries of their immediate lives. According to Orange: "We believe that everyone has a spectacular story, that every spectacular story deserves to be heard, and that everyone deserves the means to travel, even through story." 

Why Broaklyn? 

As Orange tells it, the precursor for the BDTC event was a "Brooklyn Film Festival" originally crafted by New Yorker Adam Schartoff. When Orange left New York and headed west to settle in Oakland, "I brought the series here… with a mission to present stories common to historically ethnically rich communities like Brooklyn and like Oakland." Concerned about issues of poverty and social inequity, he retitled the West Coast version "Broaklyn." 

But there's another reason the Broaklyn Film and Theater Co. found its perfect home in the East Bay city. As Orange delights in pointing out, "East Oakland was called Brooklyn until the 1870's." 

The Matatu Film Festival is presented by the Broaklyn Film and Theater Co. (BRTC), Top Ten Social, and is co-sponsored by KQED and ITVS. For more information, go to