Arts & Events

The 2nd Annual Matatu Film Festival
July 16-19, 2014

Review by Gar Smith
Friday July 11, 2014 - 02:02:00 PM

San Francisco no longer has a lock on international film festivals. Moviegoers, start your engines: it's time for the second roll-out of Oakland's Matatu Film Festival which is set to run from July 16 to 19 at The Flight Deck (1540 Broadway) and Impact Hub (2323 Broadway).

First order of business: what's a "matatu"? Well, matatus (it's a Swahili word) are popular and highly decorated minibuses that fill East Africa's busy streets with color and the blare of onboard music. The connection? As festival founder Michael Orange explains, both movies and matatus transport people to new (and sometimes surprising) destinations. "These different films spotlight a unique journey, regardless of age, geographical bounds, sexual preference, race, and socio-economic status."

Here's the line up: 


The festival starts Wednesday, July 16 at the Impact Hub with a screening of THE GREAT FLOOD, a collaborative project Inspired by the 1927 Mississippi River Flood that blends archival film footage against a background of American roots music provided by Bill Frisell. There will be a pre-screening discussion before the film – a tradition established last year as part of Matatu's Brooklyn/Oakland Reconstructed film and lecture series. 


Thursday, July 17 starting at 7:15pm  

UNOGUMBE transplants Benjamin Britten's 1957 opera, Noye's Fludde (Noah's Flood), from medieval England to the hardscrabble townships of contemporary South Africa. 


KEHINDE WILEY: AN ECONOMY OF GRACE plunges viewers into the world of Big Apple painter Kehinde Wiley. Celebrated for his modern renderings of classical portraits of African American men, Wiley is challeged to create a series of paintings of women and, in the process, discovers new dimensions of black femininity. 

Both films screen at The Flight Deck. 


Thursday, July 17 starting at 8:45pm  

AFRONAUTS is an amusing short film that focuses on an improbable team of Zambian exiles who take it into their reads to try to challenge the US in its 1969 race to land on the moon. 


THE 12 O'CLOCK BOYS is director Lofty Nathan's high-octane take on a notorious gang of urban dirt-bikers from the boondocks of Baltimore. 

Both films screen at The Flight Deck. 


Friday, July 18 starting at 7:15pm 

OYA: RISE OF THE ORISHA transforms some of Africa's mythical gods into pop-culture superheroes as it wraps its story around a partnership with our protagonist, Ade, and his special deity, Oya. 


EVAPORATING BORDERS, a five-part visual narrative blends "stories of tolerance, identity and nationalism" among a series of individuals struggling with migration issues on the island of Cyprus. 

Both films screen at The Flight Deck. 


Friday, July 18 at 9:15pm 

VIRUNGA. Virunga National Park, located in the forests of eastern Congo, is recognized as one of the planet's most bio-diverse areas. It is also home to the world's last remaining mountain gorillas. VIRUNGA follows the dangerous work of a small band of park rangers who try to protect the gorillas and their habitat from armed militias, poachers and the international corporations competing to control of the Congo's natural wealth. 

Screens at The Flight Deck.  

Saturday, July 19 at 5:45pm 

EVOLUTION OF A CRIMINAL is a raw documentary that follows felon Darius Clark Monroe's return to the hood after serving time for robbery. Family, friends and former teachers recall events in Monroe's life that turned him from a happy, innocent kid into a "criminal." Not surprisingly, family poverty played a major role in how one young man became "a menace to society." 

Screens at The Flight Deck. 

Saturday, July 19 at 7:20pm  

OF GOOD REPORT puts a film-noir twist on the tale of a novice high school teacher with a passion for teaching and an extra-curricular passion for a young femme fatal. 

Screens at The Flight Deck. 

Saturday, July 19 at 9:30pm 

MALA MALA is a unique exploration of self-discovery and activism featuring a diverse collection of subjects that include LGBTQ advocates, business owners, sex workers and a boisterous group of drag performers in the trans community in Puerto Rico. 

Screens at The Flight Deck. 

The Basics 

The Matatu festival has added some robust partners this year in the form of KQED, The Registry, the Impact Hun and the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. 

Tickets begin at $12 for a single screening. 

A Matatu Pass - $72 guarantees reserved seating, priority admission to all screenings, an invitation to the festival's launch and closing parties and a commemorative poster. (Note: Only 25 are available.) 

For online tickets and more information, visit 

Tickets are available for sale online and cash/charge at the box office: Owl N Wood, 45 Grand Avenue, Oakland. Open from11-6, Monday-Friday. 

For more information email, call 510-497-0777 or visit