Organic tofu burritos, newly smoked sausages, cold beer and popcorn—the vendors were not serving these at a famers’ market, but at the second night of the Oakland Underground Film Festival which on Friday turned into a combination of live music, improvised video projection and outdoor film screenings at the Linden Street Brewery.
The festival opened on Thursday at The Grand Lake Theater with the award-winning documentary “Thunder Soul,” a film about a Houston high school jazz band and their great mentor in the 1970s, which attracted about 250 people. “I wish it was a packed house,” said Mariana Lopez, a young moviegoer from San Francisco. “It was a very inspiring film. The music was incredible. I might even go and buy the sound track.”
Both films shown on Friday, “We Don’t Really Care About the Music Anyway” and “Rocksteady: Roots of Reggae,” featured musicians in exotic cultures (Japan and Jamaica, respectively), and were projected on a giant outdoor screen in the square of the neighborhood, which is so close to the railroad tracks that trains could be heard roaring past every once in a while. “This is quite an experiment,” said festival assistant producer Matthew John.
At the other end of the square, artists from Illuminated Corridor, a “nomadic public art project” that shares artists and staff with the festival, were projecting dynamic environmental images directly on the facades of the Linden Street Buildings. The video included running deer, flying birds, falling leaves—bits of nature in motion. “Both projects (the film festival and Illuminated Corridor) favor ‘salon-style’ film and music performances where audiences can wander from installation to installation, creating an overall effect of collage and discovering juxtapositions of light and sound,” said Suki O’Kane, project coordinator of Illuminated Corridor.
The film festival’s Saturday schedule includes a Linden Street Brewery “battle” performance of Turfing dance — a distinctive Oakland form of street dance that has roots in the breakdance movement of the 1980s. The battle has been orchestrated by YAKfilms, an Oakland-based two-man filmmaking team that its co-founder Kash Gaines said “seeks to capture the dance known as Turfing, that is iconic of the hyphy movement, in a cinematic way in order to redefine Oakland art as well as Oakland youth.”
Local Turfing dancers, including the Bay Area best-known group Turf Feinz, will join the battle, during which cash rewards will be given to the best two. YAKfilms will also bring a DVD screening called “YAK Like You Know”, a compilation of short dance and event videos. “We call the DVD ‘YAK Like You Know’ because a lot of the videos are to show people in the Bay Area, as well as the world, what Turf dancing is, as well as showcase our style of filmmaking and capturing street dance,” Gaines said.
The festival winds up Saturday evening at the Linden Street Brewery, with the documentary “Mamachas del Ring,” featuring the professional Bolivian woman wrestler Carmen Rosa; and a re-screening of Thursday’s “American Grindhouse,” a film that “explores the hidden history of American Exploitation Film,” as the Underground Film Festival program explains.
“Saturday,” John said, “is going to be nuts.”