As popcorn popped and kids ran around kicking a soccer ball, people laid out blankets and set up camping chairs on 49th Street and Telegraph Thursday night. The whole block was coned off and a jazz band played while people waited for the sun to set. By the time it was dark, nearly 200 movie-watchers had gathered for the first night of the outdoor Temescal Street Cinema.
“We were looking for ways to bring people together in the streets,” said Suzanne L’Heureux, one of the co-founders of the event, “a ‘take back the streets’ kind of idea.”
The Temescal Street Cinema is a free and will be at dusk every Thursday night in the same location through July 22nd. There’s live music before the show along with free popcorn. All movies are family-friendly and are made by Bay Area filmmakers. Part of L’Heureux’s vision in creating this outdoor movie night is to support local artists and filmmakers.
This is the third year of the Temescal Street Cinema. L’Heureux and her original partner, Catarina Negrin, wanted to do something in North Oakland that would bring the community together — when they began brainstorming ideas, initially they thought of a pocket park or a community mural, but then “Cata had the idea of doing an outdoor movie night,” said L’Heureux. “This just felt like it made sense—bringing people together around art.”
After pitching the idea and getting the Temescal Business Improvement District to sponsor the outdoor movie night, they began organizing and sought out film directors to get involved. They successfully have gotten filmmakers to donate their films to be screened every year along with getting additional support from local businesses. The second year of the Temescal Street Cinema was organized by local filmmaker Arne Johnson; and this year L’Heureux is working with Johnson on the event.
Darlene Rios Drapkin, executive director of the Temescal Business Improvement District, is happy to be sponsoring the event again this year. “Creating evening events makes Oakland safer at night,” she said. “Ten years ago you would never have thought to do this at night in this neighborhood.”
When the sun finally faded Thursday evening, the projector cast the movies on the south wall of the Bank of the West building. People quieted down and cuddled up under blankets. The line-up for the night included two art film shorts curated by the Royal NoneSuch art gallery, which is located in Temescal, and one feature film, Pelada, by San Francisco filmmaker Rebekah Fergusson.
Kevin Clarke, a local gallery owner and a friend of the filmmakers who made the first two shorts, had come to watch the screening. As he was eating popcorn, he said that he came to support his filmmaker friends and also this community event. “There is a particular type of momentum in Oakland around community events,” he said.
Next week’s movie is Etienne! by Jeff Mizushima, another filmmaker from San Francisco, his movie is about a young man in San Francisco who learns that his hamster will soon die and decides to take the beloved pet on a last road trip.
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