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Temescal Street Cinema, now a neighborhood institution, must seek new funding

on June 24, 2011

Ash Reiter performs before the sun went down and the films started Thursday.

Thanks to a tip from a friend who knows the filmmakers, Jo and Rebecca Bauen of Oakland’s Glenview neighborhood made the trip to the Temescal Street Cinema on a steadily cooling Thursday evening after another hot day.

The street cinema is in its fourth year and regularly draws between 150 and 200 people to a wall of the Bank of the West building on 49th Street, a half block up from Telegraph Avenue, every Thursday for a few weeks each summer. A local band plays while it’s light out and the crowd filters in, and documentaries and short films made by local filmmakers are projected onto the wall after it gets dark. Thursday was the third of six showings this summer (the last showing is July 14), and the first for the Bauens. They used to go to the Parkway Theater before it closed in 2009. “Devastating,” Rebecca Bauen said.

Some plastic chairs were set up for the show, but most of the crowd of around 200 either brought their own or sat on the sidewalk. The Bauens brought purple and yellow fold-up chairs they set up in a prime spot close to both the Guerrilla Grub food truck and Butterfat Bakery stand where they had a straightaway view of the screen. They were here for obvious reasons. “It’s a summer night and this neighborhood has some interesting things going on,” Rebecca Bauen said, as the band Ash Reiter played and the sun started to set.

Thursday night’s film was “TRUST: Second Acts in Young Lives,” a documentary by Nancy Kelly and Kenji Yamamoto that follows the lives of the teen actors in Chicago’s Albany Park Theater Project as they produce a show based on the difficult life of Marlin, an 18-year-old immigrant from Honduras.

The street cinema was launched by two neighbors with rented equipment who were looking for a way to bring people in the community together. It caught on immediately, and now a team of eight pitches in to help organizer and co-founder Suzanne L’Heureux. L’Heureux has organized the event every year, and she said she’s picked up a bit of film knowledge along the way. “It’s been really a great journey for me over the past few years because I’ve learned so much about the Bay Area film community,” she said.

L’Heureux said she likes the diversity of this year’s lineup of films. Elizabeth Bernstein and Carrie Hott, co-directors and owners of the Royal NoneSuch Gallery, a Temescal art gallery, helped organize the festival and selected the short films for the second year in a row. Alfonso Alvarez of the illuminated corridor joined as AV manager and runs the projector and sound. Filmmakers Kathleen Quillian and Gilbert Guerrero each selected films for a night as well. “Typically, we’ve just done documentaries,” L’Heureux said. This year’s lineup will feature, among others, “D-Tour,” the story of Rogue Wave drummer and keyboardist Pat Spurgeon’s struggle to tour with the band despite a failing kidney, and “Sons of a Gun,” about the life of three schizophrenic men after they are evicted from their home.

Next year could bring more changes. L’Heureux said the Temescal Business Improvement District, which funds the street cinema, will not be able to do so next year because money will instead be ticketed for street improvement projects. L’Heureux said that while the improvement district offered to help find sponsors for next year’s series, she would prefer to fund it through grants and some help from her friends. “I’m hoping these creative individuals who have a lot of connections will help me figure out how to do that,” she said of the staff.

L’Heureux said she’s confident the popular event will keep going. “I want it to stay, for sure,” she said.

Before they rolled out a red blanket and Thursday’s film began, Jo and Rebecca Bauen sounded like they’d be back. “I think about how nice it would be to have something like this in our neighborhood,” Jo Bauen said.

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Photo by Basil D Soufi
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