Monday, September 26, 2011

Oakland Underground Film Festival

Last week was the 3rd annual Oakland Underground Film Festival. Other commitments kept me from seeing as much of it as I would have liked, but what I saw, I loved. The Oakland UFF is a showcase for independent film, with a special emphasis on social justice, urban life, and the environment.

Opening night was at the Grand Lake Theater, and featured Yelling to the Sky, and it packs a punch. The Oakland UFF site describes it with:
A graceful churning of sound, color, and chaotic emotion, Victoria Mahoney’s semi-autobiographical directorial and screenwriting debut has been called “the cinematic equivalent of Miles Davis’ “Bitches Brew,” and it burns as it goes down, leaving you slightly dizzy, staring into the clouds. Starring the luminous Zöe Kravitz as Sweetness and Gabourey Sidibe (Precious) as her high school nemesis, Yelling to the Sky is a coming-of-age mash-up of raw emotion where the only answer to the brutal riddle of urban adolescence is to join in the fight for acceptance and survival.

The film doesn't vary from Sweetness' viewpoint, so you never get an answer to some questions, like why her dad changed the way he did. It had great cinematography (especially the dinner scene), all the more amazing for being done all in two takes or less. Victoria Mahoney was there for the showing, and had a Q&A session after. She explained the 'two takes or less' was purely a financial decision; they couldn't afford to shoot all the scenes she wanted if they did more takes. While that pressured the crew, it ended up bringing a live theater-like feeling to the production -- every body brought their best to every scene.

Mahoney described some of resistance she got to making the film, "Nobody's going to want that film", and complaints (from white, over-40 movie types) that it was "too slowed-paced for today's youth". She said she made the film she wanted to make, and kept going back to the responses of the under-20 crowd to make sure she was on track.

Two thumbs up for Yelling to the Sky. See the website for Yelling to the Sky for more info about future viewings.

The rest of the festival featured an eclectic mix of independent films. At the far end of the grittiness scale was an endearing collection of short films featuring the stop-motion heroine Komaneko:

Did you see any of the Oakland Underground Film Festival films? How'd you like them? How was the after party at NIMBY?

No comments: