Community Cinema Rocks the Bay Area

Posted on July 6, 2010

Sara Brissenden-Smith, regional outreach coordinator for the Bay Area, gives us highlights from a season of Community Cinema screenings. 

I just completed my first full season of Community Cinema — that’s 18 screenings, with more than 30 community partners, 40 panelists, and more than 1,000 audience members.

Copyright Criminals brought out some of our most energetic and diverse viewers. People flooded into the theater and almost immediately lost themselves in the music.  Maybe it’s because I’m a hip hop fan, but having youth DJs mixing Lauryn Hill and Tribe Called Quest started my night off right. Law students, hip hop enthusiasts, teenagers, established authors, and DJs all contributed to conversations about artistic expression, creative ownership, and the overall impact on hip hop.

Last Christmas brought out some of the Bay Area’s finest musical gifts for Young@Heart, in the form of two legendary jazz and blues artists, Margie Baker and Craig Horton. The film gave us a chance to re-introduce our audiences to musical talents in the Bay Area with more than 40 years in the game; performers who at 70 years young still sparkle onstage and have first person accounts of what the “Harlem of the West” was like in its heyday.

Between the Folds brought out some of the world's premiere paper folders, renowned in the origami community. It is always interesting to stumble into a thriving community that you had no idea existed. Watching Oakland audience members learn to fold panda bears with origami experts Bernie Peyton and Robert Lang was truly heartwarming.  One of our strongest partnerships in Oakland is with DEAF Media, and many of the audience members who stayed to learn folding were students who are hearing impaired. We usually have a discussion component that is translated, but for the first time this was a visual demonstration and the students lit up. 

Garbage Dreams brought out massive crowds, including one ambitious teacher in Oakland who summoned her elementary school students to the event in order to reinforce lessons on recycling. In San Francisco, the Department of the Environment was able to provide pictures of the city's waste removal program in the early 1900’s … pictures that looked like modern-day Egypt.  

And so as is often the case at Community Cinema screenings, audiences arrive expecting to watch stories from far and away places only to find themselves rooted in the pictures before them. And it's the final highlight of the season which builds on that idea — our community partners, panelists, and audience all participate on a volunteer basis.  They share their time, resources, questions and knowledge with each other graciously.  A most sincere thanks to all of you!  It’s been a great year full of music, art, and wonderful dialogue here in the Bay Area.


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