Arts & Events

New: Oakland's Third Annual Matatu Film Festival: September 23-26

Review by Gar Smith
Friday September 18, 2015 - 03:15:00 PM

Oakland's Third Annual Matatu Film Festival: September 23-26

Review by Gar Smith

Rev your engines, film lovers, it's time to get on board for Oakland's third annual Matatu Film Festival, an international convoy of cinematic screenings set to run from September 23-26 at The Flight Deck (1540 Broadway) and the Starline Social Club (645 West Grand Avenue Oakland, CA 94612).

The festival is named after East Africa's "matatus," a Swahili word that celebrates the colorfully decorated minibuses that skitter through crowded streets jammed with passengers and blasting local music. Festival founder Michael Orange explains the connection: both movies and matatus transport people to new (and sometimes surprising) destinations. The films in the Matatu collection, have been chosen to "spotlight a unique journey, regardless of age, geographical bounds, sexual preference, race, and socio-economic status." 

As Orange notes: "Oakland is one of the most diverse cities in the United States; over 100 languages are spoken by children in its classrooms everyday. In merely five years, it has traversed a great distance of sacrifice and reward, from being considered one of the most wretched places upon the Earth, to gaining cool kid props as one of the most walkable, one of the most artful, one of the most tourist friendly destinations. . . . 

In Oakland, new baby strollers, food trucks, Teslas, and Ubers begin to run the streets. But what of the quest for liberty, equity, and for food, and for joy? What of the questions we'd address if we all rode the same Matatu? What stories would surface? These will be our concerns, explored through four evenings of Music, Film, and Performance." 

Film tickets—$12 for a single screening—are available online at

For more information, email:



Necktie Youth  

Wednesday, September 23, 2015 7:00pm – 9:00pm (Starline Social Club) 


Jabz and September are two twenty-something suburbanites drifting through a day of drugs, sex, and philosophizing in their privileged Johannesburg neighborhood. The story is anchored by the live-streamed suicide of their friend Emily. Jabz and September find they are ill equipped to handle the tragedy. Facing adulthood and forced to confront a changing society today's disaffected youth ultimately confronts a hard truth that can't be ignored.First-time director, 23-year-old Sibs Shongwe-La Mer, depicts a raw and captivating post-apartheid Johannesburg. 


Romeo is Bleeding  

Thursday, September 24, 2015 7:00pm – 9:00pm (Starline Social Club) 

USA · JASON ZELDES · 93 MIN · 2015 

A fatal turf war between neighborhoods haunts the city of Richmond, California. Donté Clark transcends the violence in his hometown by writing poetry about his experiences. Using his voice to inspire those around him, he and the like-minded youth of the city mount an urban adaptation of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, with the hope of starting a real dialogue about violence in the city. 



September 24, 2015 7:30pm – 9:30pm (The Flight Deck) 


In the Spring of 2011, Senegal was pitched into crisis when President Abdoulaye Wade decided to change the constitution to allow for a third term. An artist-led youth movement erupted to protect one of Africa's oldest and most stable democracies. In a time where democracy is under siege in many parts of the world, 'Incorruptible' (formerly 'An African Spring') offers a positive, hopeful message while honestly examining the sustainability of a people's movement, and the role that youth are taking in shaping the future of their own country. 



September 25, 2015 7:00pm – 9:00pm (The Flight Deck) 


Meseganio Tadela, 74, is a hard, obstinate, and nervous man. He immigrated to Israel from Ethiopia 28 years ago with his family. He has chosen to zealously retain his culture, talks very little, and hardly speaks Hebrew. After losing his wife, he sets out on a journey that leads him through his children's homes. Having come to know some of life's new realities, he tries to survive according to his own ways. 

ASNI: Courage, Passion & Glamor In Ethiopia  

September 25, 2015 8:00pm – 10:00pm (Starline Social Club) 


Hailed as "the Billie Holiday of Ethiopia," Asnaketch Worku lived her life on the edge of her artistry, over the edge of her passions. To separate Asnaketch from the social and political climate of conservative Ethiopia was impossible, particularly in the 1950's and 1960's. Artists in that time were looked down upon as people who were "not going to heaven." This film is as much about Ethiopia as it is about Asnaketch, a substantive part of the fabric of Ethiopia, past and present. 

Special Performance 

Zéna is a multi-instrumentalist, singer/songwriter and visual artist based in the Bay-Area. As one of the few traditionally trained women who specialize in Kora, the West African harp, Zéna has immersed herself in learning the oral histories and accompanying music of the Jaliyaa tradition within which Kora music exists. She has studied with kora masters from the United States, Guineau, Mali, the Gambia, and France where she trained under Mali's Grammy Award-winning kora master, Toumani Diabate. Zéna will present new arrangements from her upcoming album, "Beautiful News," a cycle of songs composed on Kora, the West African harp, and ukelele. 


Fashion House Marga Weimans  

September 26, 2015 5:00pm – 6:30pm (The Flight Deck) 


Just as Marga Weimans was about to graduate, this Rotterdam native decided to change course and follow her dream to become a fashion designer. This candid portrait follows Weimans during a turbulent, successful year in which dreams sometimes clash with reality. She creates a retrospective exhibition for the Groninger Museum, presents a new collection at FashionWeek Amsterdam and also undergoes significant personal growth. The camera in her wake, Weimans travels to the interior of Surinam. Footage of Weimans' daily activities is intercut with modified, colourful (archive) footage of Surinam, symbolising Weimans' inspiration and family history. 

Stretch and Bobbito  

September 26, 2015 7:00pm – 9:00pm (Starline Social Club) 


During the 1990s, Stretch and Bobbito introduced the world to an unsigned Nas, Biggie, Wu-Tang, and Big Pun as well as an unknown Jay-Z, Eminem, and the Fugees. The total record sales for all the artists that premiered on their radio show exceed 300 million. The late night program had a cult following in the art/fashion world and prison population, as well. All would loyally tune in for the humor just as much for the music. Stretch and Bobbito brought a unique audience together, and created a platform that changed music forever. 

Note: Stretch Armstrong & Bobbito Garcia speak after the film screening. 



September 26, 2015 7:30pm – 9:00pm (The Flight Deck) 


Decades after the apocalypse and after extraterrestrial life had been discovered, the few inhabitants left in a hostile Earth still struggle to survive as an alien spaceship hovers in the skies, slowly rusting away. Tired of picking up the crumbs of gone-by civilizations, Gagano dreams his life away when not living in a state of perpetual fear. After a series of freak incidents in the bowling alley that Gagano and Selam call home, Gagano embarks on a surreal journey that will leads him through the post-apocalyptic Ethiopian landscape where he encounters witches, second-generation Nazis and even Santa Claus. 

Black President  

Saturday, September 26, 2015 – 

September 28, 2015 9:30pm (Starline Social Club) 


What is Black Guilt? This film questions the responsibility of African artists in an ever more globalised universe. Are we victims of our past—forever beholden to our so-called arrested development? How much do these relationships to the ghost of our continent's violent collective history of oppression, exploitation and struggle haunt us? Is there such a thing as Post Colonialism or indeed Neo Colonialism if Colonialism never ended in the first place? 

Special Closing Night Performance 

#MATATU15 concludes with the Alonzo King LINES Ballet dancers in an excerpt of "RASA," music by Zakir Hussain, followed by the North American premiere of BLACK PRESIDENT, directed by Mpumelelo Mcata and premiered at the 65th Berlinale. 

Alonzo King LINES Ballet is a celebrated contemporary ballet company that has been guided since 1982 by the unique artistic vision of Alonzo King. Collaborating with noted composers, musicians, and visual artists from around the world, Alonzo King creates works that draw on a diverse set of deeply rooted cultural traditions, imbuing classical ballet with new expressive potential. Alonzo King's visionary choreography, brought to life by the extraordinary LINES Ballet dancers, is renowned for connecting audiences to a profound sense of shared humanity. 


Here is a list of some of the events and performances that will accompany "Matatu Week" in Oakland. 

MATATU Dinner w/ Saul Williams x Bryant Terry

September 22, 2015 7:00pm – 10:00pm (at Miss Ollie's) 

SOULS of Society Happy Hour

September 23, 2015 6:00pm – 8:00pm (at the Starline Social Club) 

Saul Williams x Black Spirituals

September 23, 2015 9:00pm – 11:30pm (Starline Social Club

OPEN Happy Hour

September 24, 2015 6:00pm – 8:00pm (Starline Social Club) 

Shafiq Husayn x Mark de Clive-Lowe REMIX: Live

September 24, 2015 – Friday, September 25, 2015 9:00pm (Starline Social Club) 


September 25, 2015 6:00pm – 8:00pm (at Duende

DEMOCRATICS // Decolonizing the Imagination

September 25, 2015 6:30pm – 8:00pm (Starline Social Club) 

Eden Hagos (Soulection)

September 25, 2015 – Saturday, September 26, 2015 9:00pm (Starline Social Club) 

Other Kinds of Dreams

September 25, 2015 – Sunday, September 27, 2015 9:00pm (at The Flight Deck)