Through film, young artists document the diverse stories and people creating change in Oakland
In 2018, the city of Oakland, California, received a lot of attention. It was the subject and film location for the two critically acclaimed films Blindspotting and Sorry to Bother You. It made headlines around the country after a white woman, bestowed with the nickname BBQ Becky, called the police on a black family for using a charcoal grill at a non-designated grilling area at Lake Merritt. It is also where 18-year-old Nia Wilson, a black woman, was attacked and killed by a white man as she exited a train in a BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) station. Wilson’s death set off a series of protests, highlighting both the racial and gender dynamics of the crime and the heightened sense of fear people of color experience daily in Trump’s America.
Whatever its reputation among those outside of it, it’s clear that Oakland cannot be pigeonholed or described just one way. The city is comprised of diverse, creative. and dynamic residents who are dealing with some of the most pressing issues facing urban areas. And there is an ongoing movement among its young people to document the creative ways that Oaklanders are changing their city, and the world, for the better.
In December, three teams of young filmmakers representing different local community organizations produced and premiered three films documenting the ways that individuals and groups create positive social change in Oakland. This was done in partnership with Oakland Cuts, a project which provides emerging filmmakers the opportunity to create, film, and share their work with the public in Oakland.
After viewing each film in January, I had the chance to interview some of the filmmakers via email about their work, the current culture of Oakland, and how the films contribute to the national conversation about Oakland in general.