The second annual Matatu Film Festival will run this week from July 16 to 19, screening films about communities of color from around the world, from places such as the tough streets of Baltimore to the forests of eastern Congo.

“Matatu” is a Swahili word for minibuses and taxis in East African nations uniquely decorated with colors, icons and sounds. The films are symbolic of matatus with the idea that “through story we can travel,” according to festival founder Michael Orange.

The Matatu Film Festival was first introduced last year in Oakland, a city with 400,000 people but only four movie theaters, Orange pointed out. The festival was developed in part to fulfill the need of an audience that “couldn’t necessarily find the stories in traditional theater” — in particular audiences of color. Orange said he and his teammates sought out strong performing films out of the film festival circuit — “out of Sundance, out of Toronto,” and aimed to bring those stories home to the people of Oakland.

This year, the film festival will screen 12 films: about twice as many as it screened last year. The event will kick off with The Great Flood, a film composed of archival footage from the Mississippi River Flood of 1927, with a score of American roots music.

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San Francisco Foundation CEO and former Oakland city administrator Fred Blackwell will introduce the film with his mother, Angela Glover Blackwell, founder of PolicyLink. Orange explained that their presence is especially significant since they are both involved in philanthropic efforts that speak towards equity, and a pre-screening discussion will be “mother and son having an informal conversation about their bodies of work.”

In comparison to last year’s event, the festival has moved outside of a theater space into a performing arts space, according to Orange. Most of the films will be screened at The Flight Deck downtown. Another difference is that only 75 tickets will be sold per film, a reduction from last year that was made to better appreciate “conversation and connections that happen with film connoisseurs,” said Orange.

The festival has community partners such as KQED and the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, among many others.

Siouxsie Oki, director of external affairs at KQED, said part of their mission is “to bring people together to enjoy media and talk about issues” — which also coincides with the festival’s endeavors. “We’re happy to be included and a part of the offerings,” she added.

Marc Bamuthi Joseph, director of performing arts at YBCA, said in an email that Orange’s “mission through the Matatu Film Festival reflects ours in many ways.” He said that the festival will spur “an ongoing conversation … in the realms of global south ontology, future thinking art making, and aesthetic enfranchisement of historically marginalized populations.”

Films are not just entertainment — but ways to show “genuine hardships, genuine triumphs,” said Orange. The Matatu film festival will bring a diverse, global range of stories to Oakland, and as Orange puts it: “Let’s travel the world for the cost of a movie ticket.”

Below are some of the films that will be screened. Check out the complete film guide and schedule here. Tickets can be purchased online and begin at $12 for a single screening.

 

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