Home Films Drunken Film Fest features a dozen original films a night in bars across Oakland

Drunken Film Fest features a dozen original films a night in bars across Oakland


No table was left empty as moviegoers gathered on the terrace of Stay Gold Deli to get a good view of a white screen that would soon show 12 films of varying genre and subject matter on the second day of Drunken Film Fest Oakland Monday.

The six day festival wraps up Friday, bringing a dozen new movies each night to different bars across Oakland.

Arlin Golden brought the Drunken Film Fest to the city in 2018, having worked on documentary programming in Bradford, England, where the festival was founded in 2015. His goal then, as now, was to deviate from the norm.

“I just wanted to have something that had the same caliber and quality of programming that you would get at a major film festival, but in an environment that didn’t have that kind of stuff outsourced,” Golden said. “There’s definitely a film festival aura to it and I think it’s great that some festivals can do that, but I don’t think it has to be all festivals.”

The program is made up of filmmakers who come far beyond Oakland. But on Tuesday night, two of the 12 films were directed by local filmmakers, Michaela P. Shelton and Madeleine Castalie Delore.

“We really want to support and showcase Bay Area filmmakers, no doubt,” Golden said. “Especially ones that might be understated in other places, but also to really highlight the incredible and professional work that comes out of the bay.”

Intermission during the Drunken Film Fest opening night at the Stay Gold Deli in Oakland. Credit: Bella Arnold

A fan favorite of the evening was John Slover’s film, firefighter fetish, the story of an arsonist recently released from prison with Danny Trejo, also co-producer. Without saying a word, Trejo’s character had the packed house laughing.

Part of what brought Brian Kerfs, an occasional movie buff, to Stay Gold Deli after finding out about the festival through Eventbrite was the laid-back environment.

“It’s in a bar, so I felt like people weren’t going to be serious about it,” said Kerfs, who was drinking a lager.

The event kicked off at 7:15 p.m. as Golden stood in front of the screen, welcoming new festival-goers and die-hard fans of the event. He said the first two nights of the event saw the highest attendance in the local festival’s five-year history.

Neil Ricci, a self-proclaimed “filmmaker,” started attending the event two years ago when he was new to Oakland. This year, he came on the evening of the premiere.

“It’s free, so the price is right,” Ricci said. “I think these movies are movies you can’t see anywhere else.”

In the remaining days of the festival, participants can look forward to the animated film by Mahboobeh Kalaee, The fourth wallwhich explores family, relationships and desires, all told in a kitchen, at Eli’s Mile High Club on Thursday.

At the Starline Social Club on Friday, the last day of the festival, the local film by Samantha Ariel Berlanga, love is not a dreamthe story of a hopeless romantic who comes to terms with the reality of love, Nina McNeely John L’ by Black Midia music video about a cult overthrowing its leader, and more.

Due to the limited budget, judges, programmers and filmmakers are not paid for this event. As for funding, Golden says the goal each year is to break even.

In the future, he hopes to secure sponsors for the event so that any excess money can be used to pay the filmmakers. Beyond submission fees, the only source of revenue is from donations and poster purchases, which are made by Bernadette McVerry, the Creative Director.

At the end of the festival, the judges, who are past winners and participants, will choose a winner in each category. These winners, along with the Audience Favorite Award winner, will have their films made into VHS tapes.

This story was produced and co-published with North Oakland.