he Black Cinema Café; may be the biggest secret in town for movie fans. The monthly screening series doesn’t sell tickets. It’s free by invitation only, through an Internet and e-mail network ([email protected]). It takes place in a nightclub, with food and drinks served. No walk-ins, no advertising, just word-of-mouth.
Oakland Film Society, the group of local African-American businesspeople who present Black Cinema Café screenings at Kimball’s East, likes it that way. Explains Wayne Green, who founded the OFS with David Roach, Kwame Wade, Paula Harrell, and Johnny Drake about a year ago, “We want it to be exclusive, so people don’t just show up for drinks. You have to be serious about film.” In past months, the regular Monday evening event has shown independent feature films and shorts curated by the BCC’s Reggie Scott and Jeff Friday. They wanted an outlet for non-clichéd indie black films, and lined up people with similar ideas in cities across the country. Oakland Film Society fit the profile. “The portrayal of African Americans in films is too often stereotyped,” says Green, whose day job is selling ads for a high-tech magazine. “We’re trying to promote positive images, with films like The Best Man and Bojangles. Part of that is to hold workshops with young filmmakers.” And, incidentally, to market to BCC’s motivated group of 25- to 45-year-old urban professionals, the majority of whom are female.
Sponsors include Vibe magazine, Black Enterprise magazine, and cable TV giant Showtime, so it’s no surprise that Monday’s (February 25) Black History Month presentation is a made-for-Showtime film. Keep the Faith, Baby (aka The Adam Clayton Powell Story), a 2001 docudrama, stars Harry Lennix as flamboyant ’60s-era Harlem preacher-turned-politician Powell, with Vanessa Williams as Powell’s wife, jazz pianist Hazel Scott. The film begins at 8 p.m. Monday at Kimball’s East (5800 Shellmound St., Emeryville), but be sure to allow time for the other important facet of the Oakland Film Society/Black Cinema Café experience — networking. That starts at 6.