Why does Oakland need an International Black Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Film Festival and Pride Celebration, when the mother of all gay film festivals and the daddy of all Pride Days take place right across the pond? Sure, Oakland is home to the largest population of African and African-American gays and lesbians in Northern California; but it’s not a numbers thing, really. LGBT Left Bayers’ pride of place demands its own community get-down, reflecting the soul and love that lets us know we’re there. “It feels really good to be black and gay in Oakland,” says festival cofounder Joe Hawkins. While San Francisco’s Pride celebration gets all the publicity and hordes of tourists, he says, it’s pretty much a white thing — and the San Francisco gay scene doesn’t always foster racial harmony. The film festival, in its third year, brings together the work of local filmmakers and international stars. Festival cofounder and program director Debra Wilson shows a rough cut of her new documentary Jumpin’ the Broom, about marriage and commitment ceremonies in the African-American gay community, while J.S. Ingram will premiere Undercover Cross, an investigation of the impact of HIV on family, community, and art. “There are so many black filmmakers and films out there that otherwise may not be screened, or, if they are, they get lost in the larger film festivals like San Francisco,” Wilson says. Also on the program: Strange Fruit, a thriller directed by Kyle Schickner about the investigation of the murder of a gay black man in backwoods Louisiana; and Madame Satã, by Brazilian director Karim Aïnouz. An indie film festival blockbuster when it opened in 2003, it’s the true story of João Francisco dos Santos, the flamboyant, street-fighting, macho transvestite cabaret star of 1930s Rio de Janeiro.
The three-day film festival is part of the fourth annual Bay Area Black in the Life Pride celebration. Other events include a family day in F.M. Smith Park with entertainment by singer RAZ B, formerly of the boy band B2K. Sponsors include AIDS Project of the East Bay, National Gay & Lesbian Task Force, the ACLU, and the City of Oakland. A word to the wise: Last year, all screenings sold out.
The film festival kicks off Thursday at 6 p.m. at the Parkway Theater, 1834 Park Blvd., Oakland, with more screenings on Saturday and Sunday. For all Black LGBT Pride events, visit BBITL.net or call 510-814-2400. — Susan Kuchinskas
The circus is amongus
In this age of pretentious takes on the circus experience, there’s something to be said for tradition. Who needs New Age set pieces when you’ve got real, live tigers, elephants, and clowns? Certainly not Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey. “The Greatest Show on Earth” is now in its 135th year and features ringmaster Tyron McFarlan, Bello the clown, human cannonballs Brian and Tina Miser, the Windy City acrobats, Taba the tiger-tamer, and more. At the Oakland Arena Wednesday through Sunday. Ringling.com or 510-625-TIXS. — Eric K. Arnold
No Matter How You Slice It
No longer the poor cousin of the Gilroy Garlic Festival, the Hayward Zucchini Festival has blossomed into one of the Bay Area’s best regional summer hoo-hahs, with two days of zany zukes, the requisite arts and crafts booths, a cooking contest featuring Mystery Chefs, a classic car show, the Zucchini Rangers, face painting and a myriad of other kids’ activities, a zucchini carving contest, a wine-and-microbrew garden, and acres of foodstuffs — all built around the lowly, unlovely Veggie That Could. Did we mention live music? Two days of 4:30-to-midnight rock, jazz, and boogie. It all happens at Kennedy Park. $5; seniors and handicapped $2; kids under 5 free. For more info: 510-264-9466. — Kelly Vance
There are at least two good reasons for you to stop by Over the Edge, a group show at the Gallery of Urban Art (1266 66th St., Emeryville, TheGalleryofUrbanArt.com) curated by sculptor Tony Natsoulas, between now and September 24. First, Natsoulas has brought together “bold, sometimes outrageous” sculpture and paintings, which he claims when put together “should create the end of the world.” Apocalypse notwithstanding, sales from the show go to benefit HIV charities. — Fritz Brantley