Click photo to enlarge
Director Mario Furloni, of Oakland, and producer N'Jeri Eaton, of Oakland, are working on a movie titled "First Friday" in Oakland, Calif., on Thursday, March 28, 2013. The movie was shot with a total of 8 teams and 30 people and filmed during the beginning of March. (Jose Carlos Fajardo/Staff)

OAKLAND -- N'Jeri Eaton and Mario Furloni said there is nothing like Oakland's First Friday festival anywhere in the country.

First Friday attracts Oakland residents from the flatlands to the hills and out-of-town revelers from all over the Bay Area. It's a celebration of Oakland's lively art scene, its music, its great food and its artisan street vendors. But more importantly, it's what makes Oakland great, they said.

"It's not just people black and white, old and young hanging out, but it's people interacting in a real way," Eaton said.

But how can Oakland, which was named by The New York Times as one of the top five places to go in 2012, celebrate its artists and eateries without taking a good look at its high crime and homicide rate? That's a question both Eaton and Furloni are asking in their new documentary "First Friday" which focuses on the event the month following the murder of Kiante Campbell, who was shot about an hour after February's First Friday street festival ended.

"We can't be a city that lives in the top five in the nation and one city that lives as one of the most dangerous," Eaton said. "Oakland is really unique but in a lot of ways I think it's something that Chicago, Detroit and (Washington) D.C. struggle with as well but it just comes out every month in Oakland."


Advertisement

Eaton and Furloni, both UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism alumni and Oakland residents, are the producer and director of the one-hour documentary that involves about 30 journalists. They arranged eight camera crews to shoot all aspects of March's event, the decidedly reflective First Friday that followed Campbell's killing, both during the night and in the weeks leading up to it. The portrait of "First Friday" will reveal a city that revels in its rapid downtown development but can't get a handle on crime that plagues the city.

The documentary will be told in pieces through several people who live in the city and are part of March's First Friday. One team of photographers shot pupusa and tamale maker Teresa Mondragon and dropped into artist Chris Voss' photography exhibit at Rock Paper Scissors Collective. A second team focused on Casey Castro, an East Oakland student of Oakland Technical High School who is used to hearing about violence in her city.

First Friday block coordinator and vendor James "Old School" Copes was the subject for another team as he negotiated what would be on his designated block for March's event while Councilwoman Lynette McElhaney and Oakland marketing director Samee Roberts were shadowed by another crew. Uptown condo resident Dan Tischler acted as a representative of the growing resident population of downtown Oakland while Lukas Brekke-Miesner, founder and editor-in-chief of 38thnotes.com and the person who coined the "Respect Our City" notion after the Campbell shooting, was also filmed. The famous car club near Giant Burger -- Oakland Cruise Night -- was documented as was Solutions Salon, a group of youth talking to a room full of adults about finding solutions to crime in Oakland at the New Parkway Theater.

Eaton said she's long been wanting to make a feature-length documentary since graduating from Berkeley in 2010 and an exploration of some of the best parts of Oakland clashing with its worst is perfect fodder for film.

"It's an Oakland story but it's a story that many urban areas in the United States can learn from," she said.

Furloni said the film will not be a "talking head" documentary but rather a portrait of Oakland and its heralded event. It will not only ask tough questions about a city struggling with violence as it celebrates night life, it will also be a fun portrait of the organized chaos at First Friday.

"We want to make this an entertaining film about a festival that's so weird and so much fun," he said. "It's just so much fun to be in the middle of."

The crew is expected to release the documentary trailer Thursday ¿on their Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/firstfridayfilm. They will also launch a Kickstarter page Thursday where they hope to raise $12,000 to cover the cost of production of "First Friday." It will come out in 10 months to a year and will be shopped at film festivals and on public television.