Click photo to enlarge
Kahlil Karn, left, director and founder, and Catharine Freyer, co-director of the fifth annual Oakland Underground Film Festival, pose for a photo backstage at the Grand Lake Theater in Oakland, Calif., on Wednesday, Sept. 17, 2013. The festival, which includes international, independent, and Do-It-Yourself film, video and projection art, will begin on Wednesday, Sept. 25th at the Grand Lake Theater. (Laura A. Oda/Bay Area News Group)

OAKLAND -- The fifth annual Oakland Underground Film Festival hits the stage again this week, and the name of the game for 2013 is balance.

"We've got everything," said Kahlil Karn, director and film festival founder, "from international to political to punk rock. There's a perfect balance."

The crew behind the festival boasts representatives from major film festivals, such as Sundance and Frameline, who all work together on the film festival as a labor of love, she said.

"The local content is really good," Karn said. "We pride ourselves in very high quality screenings, and we really want the filmmakers to be pleased with the work. We've seen it grow a lot. Every year, when our sponsors return, they're thrilled to come back on board."

In a city with such a rapidly expanding arts scene, co-director Catharine Freyer said the festival is more relevant than ever.

"It perfectly fits the DIY culture," she said, "where you create yourself and find a place for every kind of person; you're old, young, punk rock or not, doing something in the arts, or you're an inventor -- there is a place for you here. What this does is bring those voices to film, to speak to the audience and find the films that represent the audience. So, any different colors and lives being lived here, people can create and find room for their creations."


Advertisement

Former Oakland resident Eric Jacobus, 31, whose previous work includes stunt work in "A Good Day to Die Hard," brings the martial arts film "Death Grip" to The Humanist Hall. The filmmaker and founder of Stunt People, a Bay Area agency for stunt artists, wrote, directed and acted in the action-packed, feature-length film.

"We all like to do action and show that anybody can do this if they put their mind to it," Jacobus said. "I think that, to make films here in Oakland, it just goes to show that you don't really have to leave Oakland to make film. You don't have to be in L.A. It's a great place, but it's not the only place to do it. There's great production quality and it's accessible, and I think it's a good opportunity to show filmmakers that you can make your vision happen here in Oakland."

Also screening is Spencer McCall's "The Institute," a documentary centered on the Bay Area's worst-kept secret -- the Jejune Institute, which was an alternative-reality game where people gathered for exploratory missions in San Francisco.

"I'm really into people who know nothing about the project," said McCall, a San Francisco native and an animation student at San Francisco State. "I wanted people to have the opportunity to call 'bull' or maybe debate. It does maybe play a little bit with fact and fiction, rather than what a strict documentary would be like. I want people to question it and treat it like the game itself, where you have to guess what's real and what's not. It's not meant to be experimental or abstract, though. It's very narrative based."

The film visits Mountain View Cemetery, the Chapel of the Chimes and sewers running to Berkeley, among other places.

"I got to really know Oakland through making this film," McCall said. "In a sense, it taught me to appreciate more of Oakland."

Oakland underground film festival
Wednesday
Grand Lake Theater, 3200 Grand Ave., Oakland
6 p.m.: "Citizen Koch" (directors Tia Lessin and Carl Deal), free
8 p.m.: "The Punk Singer" (Sini Anderson)
Thursday
B-Side Barbecue, 3303 San Pablo Ave., Oakland
8 p.m.: Local filmmakers mingle, featuring best of local shorts
Friday
The Humanist Hall, 390 27th St., Oakland
7 p.m.: "Death Grip" (Eric Jacobus)
9 p.m.: "The Monster Within Our Shorts"
Saturday
The Humanist Hall
2 p.m.: Hella Tight Shorts
4 p.m.: Locals in Shorts
6 p.m. B-Side BBQ and cinema party
7 p.m.: "The Dirties" (Matt Johnson)
9:15 p.m.: "The Institute" (Spencer McCall)
Sunday, Sept. 29
The Humanist Hall
Noon: Oddities: Strange & Beautiful Shorts
2 p.m.: "Toastmaster" (Eric Boadella)
4 p.m.: "Le Bonheur: Terre Promise" (Laurent Hasse)
6:30 p.m.: "Purgatorio" (Rodrigo Reyes)
Tickets: Purchase at www.brownpapertickets.com/event/413320 or at the door; $10 for each screening, $75 for festival passes
Info: www.oakuff.org/index.html