Moviegoers settle in for opening night of the Drunken Film Fest at Stay Gold Deli in Oakland on Monday, Oct. 10, 2022. Credit: Bella Arnold

No table was left unfilled as film lovers gathered on the patio of Stay Gold Deli to get a good view of a white screen that would soon show 12 films ranging in genre and subject matter on the second day of the Drunken Film Fest Oakland on Monday.

The six-day festival ends Friday, bringing a dozen new films each night to different bars in Oakland.

Arlin Golden brought the Drunken Film Fest to the city in 2018, after working 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 would be at a major film festival, but in an environment that didn’t have any of those kinds of externalized things,” Golden said. “There is definitely a film festival aura and I think it’s great that some festivals are able to curate that, but I don’t think that has to be every festival.” 

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

“We definitely want to support and showcase Bay Area filmmakers, no doubt,” Golden said. “Especially ones that might be underplayed in other places, but also to just really highlight what amazing and professional work is coming out of the Bay.”

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

A fan favorite of the night was John Slover’s film, Fire-Man’s Fetish, the story of an arsonist recently released from prison starring Danny Trejo, who was also a co-producer. Without saying a word, Trejo’s character had the packed house laughing. 

Part of what brought Brian K., a casual film enthusiast, to Stay Gold Deli after discovering the festival through Eventbrite was the laid-back environment.

“It’s at a bar, so I felt like it wasn’t going to be people who were serious about it,” said Brian, 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 diehard fans of the event. He said the first two nights of the event had the largest turnout in the local festival’s five-year history. 

Neil Ricci, a self-proclaimed “movie guy” started attending the event two years ago when he was new to Oakland. This year, he came on opening night.

“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, attendees can look forward to Mahboobeh Kalaee’s animated film, The Fourth Wall, which 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 festival’s final day, there will be screenings of Samantha Ariel Berlanga’s local film, Love is Not a Dream, the story of a hopeless romantic coming to terms with the reality of love, Nina McNeely’s  John L’ by Black Midi, a music video about a cult overthrowing its leader,  and more.

Due to the limited budget, judges, programmers, and filmmakers are not being paid for this event. As far as funding goes, Golden says that the goal every year is to break even. 

In the future, he hopes to get sponsors for the event so any excess money could go toward paying the filmmakers. Beyond submission fees, the only source of revenue is through donations and purchases of posters, which are made by Bernadette McVerry, the creative director. 

At the end of the festival, the judges, who are former winners and participants, will choose a winner from each category. Those winners, along with the winner of the audience favorite award, will get their films made into VHS tapes.

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