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Grand Lake Theater illustration by Larry Hausen

The Oakland International Film Festival brings the world to Oakland and presents Oakland to the world. OIFF not only screens films from dozens of countries, it celebrates Oakland’s impressive cultural diversity and promotes Bay Area filmmaking and filmmakers. As a community institution, OIFF offers a forum for Oakland residents and festival guests from near and far to explore issues of media creation, community empowerment, social justice, and environmental sustainability—as well as interconnections between them.

OIFF film screenings and community events are held each fall at venues throughout Oakland including the historic Grand Lake Theater, Oakland City Hall, Oakland Asian Cultural Center, Geoffrey’s Inner Circle, Regal Cinema at Jack London Square—and, since 2016, Holy Names University.

APPSI is honored to partner with the Oakland Film Society and serve as a co-presenter of this important community event. In addition to hosting film screenings, we organize the APPSI Global Oakland Seminar, which is held at HNU concurrently with OIFF to provide a deep dive into public policy and social justice issues captured in festival films. Please scroll down for details on recent APPSI Global Oakland Seminar panels.

BLM Panel: Civil Rights Law, Independent Media, and the Quest for Justice

Marvin Booker Was Murdered focuses on a striking example of the historical and ongoing injustice of police violence and social brutality against black people. Mr. Booker—a street preacher who ministered to the homeless and disenfranchised—was savagely beaten, shocked, and placed in a choke hold when he insisted on keeping his own shoes during booking for drug possession. The film is also a testament to resistance and resilience, representing the Booker family and their allies organizing to pressure state authorities into reopening the investigation into Marvin’s death. Following comments by OIFF Executive Director David Roach on BLM, non-violent direct action, and the role of film/video in social justice movements, panelists discussed the following.

Wade Gardner (filmmaker & organizer of DocuWest Festival) discussed Marvin Booker’s murder in the broader context of BLM, how he met the Booker family, and the great responsibility of telling Marvin’s life story in a way Marvin himself would have recognized.

Mari Newman (civil rights attorney) addressed legal tools for seeking justice and redress for the Booker family. She also discussed ways to expand independent review of law enforcement agencies and police conduct.

Perri Franskoviak (faculty, HNU Counseling & Forensic Psychology program) discussed the need to improve police training in interacting with people who are experiencing mental health issues and drug addiction as well as the importance of providing counseling for individuals and communities who have suffered trauma.

“Thank you, Chiho, for hosting us at Holy Names University. I was thoroughly impressed with the university, your insights regarding the story, and the panel… I loved the outpouring of feeling from those who attended. To learn that [so many] of your students are first generation, black, and female added to my experience. I’m humbled beyond words by the integrity of your efforts in education surrounding social justice.”

~ Wade Gardner, director of Marvin Booker Was Murdered

Innovative Art Therapy for Veterans

Visions of Warriors enters the minds of four veterans from the Vietnam War era to the Iraq War who are battling against mental illness—Mark Pinto, Homerina “Marina” Bond, Ari Sonnenberg, and Priscilla “Peni” Bethel. They participate in the groundbreaking Veteran Photo Recovery Project at VA Menlo Park and use innovative photography therapy to treat their moral injury, post-traumatic stress disorder, military sexual trauma, and so on. The documentary also profiles the Veteran Photo Recovery Project team—founder and nurse practitioner Susan Quaglietti, art therapist Jeff Stadler, clinical social worker Ryan Gardner, and clinical psychologist Kristen McDonald. With a non-linear narrative structure to mirror the veterans’ shattered lives, the film alternates between the veterans and the mental health providers. (


Ming Lai, director of Visions of Warriors and founder of Humanist Films, LLC

Susan Quaglietti, founder of the Veteran Photo Recovery Project

Rex Hubert, U.S. Air Force veteran

Laura Theren, faculty in HNU Counseling & Forensic Psychology Program

Ronnie Potts, faculty in HNU Counseling & Forensic Psychology Program

“We’re deeply honored to be a part of your respected festival…. The partnership between the Oakland International Film Festival and historic Holy Names University is an ideal one, merging cinema with academia. The Valley Center for the Performing Arts was an incredible screening venue. The audience was so warm and receptive, and the Q&A with Chiho Sawada as the moderator and the academic and veteran panelists was very engaging and thought-provoking.”

~ Ming Lai, director of Visions of Warriors

Restorative Justice in Oakland Schools

Eric Butler, a Hurricane Katrina survivor and pioneer of the restorative justice movement, relocates and finds work at an Oakland, California, high school enforcing his no-nonsense approach to counseling vulnerable Black and Latino teenagers. Shot over two years, Circles follows Butler’s impassioned efforts to nurture troubled youth and keep them in school, fighting racial discrimination by replacing snap suspensions and expulsions with gritty, intimate and honest mentoring. (

Panelists & Speakers

Eric Butler, Restorative Justice Coordinator, Ralph J. Bunche Academy

Cassidy Friedman, director, Circles; founder, Stories Matter Media LLM

Gina Hill, principal, Oakland Emiliano Zapata Street Academy

Nina Senn, Director for District 4 and Vice President, Board of Education, Oakland Unified School District (OUSD)

Betsy Steele, principal (ret.), Ralph J. Bunche Academy

David Yusem, Restorative Justice District Coordinator, OUSD

“Superb…. An intimate, absorbing documentary that grabs your attention and never let’s go.”     ~ San Jose Mercury News
Circles puts the lens on the dire need for juvenile justice reform, with one family at the center.”      ~ NPR
“Thanks again for the invitation to sit on the panel with folks who I absolutely admire and LOVE!”    ~ Gina Hill, Oakland Emiliano Zapata Street Academy

Fighting Human Trafficking

California’s Forgotten Children is a feature documentary that follows a diverse group of resilient survivors who have overcome commercial sexual exploitation as children and are changing the world by ensuring no child is forgotten. This film gives viewers the tools to combat this epidemic and empowers survivors on their path to freedom. (Source: We at Holy Names University and the Oakland International Film Festival were pleased to host a screening and panel discussion of this film, which has become a prominent part of one of the most important social justice movements of our times.


Melody C. Miller, director of California’s Forgotten Children

Genice Jacobs, executive director of Abolitionist Mom

Sarai Smith-Mazariegos, co-founder of MISSSEY and founder of S.H.A.D.E.

“I just wanted to thank you so much for the opportunity to share our film at your school. It was truly beautiful and we all had a wonderful time.”

~ Melody C. Miller