December’s screening: “This film is a winner by a landslide”

So says Leslie Felperin of the Hollywood Reporter about Knock Down the House, ADFS’s December offering. And she wasn’t alone: Knock won both the 2019 Sundance Audience Award and the Critics’ Choice Documentary Award, along with many other honors.

When tragedy struck her family in the midst of the financial crisis, Bronx-born Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez had to work double shifts in a restaurant to save her home from foreclosure. Amy Vilela in Nevada, after losing a loved one to a preventable medical condition, didn’t know what to do with the anger she felt about America’s broken health care system. Cori Bush of Missouri was drawn into the streets when the police shooting of an unarmed black man brought protests and tanks into her neighborhood. In West Virginia, Paula Jean Swearegin was fed up with watching her friends and family suffer and die from the environmental effects of the coal industry.

Four intrepid women (clockwise from upper left): Paula Jean Swearegin, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, , Amy Vilela, Cori Bush

At a moment of historic volatility in American politics, these four women decide to fight back, setting themselves on a journey that will change their lives and their country forever. Without political experience or corporate money, these women, and a vast army of political volunteers, build a movement of insurgent candidates challenging powerful Congressional incumbents. Their efforts result in a legendary upset.

NB: Oakland’s screening will be followed by a conversation with Oakland City Council Member Nikki Fortunato-Bas, sho will discuss her nontraditional path from political activism to elective politics.

In Piedmont 12/5/19
Ellen Driscoll Playhouse
325 Highland Avenue
Piedmont (near Oakland Ave)
6:30 pm Reception
7 pm Screening
8:30 pm Discussion

In Oakland 12/8/19
The New Parkway Theater
474 24th Street
Oakland (btw Telegraph & Broadway)
12:30 pm Screening & Discussion with Oakland City Councilwoman Nikki Fortunato-Bas
Food available for purchase — Come for brunch!

Documentary Celebrating Humanity, Diversity of Appalachia to Screen 10/17, 11/3

Throughout American history, there has been an undeniable divide between urban and rural America. People from certain regions are viewed as “the other,” and blamed for America’s social ills. Since the 2016 presidential election, that cultural divide has only expanded and deepened. With their documentary Hillbilly, co-directors Ashley York and Sally Rubin — both natives of Appalachia— have made a complex film about complex people.  Hillbilly is an entertaining, informative, and sobering look at Appalachia: its diversity, the consequences of stereotyping its people, and an examination of why so many there voted for Donald Trump.

Hillbilly goes on a personal and political journey into the heart of the Appalachian coalfields, exploring the role of media representation in the creation of the iconic American “hillbilly,” and examining the social, cultural, and political underpinnings of this infamous stereotype.

Billy Redden, the banjo-playing boy featured in Deliverance, now a grown man — holds a picture of himself from the film.

Filmed in Georgia, Kentucky, Ohio, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia, Hillbilly uncovers communities of artists, activists, queer musicians, “Affrilachian” poets, and feminists — all unexpected voices emerging from this historically misunderstood region.  Hillbilly introduces audiences to a nuanced, authentic Appalachia that is quite conscious of how it has been portrayed and the impacts of those portrayals. The film deconstructs such famous characterizations of the region as Deliverance, The Beverly Hillbillies, The Simpsons, and MTV’s Buckwild,” while asking crucial questions: Where did the hillbilly archetype come from and why has it endured on-screen for more than a hundred years? How does it relate to the exploitation of the land and people who live there? How do Appalachian and rural people view themselves as a result of these negative portrayals, and what is the impact on the rest of America?

The Appreciating Diversity Film Committee chose this surprising, valuable documentary in order to have Bay Area viewers ask, “How do we get beyond the typical hillbilly caricature and learn more about today’s real Appalachian people?” Program organizers found themselves eager to challenge their own prejudices and find out more about the rural South, and they invite audiences to view and discuss the film. Hillbilly is a timely and urgent exploration of how we see and think about poverty and rural identity in contemporary America, offering a call for dialogue.

“I’m happy to see somebody trying to cover us as we really are and not what some people think we are. It’s wonderful the attention you’ve paid to so many areas that are so important to all of us. I’m proud to have been mentioned in the film a time or two.” —Dolly Parton 

Los Angeles Film Festival Jury Prize for Best Documentary

NB: Documentary filmmaker Rick Goldsmith, whose films have been nominated for Academy Awards and featured in our Series before will facilitate 10/17’s conversation about Hillbilly!


Piedmont Thursday 10/17
Ellen Driscoll Playhouse
325 Highland Avenue
Piedmont, CA
6:30 pm Reception
7 – 8:30 pm Screening
8:30 – 9 pm Facilitated Discussion

Oakland Sunday 11/3
New Parkway Theater
474 24th Street
Oakland, CA 94612
12:30 – 2:30 pm
Food available for purchase
Come for Brunch!

Sundance Audience Favorite Science Fair coming September 12 & 29!

Science Fair melts your heart almost as soon as it begins.”

“Utterly winning. Like Hoop Dreams for test tubes and genomes.” — Entertainment Weekly

The International Science and Engineering Fair draws more than 1,500 high schoolers from over 70 countries to compete with everything from proposed engineering feats, to computer projects and ideas to cure cancer. The documentary — by turns hilarious, heartbreaking and exciting —  follows hopefuls including quirky nerds, semi-popular kids and slick presenters with practiced elevator pitches, on their journey to the competition. 

These are some of the most brilliant young minds in the world, and their personalities turn out to be as big as their minds. These kids are picking up the mantle of science at a time when there’s a feeling that our country is turning its back on science. State budgets for science fairs are being slashed, meaning an important platform for fostering these kids’ interest in and enthusiasm for science might disappear, and with it the innovation and intelligence capital the future of our country needs. 

But the film’s beautiful, beating heart is these kids. Co-director Cristina Constantini, herself a former ISEF competitor, says, “I was weeping,” while shooting the film. And so will you.

Science Fair is a celebration of intellect and kids who want to improve the world. Turns out science is pretty cool, after all.”

Piedmont: THURS 9/12/19
Ellen Driscoll Playhouse
325 Highland Avenue
6:30 pm Reception
7-9 pm Screening & Discussion

Oakland: SUNDAY 9/29/19
New Parkway Theater
474 24th Street
12:30pm Screening & Discussion
Food available for purchase

Announcing Our Fall 2019 Schedule!

The Appreciating Diversity Film Series schedule for Fall 2019 is out! We will be screening three great documentaries,


Science Fair — an ode to the teenage science geeks upon whom our future depends.

Piedmont: Thursday 9/12/19, 7 pm
Oakland: Sunday 9/29/19, 12:30 pm

Hillbilly — an update on your (possible) assumptions about Appalachia, and maybe more of America.

Piedmont: Thursday 10/17/19, 7 pm
Oakland: Sunday 11/3/19, 12:30 pm

Knock Down the House — the story of four women without political experience or corporate money who decide to take on powerful incumbents — some in their own party.  

Piedmont: Thursday 12/5/19, 7 pm
Oakland: Sunday 12/8/19, 12:30 pm

Piedmont screenings @ Ellen Driscoll Theater
325 Highland Avenue (near Oakland & Highland)
6:30 PM Free Reception
7-9 PM Screening & Discussion

Oakland screenings @
The New Parkway Theater 474 24th Street (between Telegraph and Broadway), 12:30 – 2 PM Screening & Discussion. Food available for purchase — make it brunch and a movie!

Award-Winning DOLORES to Screen this June in Oakland and Piedmont

Dolores Huerta is among the most important, yet least known, activists in American history. An equal partner in co-founding the first farm workers unions with Cesar Chavez, her enormous contributions have gone largely unrecognized. Dolores tirelessly led the fight for racial and labor justice alongside Chavez, becoming one of the most defiant feminists of the twentieth century—and she continues the fight to this day, at 88.

dolores pic

Today’s recognition of the importance of women in leadership, as well as the challenges women still face in becoming leaders, sheds new light on Huerta’s path. With intimate and unprecedented access to this intensely private mother to eleven, Director Peter Bratt reveals the raw, personal stakes involved in committing one’s life to social change.

The Piedmont screening will feature a great taco truck outside the theater for 90 minutes before the screening. Come early to avoid a long line!

“exuberantly inspiring…makes you want to march and dance.” David Talbot, San Francisco Chronicle

Among its many awards:

Best Documentary Feature: SF International Film Festival

Best Documentary: Seattle International Film Festival

Best Documentary: New Orleans Film Festival


Thursday, June 6, 2019 in Piedmont:

5:30 – 7 PM TACO Truck outside Ellen Driscoll (food for purchase) GET THERE EARLY TO AVOID A LINE!

6:30 PM: Doors Open; reception

7 – 9 PM: Screening

Sunday, June 9 in Oakland:

12:30 – 2:30 Screening

Food available for purchase






An Evening of Short Documentary Films with OLLI’s Michael Fox — April 25 — One screening only!

Appreciating Diversity Film Series will present an evening of short documentary films, to be shown one-time only in Piedmont on April 25, 2019 at 7:00 p.m.  Refreshments and mingling will begin at 6:30 p.m.  The evening is free to all—no reservations necessary.

81710be6517181c0d40977bb09011d5fOur guest speaker will be Michael Fox, documentary film instructor and film critic at, Oakland magazine, and The (East Bay) Monthly.  He will explore how effective stories are told through documentary films.

We will be screening two films by award-winning Bay Area director, Elizabeth Lo.  Her films have been presented in many venues, including Sundance, the San Francisco International Film Festival, and Docfest.  These moving short films shed light on poor communities in California as they navigate the effects of ever-increasing states of inequality.  Hotel 22 follows homeless people in the heart of Silicon Valley as they board a Palo Alto bus.  Mother’s Day examines the impact of incarceration on families, as it follows a bus bringing children to visit their mothers in a women’s prison.


Also on the program is the Oscar-nominated 4.1 Miles.  In this 25-minute film, Bay Area director Daphne Matziaraki follows a day in the life of a captain in the Greek Coast Guard.  Captain Papadopoulos and his crew are caught in the middle of the biggest refugee crisis since WWII.  Despite limited resources, they attempt to save thousands of migrants as they make the perilous 4.1 mile journey by sea from the Turkish Coast.

final--2Emmy-award winning documentary filmmaker Stanley Nelson was commissioned by Starbucks to create the short film “Story of Access.”  The film was shown to Starbucks employees following an incident of racial discrimination in which two black men were arrested at a Philadelphia Starbucks.  Moving monologues from black Americans describe the emotional toll of having to live their lives aware that others see them as a threat, and the effort it takes to put those others at ease.

Mestizo is a Latinx term meaning mixed-race.  The short Mestizo, by Talon Gonzalez, poses the question, “who are you?” when your family is multi-ethnic, and the impacts on one’s identity.

An Evening of Short Documentary Films will screen FREE:

IN PIEDMONT Thursday, April 25, 2019

@ Ellen Driscoll Playhouse / 325 Highland Ave / Piedmont

6:30 PM Doors Open, Reception

7 – 8:30 PM Screening and Discussion