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Alemany market to transform into free, pop-up drive-in

A Bernal Heights Outdoor Cinema film screening at Precita Park. | Photo: Courtesy of Audrey Ray Daniel/Bernal Heights Outdoor Cinema
By Nikki Collister - Published on September 17, 2020.

Since 2004, Bernal Heights Outdoor Cinema has showcased the work of local filmmakers in a series of free, community-focused events. From screenings in Precita Park to an annual “film crawl” along Cortland Avenue, each BHOC season aims to increase exposure for local filmmakers and artists. 

This year, amid San Francisco’s cautious reopening, organizers are determined to stay true to that mission — even if it means pivoting to a new format.

With drive-ins becoming more common in San Francisco and the greater Bay Area, BHOC has decided to put its own local spin on the concept, turning the northwest wall of Alemany Plaza into a movie screen.

Dubbed South Slope Cinema, the site of the long-running Alemany Farmers and Flea markets will host two screenings on October 9 and 16. (Dates are subject to change, based on SF Department of Public Health guidance.)

"The pandemic forced us to re-imagine how to present a Bernal-local, outdoor experience and still keep our audience, volunteers and crew safe," said BHOC co-founder Anne Batmale in a statement. "Thus, the idea of a pop-up drive-in."

Parked six feet away from each other, moviegoers will tune into the audio using their cars’ FM radio.

To ensure the safety of the audience and volunteers, event organizers say they'll enforce social distancing rules, and limit restroom capacity. Attendees must wear a mask anytime they leave their car.

Alemany Plaza, site of the Alemany Farmers Market, will be converted to a neighborhood drive-in for BHOC's 2020 season. | Photo: Nikki Collister/Hoodline

The 2020 lineup will include over 30 selections by local filmmakers, ranging from animated shorts and music videos to documentaries, dramas, and comedies.

In choosing films for this year’s lineup, co-founder Leslie Lombre said that BHOC wanted to reflect the same diversity it always has, while highlighting works "that subtly underline a melancholy and longing for togetherness in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.” 

One documentary, "Sewing in the Time of Coronavirus" by Valerie Soe, offers a snapshot of life during shelter-in-place.

Another, "The Twilight of Alex Nieto/El Crepúsculo de Alex Nieto" by Adriana Camarena and Ivonne Iriondo, aims to increase awareness about the killing of Alex Nieto by SFPD at Bernal Heights Park in 2014.

"African Americans and the Vote: The Movement Lives On," by Sophie Constantinou, highlights the impact of the Black vote, both in San Francisco and the U.S. as a whole.

In previous years, venues like Inclusions Gallery hosted screenings for BHOC's film crawl along Cortland Avenue. | Photo: Audrey Ray Daniel

Access to each event is first-come, first-served, with an Eventbrite registration. Those who can't make the trip can tune into a streaming "Best of Bernal" season finale, which will feature the season’s award-winning films.


All Bernal Heights Outdoor Cinema events are free, but donations are welcome. Online registration opens September 28 for the first drive-in event, on October 9.

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