Come to the Bernal Heights Outdoor Cinema Sweet 16 Party and Retrospective

Bernal Heights Outdoor Cinema Banner 2019

On Saturday, September 14, 2019 Bernal Heights Outdoor Cinema hosts a party to celebrate its 16th season of free film screenings in local parks and storefronts. In 2017, I sat down with BHOC co-founders Anne Batmale and Leslie Lombre to talk about the local talent they showcase and what it means to the community.

We’ve updated the original interview here to promote the Sweet 16 Party and Retrospective this weekend. It’ll be at the Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts at 2868 Mission Street from 3 pm -6 pm. Come out and support our local artists and filmmakers.

Tell me how you two met and how the idea for the Outdoor Cinema started?

Anne: We met in 2001 while working on the Bernal Heights Neighborhood Center’s annual event Fiesta on the Hill. After working together on that event a few times Leslie came to me with the idea for Outdoor Cinema. She knew there were a lot of locals in film production. We thought it would be fun to create something to feature our neighbors and showcase their work. Leslie has a background in TV syndication and promotion.

Leslie: Before I worked on the Fiesta I was managing the San Francisco International Film Financing Conference. That conference brought together 200 filmmakers from around the country to meet and pitch to film distributors and producers. We both knew a lot of filmmakers in this neighborhood. For example, all of my adjoining neighbors on Montezuma Street were somehow related to film. So it seemed perfectly right to do something here that showcased the talent we have in Bernal.

Bernal Heights Outdoor Cinema Film Festival at Bernal Star Restaurant

Has this event always showcased Bernal Heights filmmakers?

Leslie: Yes, it’s always been hyper-local. This neighborhood has a very artistic character. Over the years we’ve invited other film festivals to have screenings.  We want to co-promote other festivals to give audiences a taste of what’s out there. Early on we experimented by holding film panels or a children’s showcase in the library, in addition to the screenings.

Anne: We wanted to help neighbors meet each other. One year we held a book talk because a filmmaker and professor at San Francisco State had authored a book on making documentary films. Another time we did a panel about music in film featuring composers and filmmakers. We’ve also had an emerging filmmakers panel.

Leslie: It’s important for people to understand Outdoor Cinema is completely supported by local sponsors. Neighborhood folks ask their companies to sponsor, and we have one big supporter, which is the San Francisco Arts Commission.

Bernal Heights Outdoor Cinema Neighborhood Film Festival

What awards are given and how you choose them?

Anne: We have a selection committee that’s a cross-section of neighbors who screen all the submissions and vote. We distribute four awards:  Best of Bernal, Spirit of Bernal, Good Life Audience Award and the Emerging Filmmakers Award. 

The Best of Bernal is designated for local filmmakers. Someone on the crew has to be a Bernal resident.

The Spirit of Bernal is given to a film that resonates with the values of the neighborhood, like activism, inclusiveness, diversity and a sense of the common good,

The Good Life Audience Award is what it sounds like: the audience chooses a favorite. We’ll have to wait and see who wins in that category.

We created a new award in 2017 called the Emerging Artist Award. We want to recognize younger filmmakers to encourage the next generation of storytellers.

Other than that, what’s new this year?

Leslie: One thing we’ve taken to the next level this year is our Film Crawl on Cortland which takes place after opening night. This Friday night event features screenings that start on the top of each hour at six venues. People walk to each venue to see a different line-up curated by one of the guest organizations. Over the years, BHOC’s co-presenters on Film Crawl night have included the SF Urban Film Festival, SF Black Film Festival, Women’s Sports Film Festival, Cine+más (the San Francisco Latino Film Festival), the Legacy Film Festival on Aging and BAVC (the Bay Area Video Coalition).

Website: Bernal Heights Outdoor Cinema

Bernal Heights Outdoor Cinema Program 2019

Jen Baxter is a content writer and strategist helping companies creatively craft the story of their business online. You can see more of her work at