A billboard for Bernaltown appeared across from Good Life in 1997.
FINALLY, after a loooooong hiatus, Bernaltown-The Movie is returning to Bernal Heights on Jan. 30!!
We’ll get to the details about the where and when in a moment. But first, a brief history: What is Bernaltown?
Bernaltown was a delightful short film produced in 1997 by a group of Bernal Heights neighbors and kids. Making movies was a nontrivial thing to do in the late 1990s, because at the time, tape-based camcorders were still the prevailing technology and the era of digital video and YouTube was still a decade away.
Nevertheless, Bernaltown was glorious. Produced in the playful spirit of the 1960s Batman TV series, Bernaltown tells the story of a group of superhero kids who use high-tech go-karts to battle a diabolical developer who’s scamming to build a a hotel-casino complex on the top of Bernal Hill.
Musician and Bernal Neighbor Joshua Brody contributed the music for Bernaltown, and here’s how he remembers it:
A little over 20 years ago, good friend Sheila Balter invited me to donate my services to a fund-raiser for a film her friend Gregory Gavin was finishing up, so I did. Once I met Gregory and saw the trailer he’d put together, I fell in love with the project: A half-hour story called Bernaltown.
Gregory had been running workshops for kids in Bernal Heights to learn how to make their own go-karts and wanted to do some documentation on it, but rather than do a dry non-fiction talking heads piece, he decided to craft a narrative featuring the kids as superhero crime-fighters, other neighborhood regulars playing more-or-less themselves (eg. the beat cop as “the chief of police”) and throwing in a fictitious — but entirely plausible — subplot about an evil gambling syndicate’s real estate grab.
It was charming as f–k, and I instantly offered my services as composer, which Gregory just as instantly accepted, sound unheard. I think my terms — free — helped clinch the deal.
The film premiered in the schoolyard behind the Bernal Public Library (where it will be shown again… to commemorate its 20th anniversary). The showing was successful enough, but what really moved me was the aftermath: neighbors strolling up and down Cortland wearing Bernaltown paraphernalia and greeting each other kill it was the small town portrayed in the film, not just another big city neighborhood.
Maybe that kind of magic can repeat itself.
The trailer for Bernaltown is lost in the analog mists of time, but this KRON report from 1997 captures the spirit of it:
So, with all that established… Bernalwood is thrilled to share the news that finally, at long last, the Citizens of Bernal Heights will again have an opportunity to see Bernaltown again.
The 20th Anniversary screening of Bernaltown – The Movie will happen on Tuesday, Jan. 30 in the main reading room of the Bernal Heights Library (500 Cortland) beginning at 7 pm.
The screening is free, but tickets are required; reserve your seats here — and you’d best hurry, because space is limited.
PHOTOS: All images via Bernaltown20 on Facebook