Award-Winning Film Screened at Orinda Theatre

(Jeff Heyman, Photographer)
Hollywood actress and writer Kathy Garver attended the screening of Yellow Bird at the Orinda Theatre on April 1, a new indie film by Angus Benfield and Tony Jerris, where she stars as Rachel Rush, a mom with Alzheimer’s. The film, which is streaming on Amazon Prime Video, was shot in one week in a grocery store in Redding, CA.

    Hollywood actress and writer Kathy Garver has visited Orinda friends many times and appeared in promos at the Orinda Theatre for owner Derek Zemrak. However, April 1 was the first time she’s walked through the theater doors in her honor of the new indie film screening, Yellow Bird.
    Known as Cissy in the 1960s sitcom, Family Affair, Garver stars as Rachel Rush, afflicted with Alzheimer’s and mother of the main character, Jake Rush, played by Angus Benfield. She said she loved working on this film, mostly for its “heart and humor.”
    “The characters are relatable and have a certain something they are going through. They are real,” said Garver, as she posed for photos with attendees. “The interaction is marvelous and the emotions transfer to the audience.”
    The film won 2023 Best Feature Award in the Santa Monica International Film Festival, MABIG Film Festival and Mediterranean Film Festival (Milan-Cannes-Athens) and 2023 Best Narrative Feature in the World Carnival Singapore.
    Co-produced by Benfield and writer Tony Jerris, the 104-minute film was shot in a grocery store.
    “Not having a big budget, we needed to find a store that didn’t cost a lot to rent,” said Jerris. “The Holiday Market in Redding offered it free for a week and we couldn’t be more grateful to them.”
    Jerris started writing Yellow Bird as a series in 2016.
    “I wanted to create a down-on-his-luck character who overcomes adversity, sort of a coming-of-middle-age story, where our lead character finds his ‘Yellow Bird,’ the one person or thing in life you can’t live without.”
    He said working with Garver was a joy.
    “She is not only a true professional, but a genuinely great person,” said Jerris. “We were shooting in 100-degree heat and her scenes took place in an old, rundown RV that had no air conditioning. Trooper that she is, she nailed her performance without complaining. I adore her.”
    Garver shared her experiences with the audience after the film.
    “My mom had Alzheimer’s and I really wanted to characterize what people go through,” she said.
    Barry Barsamian of Oakland, who shares a 23-year friendship with Garver, including co-hosting a TV talk show in San Francisco from 2005 to 2010 called, Backstage! With Barry and Kathy, said he enjoyed the film and Yellow Bird enlightened him.
    “What I learned is letting go of the past opens up a whole new world,” he said. “That was the message I felt. And we all must follow our dreams, our passions.”
    “My late mother suffered from dementia and I felt Kathy’s portrayal of a mom with Alzheimer’s disease was quite touching and authentic,” added Barsamian. “I attend many events at the historic Orinda Theatre and have worked here since 2018, starting with a Hollywood wardrobe exhibition and the Academy Awards special events.”
    Gay Parker, a frequent Orinda Theatre attendee from Oakland, said Yellow Bird was a feel-good movie with a message.
    “Everyone has their problems and how they conduct themselves affects those around them,” she said. “I think with all we went through with the pandemic and the economy the past three years, this was a perfect time for this movie.”
    Jerris said he loves how Yellow Bird is taking flight.
    “I’m grateful to the cast and crew who have become sort of a family – the “Yellow Bird family,” like the characters in the film,” said Jerris. “I’ve always been a dreamer and never gave up on my dream as a writer, which is why this movie has come to fruition.”
    Jerris’ next movie, Bobby Holiday & The Saleslady, shoots this summer.
    Yellow Bird is currently streaming on Amazon Prime Video, Tubi, Roku and Momento. Visit and

Charleen Earley can be reached at

(Jeff Heyman, Photographer)
At the award-winning indie film screening of Yellow Bird on April 1, some attendees gathered to have their photo taken with actress Kathy Garver. (L-R) back row, Dennis Lancaster, Paul Pekarek, Ronald J. Fields, Derek Zemrak, Barry Barsamian, Jeffrey McGee. (L-R) middle row, Marcus Siu, Sher Lancaster, Cindy Pekarek, Gay Parker. (L-R) front row, Robert Da Silva, Kathy Garver, Patricia Paulson, and Deb Da Silva.
(Jeff Heyman, Photographer)
Orinda Theatre owner Derek Zemrak introduced actress and author Kathy Garver to the audience. She stars in the indie film Yellow Bird as Rachel Rush, a character who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease.

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