The 4th Petaluma International Film Festival starts Friday, October 19, 2012, and runs all weekend at Petaluma’s Boulevard Cinemas
Film festivals are cropping up in virtually every nook and cranny of the extended Bay Area now. For residents of Sonoma County, the convenience and line-up of the Petaluma International Film Festival (PIFF) are hard to pass up. The three-day festival, in its 4th year, begins its impressive run of international independent film tomorrow (Friday) at noon at Petaluma’s Boulevard Cinemas and runs through Sunday. The line-up includes over 40 films (17 new features and 13 new shorts) from Armenia to Uruguay, and even tiny Luxemburg and distant Azerbaizan make an appearance. This gem of a festival flies under the radar but it’s worth a look and a visit.
“In our fast-paced world, we are still looking for human stories,” said Saeed Safa, founder and executive director of festival. “The Robots, CGI (computer-generated imagery), and machines in the movies are eye candy that, sooner or later, will be forgotten but the human stories will remain with us for a long time,” said Safa.
Safa also runs the popular Tiburon International Film Festival (TIFF) every spring. He has an eye for interesting films that might not otherwise be screened due to commercial reasons, and certainly not in Petaluma, and has put together a line-up that includes a great mix of documentaries, dramas and shorts focusing on what loosely might be called global understanding–seeing the world through the eyes of another. “We try to create an opportunity for the young and talented filmmakers from around the world who will be the torch holders of the next generation of the filmmakers,” said Safa. “Each film we select has a different story and special message.”
For detailed programming information, a list of filmmakers attending and information about a festival pass, visit the Petaluma International Film Festival homepage.
Unfinished Spaces: Navigating between past and present, while deftly mixing contemporary and archival footage, Alysa Nahmais and Benjamin Murray’s documentary Unfinished Spaces tells the remarkable story of how in 1961 Fidel Castro enlisted three visionary young architects to construct a Cuban National Art Schools complex on the grounds of a former golf course. Construction of their radical designs for five separate schools began immediately and classes soon followed. Dancers, musicians and artists from all over the country reveled in the beauty of the schools, but as the dream of the Cuban Revolution quickly became a reality, construction was abruptly halted and the architects and their designs were deemed irrelevant in the prevailing political climate. Forty years later the schools are in use, but remain unfinished and decaying. Castro has invited the exiled architects back to finish their unrealized dream. A moving and well-researched documentary that uses bricks, arches and fountains as a metaphor for the evolving Cuban landscape. This fascinating film includes footage of Fidel Castro, the architects themselves and embraces the very mutable intersection of art, aesthetics, politics, history and Cuban culture. (2011, 86 minutes) (Screens Friday, October 19, 2012, 4:15 p.m.)
The Butterfly’s Symmetry (D’Symmetrie vum Päiperlek): This second feature film by Luxembourg directors Paul Scheuer and Maisy Hausemer tells the story of a famous chess master, Gregori Sczyrkutah, known for his misogyny, who is beaten at his own game by a young and talented Luxembourg chess player, Sophie Latour (Marie Jung). The defeat is hard to take and he withdraws from public life in bitterness and anger. A Swiss software engineer, Max von Allmen, proposes using a revolutionary chess software that is guaranteed to beat Sophie. While Max is programming the software, he falls in love with Sophie. And, to further complicate matters, this entire story is imagined by a Luxembourg writer, Roger, during his prolonged stay at an old-age pensioners’ home, where he uses the people he sees around him as inspiration for the characters in his story. (2012, 93 minutes) (Screens Friday, October 19, 2012 at 10 p.m.)
Wind & Fog (Bad o meh): Captivating images from pastoral northern Iran serve as a backdrop for Mohammad-Ali Talebi’s enchanting tale of a boy rendered deaf and mute after losing his mother in the Iran-Iraq war. Ostracized by his classmates but doted over by his loving sister, eight-year-old Sahand—whose wan face and haunted eyes evoke the unspeakable horrors he’s witnessed—becomes obsessed with a wounded white goose. The climax unfolds in a misty, magical forest making wondrous use of classic fantasy elements. Official Selection: Vancouver International Film Festival – Awarded Berlinale Film Festival CINEMA Fairbindet Prize for contributing in an “extraordinary way” to the ongoing dialogue on important global issues. (2011, 74 minutes) (Screens Saturday, October 20, 2012, 8:25 p.m.)
Siberia Monamour: Slava Ross’ tale of survival is set in the remote reaches of the wild Siberian taiga—the forested area of Siberia that covers more than a quarter of Russia’s territory, an undeveloped place that remains largely untouched by politics. This dark feature, with a very Russian perspective, builds slowly and involves the thoughtful intersection of several characters and their stories, ultimately pitting men against the forces of nature to survive. An orphaned seven year-old boy, Lyochka (Mikahil Protsko) and his grandfather (Pyotr Zaichenko) live alone in a cabin and are unexpectedly isolated as winter sets in. A parallel storyline has two soldiers (Nikolai Kozak and Maxim Yemelyanov) on a mission to find a prostitute to satisfy their depraved lieutenant (Sergei Puskepalis) and their encounter with a young girl (Lidiya Bairashevskay) whom they bring back to their base. The cinematography by Yury Rajski and Alexxey Todorov includes stunning landscapes, wild dogs, and decaying interiors and the unforgettable story itself is a harsh reflection on contemporary Russia and its collapsed morality. Stand-out performance by young Mikahil Protsko. (Screens Sunday, October 21, 2012 at 4:15 p.m.)
Tickets: $10 per screening at Boulevard Cinemas, Petaluma Blvd. North at C Street. Most screenings include a feature-length film coupled with a short. For detailed programming information and list of filmmakers attending, visit the Petaluma International Film Festival homepage.