Understanding the World through Film: 2nd Petaluma International Film Festival, October 22-24, 2010
The 2nd Petaluma International Film Festival (PIFF) concludes its run of international independent film Sunday afternoon with a fabulous line-up at the Boulevard Cinemas including 5 new feature films and 10 shorts. This gem of a festival has hardly gotten any publicity but it’s worth a look and a visit—it includes 40 important new films from 27 countries and guests from all over the world. For me, it represents the new face of Petaluma, a town that is opening to the world and embracing its artistic hipness right along with its grass-roots hominess. The festival is the brainchild of Tiburon resident Saeed Shafa, founder and executive director, who also organizes and founded the Tiburon International Film Festival, about to turn 10. You may not have heard of Shafa before but his eye for interesting films that might not otherwise be screened due to commercial reasons, and certainly not in Petaluma, grabbed my attention. Shafa 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.
The festival opened Friday afternoon with “Into the Forbidden Zone,” a riveting documentary by Richard Mackenzie, Charles Poe, and Jody Shiliro featuring author Sebastian Junger and photographer Reza as they journey into war-torn Afghanistan in search of Northern Alliance resistance leader Ahmed Shah Massoud, the so-called Lion of Panjshir. Later Friday, director Robert Adanto made a guest appearance for the screening of his latest feature length film “Pearls on the Ocean Floor,” which profiles contemporary Iran through the creative lives of female artists such as Shirin Neshat and Gohar Dashti who work under tremendous pressure both inside and outside of Iran.
Friday’s screening came to a dramatic close with “The Last Script Remembering Luis Buñuel” produced by Javier Espada and Gaizka Urresti, a documentary that reflects Shafa’s keen interest in revolutionary filmmakers. Topping that list is Spanish director, writer, occasional producer, Spanish Civil War propagandist Luis Buñuel (1900-1983) who worked mainly in Mexico and France but also in his native Spain producing an influential body of surrealistic and radical film that became entangled with his celebrated personality. “The Last Script” is a pilgrimage following Buñuel’s eldest son Juan Luis Buñuel accompanied by his screenwriter friend Jean Claude Carrière, on a fascinating exploration of Buñuel’s life chronologically that begins in his home town Calanda continues in Zaragoza, Toledo, Madrid, and Paris, before jumping stateside to New York and Los Angeles and ending in Mexico. The script was based on Buñuel’s best-selling memoir, “My Last Sigh.”
Saturday included Romanian transplant Oana Marian’s charming 12 minute documentary short “Sunset,” filmed and shot at our beloved Sunset Line and Twine building that graces corner spot across from the railway depot, aka Petaluma Arts Center. The film is about a twine braiding machine with a mind of its own that escapes its factory-setting and goes on a journey, which Oana captures in film. In attendance were Anahid Nazarian (Producer), Mihai Malaimare (Cinematographer), and Pete Horner (Sound designer).
Saturday evening concluded with Serbian- Bosnia‐Herzegovinan director Predrag Velinovic’s humorous and reflective romantic drama “Motel Nana,” that follows the expulsion of Ivan, a Belgrade high school history teacher from his job for impulsively slapping a rebellious student. Ivan accepts a post as an elementary school teacher in a remote Muslim town in Serbia and, along the way, meets Jasmina, a young woman who changes his life. The film poignantly explores the underlying tensions in this war torn land that will never completely heal as long as prejudices abound.
Up Sunday is “Sergio Leone: The Way I see Things Now,” Italian director Giuilio Reale’s tribute to Italian director, producer and screenwriter Sergio Leone, closely associated with the Spaghetti Western (“The Good, The Bad and The Ugly,” “A Fist Full of Dollars,” etc.)
“Contrary Warrior” is director John Ferry’s documentary exploration of the life of Native American Adam Fortunate Eagle, an activist, artist, author, ceremonial leader and one of the principle architects of the American Indian takeover of Alcatraz Island in 1969 – an action that brought about social change and got him declared an enemy of the state. Fortunate Eagle, now 79, is an iconic figure, who has shape the modern conception of what it means to be a Native American. John Ferry will be in attendance.
On Sunday evening, local director Steve Clark Hall will make an appearance at the screening of his new documentary “Out of Annapolis,” which explores the experiences of eleven gay and lesbian alumni of the U.S. Naval Academy who share their lives as midshipmen at Annapolis and as officers in the U. S. Navy and U. S. Marine Corps. Their stories reveal the difficulties and joys of coming and being out in the naval service, both before and during “Don’t‐Ask‐Don’t‐Tell.” Petaluma resident Linda Postenrieder, co-owner of Pelican Art & Custom Framing, U.S. Naval Academy Class of 1982, who is profiled in the film will also be in attendance.
The festival concludes with the Northern California premiere of Ryan Ward’s “Son of the Sunshine,” which profiles the gripping story of Canadian Sonny Johns, a young man with Tourettes Syndrome who is on a quest for healing which involves an intense struggle to decouple himself from the cadre of unhealthy relationships he is enmeshed in. The film profiles Sony as he spends his savings from years of disability payments to undergo an experimental procedure that promises to eradicate his symptoms. Upon his recovery, Sonny discovers that the surgery has somehow smothered an amazing supernatural gift he has had all his life: the uncanny ability to heal the sick and the dying.
Tickets: $10 per screening at Cinema West 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.
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