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The 8th Annual Petaluma International Film Festival kicks off Friday, October 28th, and offers a weekend of exciting cinema

If you see just one Kazakh wife-stealing comedy this year, make it Yerlan Nurmukhambetov’s “Walnut Tree,” which screens Saturday at the 8th Petaluma International Film Festival. The 81 minute drama is a beautifully rendered portrait of Kazakh identity with breathtaking cinematography. This year’s festival showcases 40 independent features and shorts from 18 countries with a special program devoted to Sonoma Filmmakers.

If you see just one Kazakh wife-stealing comedy this year, make it Yerlan Nurmukhambetov’s “Walnut Tree,” screening Saturday at the 8th Petaluma International Film Festival. In addition to its humor, the 81 minute drama is a beautifully rendered portrait of Kazakh identity with breathtaking cinematography. PIFF8 is October 28-30, 2016 at Petaluma’s Boulevard Cinemas.

With 40 independent films from 18 countries, the 8th Annual Petaluma International Film Festival (PIFF8) offers line-up of new independent films from the remote corners of the globe to homey Petaluma.  This year’s festival is Friday through Sunday at Petaluma’s Boulevard 14 Cinemas and offers 15 full-length films and 25 shorts and the popular Sonoma Filmmakers Showcase with several filmmakers in attendance.  There’s also Running Wild, Alex Ranarivelo’s new horse drama that was co-produced by Petaluma’s Ali Afshar and was shot in 2015 all around Sonoma County.

Organized by Saeed Shafa who founded the popular annual Tiburon International Film Festival in 2002, PIFF was created to support new indie filmmakers, great storytelling and international points of view.  Since most filmmakers start our their careers by making a short film, Shafa has purposely paired all the feature films with at least one short film to demonstrate to the audience that short stories can be highly effective and so can new filmmakers.

Friday’s Opening film:

A scene from award-winning filmmaker Hilary Linder’s documentary “Indivisible” (2016) showing a meeting at the US-Mexico border between children and their parents. The parents were deported to Mexico and the children stayed behind in the US.

A scene from award-winning filmmaker Hilary Linder’s documentary “Indivisible” (2016) showing a meeting at the US-Mexico border between children and their parents. The parents were deported to Mexico and the children stayed behind in the US.

The festival kicks off Friday at noon with Hilary Linder’s compelling documentary, Indivisible (2016), which showcases real people at the heart of our country’s immigration debate and the Dreamer movement for immigrant rights. In a year in which election theatrics have supplanted substantive debate on the pressing issue of immigration reform, Linder gives us a a very relevant story that tracks three children who were been separated from their parents by deportation and became stuck in redtape which prohibited them from visiting their parents and their parents form visiting them.  Against all odds, these kids remain hopeful and are working to promote reform. Screens with shorts “The Silence” and “Between the Lines.”

Saturday and Sunday evenings—Sonoma Filmmakers Showcase:

Now in its fourth year, the festival’s popular Sonoma Filmmakers Showcase has expanded to both Saturday and Sunday evenings.  The program reflects Shafa’s commitment to our community’s talented independent filmmakers.  The evenings allow the community to gather to meet these filmmakers and to see a number of short films all at once.  This year, the program starts on Saturday with Alex Ranarivelo’s new feature length drama, Running Wild (2016), starring Oscar-nominated Sharon Stone.  The film was co-produced by Petaluma’s Ali Afshar and was shot in 2015 in Petaluma, Tomales, Santa Rosa and Glen Ellen. The story revolves around the plight of wild horses during the drought. Recently widowed Stella Davis (Dorian Brown, FX’s “Wilfred”) faces foreclosure of her Double Diamond Ranch and works with convicts to rehabilitate a herd of wild horses that has wandered onto her ranch. The film screens Saturday at 6:15 PM with director Alex Ranarivelo and actress Dorian Brown in attendance.

Sunday Afternoon: Focus on Dance and Music

 

A scene from Randy Valdes' "A Todo Color" (2015).

A scene from Randy Valdes’ “A Todo Color” (2015).

 

Randy Valdes was born in Cuba in 1986 and then relocated to Miami at age eight.  His documentary A Todo Color (2015)  tells the story of how, in the 1990’s, young Cubans turned to music as a source of inspiration and how Cuban musicians managed to disseminate their art and truths beyond Cuba.  Through intimate interviews and fabulous concert scenes, the film explores the artists’ personal and creative journeys, how their influence defines the artistic language of the Cuban cultural Diaspora, and how each incorporates the influences of their newly adopted cultural environments into the ever-evolving phenomenon of World Cuban Music.  Screens Sunday, 2PM with shorts Body & Sound (4 min) and State of Grace (5 min)

lets-dance-to-the-rhythm

Bardroy Barretto’s musical feature Let’s Dance to the Rhythm (2015) brings some 20 legendary songs from the 60’s and 70’s to life in a spectacular tribute to Goan music that unfolds as a love story between a composer-musician, Lawtry (Vijay Maurya), and his protégé, Dona (Palomi Ghosh).  Set against the backdrop of the jazz clubs of Bombay and Goa’s vibrant 60’s generation of musicians, the film is loosely based on a true story.  Goan musicians contributed greatly to Bollywood’s melodious songs and compositions and this film gives these unsung heroes their due.  Screens Sunday at 4 PM. (In Konkani with subtitles)

PIFF Details:

The 7th Petaluma International Film Festival is Friday, October 28, through Sunday, October 30, 2016 at Petaluma’s Boulevard Cinemas, 200 C Street, Petaluma. Tickets: All screenings $12; buy tickets during the festival at Petaluma’s Boulevard Cinemas or online (click here) with a handling fee.  Passes:  All inclusive festival pass is $180 and a day pass is $60. (click here to purchase)

For full schedule and more information, click here.

 

 

 

 

 

October 26, 2016 Posted by | Film, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Russian Bells will clang at Fort Ross’ Harvest Festival in a special Russian Bell concert with Percussionist Victor Avdienko—Saturday, October 15, 2016

San Francisco Symphony percussionist Victor Avdienko will play a “peal” or set of authentic Russian bronze bells in America’s Second Secular Russian Bell Concert at Fort Ross on Saturday, October 15, 2106 as part of the 4th Annual Fort Ross-Seaview Harvest Festival. The 6-bell peal was cast in 2014 in the Urals by Pyatkov & Co., a famous modern Russian bell foundry in Kamensky-Uralsy. Blagovest Bells of Novato, California, the sole promoter of Russian bells and bell-ringing in the U.S., made the zvonnitsa (support structure) in 2015. The program will include several tradition zvons and a few contemporary zvons, along with some improvisations. Photo: courtesy Blagovest Bells

San Francisco Symphony percussionist Victor Avdienko will play a “peal” or set of authentic Russian bronze bells in America’s Second Secular Russian Bell Concert at Fort Ross on Saturday, October 15, 2106 as part of the 4th Annual Fort Ross-Seaview Harvest Festival. The 6-bell peal was cast in 2014 in the Urals by Pyatkov & Co., a famous modern Russian bell foundry in Kamensky-Uralsy. Blagovest Bells of Novato, California, the sole promoter of Russian bells and bell-ringing in the U.S., made the zvonnitsa (support structure) in 2015. The program will include several tradition zvons and a few contemporary zvons, along with some improvisations. Photo: courtesy Blagovest Bells

 

The majestic sound of Russian bells will fill the air at historic Fort Ross this Saturday as San Francisco Symphony Percussionist Victor Avdienko performs a special concert for the 4th annual Fort Ross-Seaview Wine and Harvest Festival.  Since the founding of Fort Ross in 1812 by the Russian-American Company, a trading and fur trapping firm, Russian bells have had a place of prominence.  They were utilized both as signal bells at the fort’s two sentry boxes located diagonally in its Northern and Southern corners and, after 1824, as church bells in the belfry of the fort’s Holy Trinity–Saint Nicholas Chapel.  On Saturday, the peal of six Russian bells will serve a purely musical purpose in America’s Second Secular Russian Bell Concert which will take place at the Visitor’s Center at 1:10 pm.  The concert is produced by Mark Galperin, General Manager of Blagovest Bells of Novato, the sole promoter of Russian bells and bell-ringing in the U.S.

The program will include a mix of traditional liturgical and contemporary secular “zvons” (peals) and improvisations—

“Perezvon”– a chain peal, from largest bell to smallest in order, used at the Blessing of the Water

Traditional Trezvons (three-part Russian bell peals)

“Festal Lenten Zvon”– a traditional Russian Peal from the famous belfry of the Assumption Cathedral in the Kremlin of the Rostov Veliky, Yaroslavl Region, Russia

“Optina Zvon”– a peal from Optina Pustyn, the famous Entrance of the Theotokos into the Temple Monastery for men near Kozelsk, Kaluga Region, Russia

“Krasnyj Zvon” by Vladimir Petrovsky

Improvisational Trezvons

Mark Galperin of Blagovest Bells, Marin, at Fort Ross. Galperin is North America’s foremost expert on Russian bells and the producer of Saturday’s concert at Fort Ross. Galperin is a former physicist who immigrated to Marin in 1995. In 1998, he began collaborating with Father Stephan Meholick of San Anselmo’s St. Nicholas Orthodox Church to build a bell collection for the church. These bells were the first authentic Russian bells that SFS percussionist Victor Avdienko ever heard played live. Photo: Blagovest Bells

Mark Galperin of Blagovest Bells at Fort Ross. Galperin is North America’s foremost expert on Russian bells and the producer of Saturday’s concert at Fort Ross.  Galperin is a former physicist who immigrated to Marin in 1995.  In 1998, he began collaborating with Father Stephan Meholick of San Anselmo’s St. Nicholas Orthodox Church to build a Russian bell collection for the church. These bells were the first authentic Russian bells that SFS percussionist Victor Avdienko ever heard played live.  Photo: Blagovest Bells

Percussionist Victor Avdienko has performed, recorded, and toured with the San Francisco Symphony (SFS) for 20 years.  He was brought up in San Francisco’s Holy Virgin Cathedral Russian Orthodox Church on Geary Street but, during those days, he never heard authentic Russian bells played live there.  Instead, he heard plenty of recordings of majestic Russian bells which always fascinated him.  His performance of Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture” with the San Francisco Symphony in the summer of 2014 was the first time authentic Russian bells were ever used for that very popular piece in the United States.  Galperin organized the loan of those bells to SFS from San Anselmo’s St. Nicholas Orthodox Church.  He had also lent Blagovest Bells’ 5-bell Russian demo peal to SFS for its Keeping Score Summer Institute in June 2009.  The friendship between Galperin and Avdienko was solidified over their mutual love of bell music. Avdienko and Galperin’s first independent concert, America’s First Secular Russian Bell Concert was held at Fort Ross during the 3rd Fort Ross Harvest Festival.

Saturday’s outdoor concert at Fort Ross will occur rain or shine.  In addition to Russian bells, the folk group Dolina will also be performing a number of traditional Russian and Cossak folk dances throughout the day.

To read ARThound’s 2014 feature article on SFS percussionist Victor Avdienko and the first Russian bells to play at Green Music Center’s famed Weill Hall, click here. 

Details:  The bell concert is 1:10 PM on Saturday, October 15, 2016 at the Fort Ross Visitor Center, Fort Ross State Historic Park.  The concert is free but visitors must pay park admission of $20/car which includes entrance to the Fort Ross Harvest Festival. Fort Ross, is located 11 miles north of Jenner on Highway One and is the main tourist attraction between Bodega Bay and Fort Bragg.

The Fort Ross Harvest Festival is Saturday, October 15, 2016 from 10AM to 6PM and offers a full day of world-class wine tasting, a wine seminar featuring rare wines grown in the remote steep mountain top Seaview region, apple picking in a historic apple orchard, delicious local foods, historic crafts and music and Russian dancing, all set on the spectacular Sonoma Coast at Fort Ross State Historic Park.  Entrance to the festival is $20/car and wine tasting tickets range from $40 to $90 depending on category of wine tasting.

October 12, 2016 Posted by | Classical Music, Food, Green Music Center, Symphony | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The 39th Mill Valley Film Festival is October 6-16 and it’s a very good year

 

 

Ethiopian writer-director Yared Zeleke’s feature debut film, “The Lamb” (2015) will screen twice at the 39th Mill Valley Film Festival, and the filmmaker will attend both screenings and participate in an audience Q & A. “The Lamb” wasthe first Ethiopian film ever named an official Cannes selection, made a huge splash at Cannes in 2015. This drama, which unfolds in Amharic, the national language of Ethiopia, is the story of a young boy, Ephriam (Rediat Amare), who, after his mother’s death, is left to live with his cousins while his father heads off to Addis Abba in search of work. He becomes attached to a goat, Chuni, and when his relatives make plans to sacrifice the goat, he and Chuni go on the run. Much of the film is an exploration of family life in Ethiopia, a land of stunning landscapes and drought-stricken arid areas, where the labor-intensive electricity-free lifestyle is far removed from that in the West. The film is especially recommended for families. Image: MVFF

Ethiopian writer-director Yared Zeleke’s feature debut film, “The Lamb” (2015) screens twice at the 39th Mill Valley Film Festival, and the filmmaker will attend both screenings and participate in audience Q & A’s.  The first Ethiopian film ever named an official Cannes selection, “The Lamb” made a huge splash at Cannes. This drama, which unfolds in Amharic, the national language of Ethiopia, is the story of a young boy, Ephriam (Rediat Amare), who, after his mother’s death, is left to live with his cousins while his father heads off to Addis Abba in search of work. He becomes attached to an endearing goat, Chuni, and when his relatives make plans to sacrifice the goat, he and Chuni go on the run. Much of the film is an exploration of family life in Ethiopia, a land of stunning landscapes and drought-stricken arid areas, where the labor-intensive electricity-free lifestyle is far removed from that in the West. The film is especially recommended for families. Image: MVFF

 

With the onset of fall, Bay Area moviegoing options start to multiply like crazy.  The Mill Valley Film Festival (MVFF), October 6-16 2016, is hard to beat.  The 39th edition offers a line-up of 200 films—winners from Cannes, Berlin, and Toronto as well as an eclectic mix of features, documentaries, shorts, world cinema and films with a Bay Area stamp—all selected for our discriminating Bay Area audience by programmer Zoe Elton and her seasoned team.  The legendary festival kicks off on Thursday evening, October 6, with two of Hollywood’s hottest fall films—La La Land, Damien Chazelle’s (Whiplash MVFF 2014) love letter to dreamers, artists, and Hollywood with Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone and Denis Vileneuve’s (Sicario) riveting and thoughtful drama, Arrival, starring five time Oscar-nominee Amy Adams as a linguistics professor who communicates with aliens in a bid to save the planet. Actually, in a move to satisfy everyone’s tastes, there are four films screening on Thursday evening, so add Mick Jackson’s Denial starring Rachael Weiss and Rob Nilsson’s  Love Twice  to the mix but they are not being billed as opening nighters. Special Tributes will honor Academy Award winning actress Nicole Kidman in a program that includes a screening of her new film with Dev Patel,  Lion, and acclaimed filmmaker and author Julie Dash, who will appear in conversation following a screening of her recently restored  Daughters of  the Dust (1991).  The festival closes with Jeff Nichols’ Loving, which tells the real life story of the struggle, imprisonment and 1960’s Supreme Court battle Richard (Joel Edgerton) and Mildred (Ruth Negga) Loving experienced in one of America’s early interracial marriages.

The festival unfolds in San Rafael, Corte Madera, Larkspur and Mill Valley.  For North Bay residents, getting there and parking is considerably more time efficient and cheaper than it is in San Francisco.  If you want to go, pre-purchase your tickets now as this popular festival tends to sell out before it starts.  There is ample choice right now but not for long.  I recommend seeing films where the filmmaker or actors will be in attendance.  Also, check the new program guide for Smith Rafael Film Center.  Several of the festival films are screening there within the next two months and it doesn’t make sense to pay a premium to see them at the festival and wait in long lines unless there are special guests attending that make it worthwhile.

ARThound’s top picks:

Neruda/Spotlight Gael Garcia Bernal—Mon, Oct 10

Actor Gael García Bernal stars in director Pablo Larraíns new film, "Neruda."

Actor Gael García Bernal, the focus of a MVFF Spotlight, stars in director Pablo Larraíns new film, “Neruda.”

The foreign film line-up is especially strong this year.  Chilean Director Pablo Larrain’s Neruda, Chile’s foreign language Oscar nominee, takes center stage in a special Spotlight presentation honoring Mexican actor-director-producer Gael Garcia Bernal.  The drama is set in 1948 and Bernal plays a police inspector who is charged with finding the fugitive Communist politician and poet, Pablo Neruda, when he goes underground.  In Larrain’s capable hands, the film morphs into a soulful exploration of Chile’s historical dance with heroes and villains and Bernal as the inspector becomes a key figure, obsessed with finding Neruda who has managed to make him his pawn.  Bernal will appear in an onstage conversation covering his extensive career.

 

The Salesman—Fri, Oct 7 and Wed, Oct 12

Shahab Hosseini (L) and Taraneh Alidoosti in a scene from Ashgar Farhadi’s “The Salesman.”

Shahab Hosseini (L) and Taraneh Alidoosti in a scene from Ashgar Farhadi’s “The Salesman.”

I can’t remember when the festival last hosted an Iranian filmmaker but, over the year’s, we’ve reveled in their creativity, courage and unparalleled story-telling.  This year, acclaimed Academy Award and Golden Globe winning writer-director Ashgar Farhadi (A Separation) will appear in person to answer questions after the two screenings of his new Tehran-set drama The Salesman.   The film picked up Best Screenplay and Best Actor awards at Cannes and was selected as the Iranian nominee for the Best Foreign Language Oscar.  The Salesman is the suspenceful story of a young Persian couple who are part-time actors in Tehran in the Arthur Miller play Death of a Salesman. Their relationship is strained after they move into a new flat and the wife is attacked while she is taking a shower.  The flat’s previous occupant, a woman who was allegedly involved in prostitution, is never seen but her presence grows as the film progresses.  At Cannes, Shahab Hosseini, the husband, won the award for Best Actor.

 

Lamb—Sat, Oct 8 and Tues, Oct 11

A scene from Yared Zeleke's "Lamb."

A scene from Yared Zeleke’s “Lamb.”

A rarity for MVFF is an Ethiopian film, in Amharic, the national language of Ethiopia. Writer-director Yared Zeleke’s first feature, Lamb, was the first Ethiopian film ever named an official Cannes selection. The 37 year-old director made Variety magazine’s “10 Screenwriters to Watch” list for 2015.   The story revolves around an Ethiopian boy who loses his mother and moves in with relatives and becomes attached to a pet lamb, Chuni, as a way of dealing with loss and grief.  He also takes up cooking which is unacceptable to his uncle who considers it girl’s work.  The story hits close to home for the director. When he was just 10, Zeleke’s own father was imprisoned by the Derg regme (the ruling military Communist regime that was in power in Ethiopia from 1974 to 1987) and his mother remarried and he went to live with his grandmother.  Ultimately, Zeleke was reunited with his father and they lived together in the US but the happy days he had with both loving parents together were long gone.  Filmmaker in attendance for both screenings.

Frantz—Fri, Oct 7 and Fri, Oct 14

Paula Beer and Pierre Niney in a scene from François Ozon’s “Frantz.”

Paula Beer and Pierre Niney in a scene from François Ozon’s “Frantz.”

French director François Ozon (Swimming Pool, 8 Women, Under the Sand) always stirs me with subtle demonstrations of his artistry and deep understanding of human nature.   His latest film, Frantz, a romantic drama set in the aftermath of WWI in the small German town of Quedlingburg, is a layered portrait of grief.  The story evolves from a strange graveside encounter between a young German woman (Paula Beer) grieving her fiancé and a Frenchman, Adrian (Pierre Niney), who also visits the fiancé’s grave to leave flowers.  He claims to have been friends with her fiancé and, slowly, she begins to develop feelings for him.  Shot in black and white, with brief interludes of color, the film is a loose adaptation of Ernst Lubitsch’s 1932 drama Broken Lullaby which itself was based on a play by French playwright Maurice Rostand.  Niney, whose elegant face would have inspired Michelangelo, won a Cesar award for his outstanding performance in Jalil Lespert’s Yves Saint Laurent (2014).

Mom and Other Loonies in the Family—Sat, Oct 15 and Sun, Oct 16

Eszter Ónodi (seated) in a scene from Ibolya Fekete’s “Mom and Other Loonies in the Family.”

Eszter Ónodi (seated) in a scene from Ibolya Fekete’s “Mom and Other Loonies in the Family.”

Hungarian director Ibolya Fekete’s Mom and Other Loonies in the Family revolves around a 94 year-old grandmother with dementia who relates her life story to her daughter.  It’s a heartwarming recounting, told through flashbacks over four generations of crazies.  She was a mother on the run who moved twenty-seven times—and the film spans all of the 20th century, meandering through epic moments in Hungarian and world history.   Her “present” is a time that is infused with struggles, declining health and the confusing intervention of past events.  Her past was committed to keeping the family together at any cost.  The story is based on the filmmaker’s own family and stories related to her by relatives.  Characters appear in archival footage and in well-known Hungarian films as if they were actually in those films. Eszter Ónodi shines as the reliable yet somewhat whimsical woman who moved too many times and just wants to stand on her own two feet.  Her ninety four-year old demented self is played by Danuta Szaflarska who credibly plays the role by reverting to childlike responses.

Green is Gold—Sat, Oct 8 and Sun, Oct 9

Jimmy Baxter (L) and Ryan Baxter (R) in a scene from Ryan Baxter's "Green is Gold."

Jimmy Baxter (L) and Ryan Baxter (R) in a scene from Ryan Baxter’s “Green is Gold.”

I have a weakness for films that are set in Northern, California, where I grew up.  Sonoma State University graduate  Ryan Baxter’s first feature,  Green is Gold, is set in rural Sonoma County and is a family bonds over pot business story that picked up the Audience Best Fiction Film award at the Los Angeles Film Festival for its poetic filmmaking and emotional truth.  Ryan Baxter, the writer, director, editor and star, plays the older brother, Cameron, a black market potrepneur ( a real word I picked up at the Heirloom Festival) who is forced to take care of his younger brother, Jimmy (his real life brother, Jimmy Baxter) when their dad is imprisoned.  Cameron tries to put some distance between the kid and the cannabis business, which involves considerable risk but high payoffs, but, soon Jimmy is knee deep in buds and the two find themselves embarking on a dangerous pot delivery journey that will either leave them rolling in dough or six feet under.  Ryan Baxter, actor Jimmy Baxtor, and rest of cast and crew in attendance at both screenings.)

Unleashed—Wed, Oct 12 and Thurs, Oct 13

A scene from Finn Taylor's "Unleashed," with Kate Micucci (L) and Justin Chatwin (R) who was once her energetic dog, Summit, and has reentered her life as a full grown man. The film screens twice at MVFF with filmmaker, producer and Kate Miccuci in attendance.

A scene from Finn Taylor’s “Unleashed,” with Kate Micucci (L) and Justin Chatwin (R) who was once her energetic dog, Summit, and has reentered her life as a full grown man. The film screens twice at MVFF with filmmaker, producer and Kate Miccuci in attendance.

What if your pets turned into full-grown men?  I couldn’t resist the whacky premise behind Finn Taylor’s Unleashed, which has a thirty-something software app designer Emma (Kate Micucci) settling into her life in San Francisco when her cat, Ajax, and her dog, Summit, disappear only to reappear in her life as full-grown men (Steve Howet and Justin Chatwin).  All their four-legged memories are fully intact and they vie for her affection in their very specific cat and dog styles.

Details MVFF 39:

The 39th Mill Valley Film Festival opens on Thursday, October 6 and runs through Sunday, October 16, 2016.  Buy tickets online now at http://www.mvff.com/.  Most tickets for films are $14 and special programs starts at $25.

October 1, 2016 Posted by | Film, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment