The 11th annual Taste of Petaluma is Saturday, August 20, 2016, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and it’s all about connecting with Petaluma’s small-town charm and wonderful cuisine—bite by glorious bite. Taste is a benefit for Cinnabar Theater, Petaluma’s beloved professional theater, which opens its 44th season in September with The Most Happy Fella, a heartwarming musical romance set in the Wine Country. If you’ve ever attended one of Cinnabar’s remarkable performances on the old schoolhouse atop the hill, you know what a treasure Cinnabar is. This year’s Taste features over 80 Petaluma restaurants and food, wine and beverage purveyors at 42 locales scattered across Petaluma’s historic downtown. Over 60 musicians and dancers will be performing too, offering just as promising an entertainment menu (full performance schedule here). This culinary walking tour draws people from all over the Bay Area and $40 gets you 10 generously portioned tastes of your choosing.
“We have more new restaurants here than some towns have restaurants,” says Laura Sunday, Taste of Petaluma’s founder. “Taste will guide you through the dozens of eateries that call Petaluma their home. It’s a great day to wander around eating, sipping and hearing music with friends or family. There’s something delicious at every turn.”
Recently, I was invited to attend two “mini Tastes” along with a number of the North Bay food writers. Together, we visited eight downtown gems that represent Petaluma’s ever-changing food landscape─ Quinua Cocina Peruana, Out to Lunch Fine Catering, The Shuckery, Supreme Sweets, Thai River, Speakeasy and The Big Easy, Sonoma Spice Queen and Corkscrew Café and Wine Bar.
Two of our tastings took place within the newly restored Hotel Petaluma, which I recommend you get take a peek at during Taste. The restoration isn’t quite complete but the lobby is finished and is so harmoniously appointed you’ll find yourself wanting to plop down and have a drink. The spacious formal dining hall, with its tall ceilings and pastel blue plaster walls, fired my imagination, taking me back to times spent in Europe. Its places like this and our beloved Petaluma Seed Bank and historic Cinnabar Theater that coax me to invite friends to Petaluma. And then there’s the food!
The newcomers to Taste of Petaluma are previewed first; then the tried and true─
Quinua Cocina Peruana
Out to Lunch Fine Catering
Speakeasy and The Big Easy
Sonoma Spice Queen
CorkScrew Wine Bar
Taste of Petaluma Details:
The 11th Annual Taste of Petaluma is Saturday, August 20, 2016 from 11:30 AM to 4 PM. Ticket packages are $40 and consist of 10 tasting tickets, good for 1 taste each. Tickets can also be purchased on the day of the event from 10:30 AM onwards at Helen Putnam Plaza. Only 1500 tickets will be sold. Advance Tickets can be purchased online here (with surcharge) and must be picked up on the day of the event. Advance tickets can be purchased in person until Friday, August 19, 3 p.m. at the following venues in Petaluma—Blush Collections (117 Kentucky Street), Cinnabar Theater (333 Petaluma Blvd. North), Gallery One (209 Western Ave.), and Velvet Ice Collections (140 2nd Street, Theater Square). All Advance tickets need to be picked up at WILL CALL at Helen Putnam Plaza (129 Petaluma Blvd. North) after 10:30 AM on the day of the event.
All participants receive a plastic wine glass. You can purchase more tickets throughout the day for $4 each.
Parking Alert: Parking downtown is 2 hours. Just a couple blocks out of downtown there are no restrictions. The Theater Square garage has unlimited, free parking. The Keller St. garage is 4 hours, except for the top floor which is 10 hours. Parking tickets are $50. Be forewarned and read the signs.
The 19th Sonoma International Film Festival─a feel-great extravaganza of film, food, wine and sprits─starts Wednesday in wonderful Sonoma
The 19th Sonoma International Film Festival (SIFF) kicks off tonight at the historic Sebastiani Theatre with Norwegian director Joachim Tier’s family drama, Louder Than Bombs (2015) and a live “vertical dance performance” with members of the dynamic Bandaloop dance group performing choreographed moves from ropes on the Sebastiani’s roof. Over the next 5 nights and 4 days, the festival will present over 100 films from two dozen countries and over 200 filmmakers from around the globe will attend. Among this year’s treasures are three exciting films shot in Cuba whose stories are bound to inspire a trip to this delightful island before the big Western chain hotels devour the beach space and those beloved’57 Chevys are replaced with Toyotas. One of these is the late journalist Denne Bart Petitclerc’s remarkable Papa Hemingway in Cuba, the first American production shot in Cuba since the 1960 trade embargo. This is the story of Hemingway and his experiences in Cuba, where he lived with his fourth wife, Mary, as told through the eyes Petitclerc when he was a young reporter at the Miami Herald. And food! Complementing its diverse and truly international program of independent cinema, SIFF offers a unique blend of world-class cuisine from local artisans and exceptional wine from Sonoma vintners, making for an epicurean experience few film festivals in the world can match. This year, SIFF is offering a complementary tasting and pairing along with its two screenings of Cooking Up a Tribute which takes us on globe-trotting road trip with the fabled Catalonian eatery El Celler de Can Roca. Browse the program and then pounce─a limited number of $15 tickets are available for pre-purchase online for all films.
ARThound’s top picks for films and events─
You’d never guess that Viva, a touching portrayal of a young gay Cuban man’s struggle to find himself, was the work of Irish director Paddy Breathnach. Directed and shot in Havana, with some very heavy-lifting from Cuban actors Héctor Medina and Jorge Perugorría, this beautiful story captures the yearning of Jesus (Medina), a young gay hairdresser working at a Havana nightclub for drag queens, to step out on stage and perform as a female. Encouraged by his mentor, Mama (Luis Alberto García), Jesus finally gets his opportunity to perform and it awakens sometime vital within. But when his estranged father Angel (Jorge Perugorría) abruptly reenters his life, his world is quickly turned upside down. As father and son tussle over their opposing expectations of each other, Viva morphs into a love story with the two men struggling to understand each other and to reconcile as a family. The drama, Ireland’s Oscar submission for Best foreign Language Film this year, also paints a rich portrait of street life in Havana and the divide between those Cubans who are embracing the coming changes and those who are battling to survive. (Screens: Thursday, March 31, 9:15 PM and Saturday, April 2, 2:15 PM, both at Sebastiani Theatre)
Papa Hemingway in Havana
Bob Yari’s vital film tells the fabled story of Hemingway in Cuba through the eyes of the late journalist Denne Bart Petitclerc (Giovanni Ribisi), a former San Francisco Chronicle reporter and Sonoma resident. Papa’s backstory was long and difficult because the film was created during the embargo. It took Yari two years to convince the US State Department and US Treasury to make an exception and he had to agree to a $100,000 spending limit for the cast and crew –unheard of for a Hollywood production. On the Cuban side, Yari was required to submit the script to the government in Havana. In addition to a fiery story that profiles two gifted writers who bond over fishing, the film features a stand-out performance by Joely Richardson who plays Hemingway’s fourth wife, Mary Welsh Hemingway. The drama was shot in Hemingway’s home Finca Vigia and locations throughout Cuba including La Floridita and Ambos Mundos Hotel. (Screens: Thursday, 3/31 6:30 PM, Sebastiani Theatre and Saturday, April 2, 2:30 PM at Veterans Hall I)
Cooking Up a Tribute / A Taste of Film:
The documentary Cooking Up a Tribute follows the famed Catalonian eatery El Celler de Can Roca (Girona, Spain) as it boldly closes up shop and embarks on a five week global road tour─from Texas to Mexico to Colombia and Peru. The idea is to improvise with local ingredients to create unique tasting menus for each locale. Opened in 1986 by the Roca brothers, Joan, Josep and Jordi, El Celler de Can Roca holds three Michelin stars. In 2013 and 2015, it was named the best restaurant in the world by Restaurant magazine. Perhaps the best footage in this ambitious doc is shot tagging along with renowned sommelier/maitre d’ Josep Roca on a fascinating pre-exploratory journey where he nails down the places his team will visit. Here’s your chance to watch agave being smoked to produce mescal in Oaxaca and to explore the seemingly infinite number of gorgeous Peruvian potatoes with names like “Bull’s Blood” and “Yellow Egg Yolk.” Free Food, Wine: The festival’s Premiere Sponsor, Celebrity Cruises, will activate their onboard “A Taste of Film” multisensory experience at both film screenings and filmgoers will receive a glass of JCB by Jean-Charles Boisset’s French sparkling No. 69 Crémant de Bourgogne with a carefully curated food tasting, which will bring the aromas and flavors of the food documentary to life. (83 min, 2015) (Screens Fri, April 1, 2:30 PM at Vintage House and Sunday, April 3, 3 PM at Vintage House with complimentary drink and tastings at the film.)
Gordon Getty: There will be Music
At 82, billionaire American composer Gordon Getty, industrialist J. Paul Getty’s son from his fifth marriage, remains a dedicated music creator, economic theorist, vintner, venture capitalist, philanthropist and longtime supporter of our beloved San Francisco Symphony. When your name is Getty, is it a help or hindrance being accepted as a serious composer? Seasoned director Peter Rosen, who has produced and directed over 100 full-length films and television programs on the luminaries of the art world, captures Getty, the musician, at work and in candid conversation with fellow composer and conductor Michael Tilson Thomas about his creative process and vision. He even captures a few of Getty’s endearing expletives─“Jeepers creepers!” and “Holy flying mackerel.” Schooled at San Francisco’s Conservatory for Music in the early 1960’s, Getty studied music theory with Sol Joseph. His business career and responsibilities as head of the Getty Foundation impinged on his time for composition and it wasn’t until the 1980s when Getty published his first work, The White Election, a song cycle on Emily Dickinson poems. He’s actually spent decades of his life carefully working and honing his music and his oeuvre includes “Joan and the Bells,” “Plump Jack,” “Usher House,” “Poor Peter,” “Four Dickinson Songs,” “The White Election” and more─pieces that have been performed all over the world. (2015, 68 min) Screens Friday, April 1, 5:30 PM, Vintage House (Getty will be present) and Saturday, April 2, Andrews Hall, 2:30 PM
The Messenger: Making a documentary is a labor of love that often takes years to realize. To understand what was happening with global populations of songbirds, Canadian director Su Rynard and her team followed songbirds on three different continents through several seasons. The message of her riveting documentary is urgent─songbirds are disappearing and many species are in serious decline. Changes in our world have brought utter catastrophe to theirs and soon they will be gone. Each year, twice a year, songbirds embark on a dangerous and difficult migratory journey. Every species has its own story to tell but the resounding commonality is that songbirds are in danger. Whose song will we hear when they are gone? The film is full of gorgeous shots of birds and clips of bird songs. (2015, 90 min) (Screens: Friday, April 1, 2:30 PM at Andrews Hall and Sunday, April 3, 9:30 AM at Vintage House)
ARThound’s previous festival coverage:
Details: The 19th Sonoma International Film Festival starts Wednesday, March 30 and runs through Sunday, April 2, 2016. To enjoy guaranteed access to all films, themed nightly parties in SIFF Village’s Backlot Tent, after parties, receptions, and industry events and panels, buy all inclusive passes online at sonomafilmfest.org. A limited number of $15 tickets are available for each film screening too and these will sell out rapidly, so purchase these in advance online at sonomafilmfest.org.
Cheesemaking in Poland 7,500 years ago: Princeton Archaeologist, Dr. Peter Bogucki tells the story with archaeology, analytical chemistry and genetics at SRJC this Sunday, March 6, 2016
We all know that archaeology entails a great deal of puzzle solving. In 1981, Princeton Archaeologist Peter Bogucki was a key player on an international team of archaeologists investigating ancient Polish agricultural sites when he revisited a site in the Kuyavia region of Northern Poland. The site yielded some roughly 7,000 year-old hole-pierced “potsherds”—prehistoric pottery fragments. Later, when Bogucki (pronounced bow-good’-ski) was back in the States visiting a friend in Vermont, he examined some 19th century sieve-like ceramics used in cheesemaking that were somehow similar. The spark was lit! On the drive home, it hit him. Could it be that those shreds of perforated pottery, that had been unearthed for years at Neolithic farming sites in northern Poland, were evidence of ancient cheesemaking? In 1984, he revealed his theory in the Oxford Journal of Archaeology. The hitch was that it was impossible to prove that that the bits of pottery were the remains of a cheesemaker rather some other type of strainer.
It would take some of the most cutting edge developments in biochemistry—and 30 years—until researchers at the University of Bristol used a new type of test to measure ancient molecular remnants embedded within the pottery. When evidence of bovine dairy lipids were found, Bogucki’s hypothesis was finally confirmed and the scientific floodgates were opened.
The presence of these bovine milk byproducts in the potsherds not only provided evidence that perforated pots were used to separate cheese curds from whey, it also explains how Neolithic Europeans, who were generally unable to digest lactose, were able to use milk for food—the whey retains the bulk of the lactose in milk, allowing the farmers to eat the low-lactose cheese. This discovery, which highlights the interplay between human cultural development and biological evolution, was published in the scientific journal Nature in December 2012 and has attracted worldwide attention.
Science is the art of refinement and enlightenment. The transformation of milk to a more tolerable product, cheese, for the lactose-intolerant may have helped promote dairying among the first farmers in Europe, Bogucki postulated. Richard Evershed and his team at the University of Bristol, who were in close contact with Bogucki, further postulated that the presence of dairying over several generations may have set in motion a biological change in Europeans—lactase persistence—retaining the lactase enzyme, which breaks down lactose, well into adulthood, which changed Western digestive capabilities. The discovery that the modern European digestive system is partly a legacy of Neolithic dairy farming practices is in turn fueling new research.
This Sunday, at 4 p.m., Bogucki will give the Robert Braidwood lecture, The Archaeology of Cheese: Cattle, Strainers, Chemistry, and Genes, at the Petaluma campus of SRJC in Ellis Auditorium (Room PC310). His talk is free and open to the public.
With the 10th California Artisan Cheese Festival following next weekend (March 18-20), in and around Petaluma’s Sheraton Sonoma County and various cheese country locations, March promises a bounty of cheese-related events. The cheese festival, which focuses on cheese sampling and education, also offers a full day of cheese-related seminars but none of this year’s seminars focus on the history of cheese or offer the depth of science and archaeology that will be covered in Bogucki’s talk. Click here for ARThound’s coverage.
More on Dr. Peter Bogucki: Currently, Dr. Bogucki is Associate Dean for Undergraduate Affairs at the School of Engineering and Applied Science at Princeton University. He received his degrees from Harvard University (Ph.D.) and the University of Pennsylvania. Since 1976 he has studied early farming societies in Europe (ca. 6000 – 3000 BCE), specifically in Poland with excavations at the sites of Brześć Kujawski and Osłonki. Dr. Bogucki has published extensively, and received numerous honors for his work.
Details: The Archaeology of Cheese: Cattle, Strainers, Chemistry, and Genes is Sunday, March 6 at 4 p.m., Ellis Auditorium, Petaluma campus of SRJC, 680 Sonoma Mountain Parkway Petaluma. The lecture is free but a parking fee is required for all-on campus parking.
Tickets for the 10th California Artisan Cheese Festival are now on sale: ARThound talks cheese with Judy Groverman Walker, the festival’s executive director
Love cheese? A growing number of artisan cheese aficionados travel far and wide to cheese gatherings across the country, but we in the Bay Area don’t have to because Petaluma and its pastoral farmlands are cheese paradise for both producers and consumers. This March 18-20, 2016, California’s Artisan Cheese Festival, takes place in and around Petaluma’s Sheraton Sonoma County and it’s considered one of the nation’s top, if not the best, cheese festivals. The festival celebrates its 10th anniversary this year and promise a glorious immersion in all things cheese. From new small-batch and very rare artisan cheeses to those that have already garnered international recognition, the spotlight is on the vibrant hues, bold aromas, and surprising flavors that make our region’s cheeses so divine. You’ll meet the local farmers who produce these cheeses and get to “ohh” and “ahhh” and cuddle their kids, lambs and calves. You’ll have classes with legendary food tzars who will feed you and, in the process, help you drill down on your own personal preferences. You’ll be briefed on the latest trends in pairing artisan cheeses with special foods, boutique wines and artisan brewed beers and ciders. And what stories you’ll hear! But unless you register soon, you’ll miss out on the farm tours and the special events this three-day extravaganza has to offer because the festival always sells out.
In honor of its 10th anniversary, the festival will expand its beloved Farm Tours to both Friday and Saturday with two new destinations in the Sacramento area and educational components will be included in every Farm Tour. A not-to-be-missed 10 Year Anniversary Celebration will be held under the Big Top on Saturday night. For the festival’s full schedule and to buy your tickets ($45 to $135), click here.
ARThound spoke with Judy Groverman Walker, the festival’s executive director, about this year’s festivities. Judy has been at the helm for the past five years. Like Arthound, Judy grew up in a 4-H farming family with deep roots in Sonoma County and has had lots of experience with raising and grazing animals as well as understanding the economics of running a dairy and bringing a product to market. Her transition to a career in designing and promoting food events seems a perfect fit for this Windsor resident who spent most of life in Sonoma County.
This is the 10th anniversary of this very special festival…what’s your history with the festival and how has it changed since you became the executive director?
Judy Groverman Walker: I’ve been involved since 2012 and, prior to that, I organized a number of local food and wine events—I helped start Kendall Jackson’s Heirloom Tomato Festival and worked with River Valley Winegrowers who used to do Grape to Glass, a three-day event. The California Artisan Cheese Festival has been growing steadily each year, both in attendees and cheesemakers. This year, we have 33 artisan cheesemakers already confirmed. This is always a struggle because those who are located further away from the festival are the hardest to pull away for a weekend because, either they’re a small farm and just can’t get away, or it’s just not cost effective. Most of the cheesemakers are from around the Bay Area. There’s never been much Southern California representation but, this year, Golden Valley Farm, from Chowchilla, the only sheep dairy in the San Joaquin Valley, will be participating again. They produce some wonderful Pecorino cheeses that have the flavor and aroma of various wines. Last year was their first time at the festival and they participated in a seminar and were at Sunday’s Artisan Cheese Tasting & Marketplace. Phillip Franco from Sierra Cheese in Compton will participate as a panelist in one of our Farm tours too. While I’ve been with the festival, I’ve noticed more cheesemakers popping up in proximity to the festival (the Petaluma area) and I think the festival has had something to do with that.
You were the first festival in the country to offer an extended weekend of artisan cheese-related events. There are more cheese festivals now; what remains unique about your festival?
Judy Groverman Walker: Because we live in an area that really appreciates fine cheese, you might assume there would be cheese festivals all over the rest of the country too. Actually, there are just a handful and ours is one of the biggest, the most comprehensive, and the best. The Great Wisconsin Cheese Festival in Little Chute (three days, early June) and the Vermont Cheesemaker’s Festival (one day, mid-July) are large festivals but don’t have our breadth. The Oregon Cheese Festival is also very well known but it’s little and just one day and is mainly about sampling. We give participants the chance to taste cheeses from over 30 artisan cheesemakers, so that’s a lot of variety. Because we represent California and so many diverse artisan cheesemakers, we maintain a strong education element that reflects and sets trends. All of this is in one place. Our farm tours are very special too and we are always working to improve them. They give consumers a chance to see firsthand how the cheeses are made and to meet and pet the goats, sheep and cows and water buffalos and get up close and personal with the farmers and ask questions about the entire process. These are our most popular events and they start to sell out a couple of days after we put up the announcement.
This year, we’ve added a panel discussion or some sort of education aspect to each tour. We’re seeing a lot of interest in local farmstead ciders right now and they happen to pair wonderfully with cheeses, so we’ve incorporated cider stops into a couple of the farm tours. Farm Tour C will visit Apple Garden Farm in Tomales and Farm Tour D visits Devoto Orchards in Sebastopol. We realized that some of some of our cheesemakers don’t get enough attention because they are further away, so we added two farm tours that take place in the Sacramento Valley area. One tour goes North and the other goes South, with stops along the way where participants can meet cheesemakers and find out what they are doing that might be different from what we are doing here.
Are there any special plans for your 10th anniversary?
Judy Groverman Walker: We’re still working out the details but Saturday night will be our 10th anniversary celebration. We’ve invited restaurants to come in and we’re partnering up cheesemakers with chefs and we’ll have live music and a photo booth and it will be a very fun and festive environment. Look for more on that in the coming weeks on the festival webpage.
Any speakers who have proven to be crowd favorites over the years that you invite back again and again?
Judy Groverman Walker: We include Laura Werlin and Janet Fletcher every year because they are such experts and such great communicators and teachers. This year, they will also participate in the farm tours. Laura will do a seminar with some California’s instrumental cheesemakers (Farm Tour C) and she’ll also do a Saturday afternoon seminar, ‘Farm to Table, Bean to Bar’ on pairing cheese and chocolate, which is selling very well.
Janet Fletcher, who has spent years and year working with cheese, will do a mixed milk cheese tasting seminar that we’ve incorporated into Farm tours A and B) and will lead a Saturday afternoon pairing seminar, ‘Dubbel Down: Belgian-style Beer and Cheese’ which is a primer on Belgian style beers made in the U.S. and American artisan cheeses.
Chef, author and teacher, John Ash, has been involved with the festival since it began and has done wonderful seminars and cooking demos and has overseen some of our dinners and carried out the live festival broadcast with KSRO. This will be the first year he’s doing the Sunday morning brunch which has California cheese at every course and features our region’s sparkling wines. He’ll also do a live cooking demonstration and I’m very excited about that.
You offer a sake and cheese pairing seminar on Saturday afternoon with Chef Tominaga of Hana and sommelier Robert Bath…is this the newest trend?
Judy Groverman Walker: We’ve had some of our cheesemakers experimenting with sake and that’s why we’re giving it a try. I’ve not heard that this is trending but after the festival there may be a lot more interest. And, of course, if sous chefs believe it can work, then it will be in restaurants and take off. It’s such an odd combination but we feel it will have appeal. I wish I could go because it’s something I know very little about.
For someone who has one day to spend at the festival, what do you recommend?
Judy Groverman Walker: If you like cheese and you’re a restaurant person and you want your cheese prepared into something, then Saturday evening’s special California Cheesin’ event is for you because chefs from leading restaurants are going to use cheese in very creative and diverse dishes. If you just want pure cheese sampling then Friday night’s Cheesemongers’ Duel will offer cheeses that famous cheesemongers have turned into “the best bite” and Sunday’s Artisan Cheese Tasting and Marketplace is straight cheese in its raw form.
What is the “value” in spending $45 to enter Sunday’s tasting tent?
Judy Groverman Walker: We give you the opportunity to try all these cheeses and include all all the beer, wine and cider you can drink, along with live entertainment. You also get an insulated insulate shopping, an ice pack and a wine glass. You are face to face with the actual cheesemakers, talking cheese and can come away with a lot of information. In between tastes, you can watch live demonstrations conducted by local chefs and cheese experts on topics like how to put together the perfect cheese board for a party. There are lots of cheese accessories too—cheeseboards, cheese knives—and local high-end gourmet accompaniments like small batch jams, tapenades, olive oils, and the latest artisan whole grain crackers. You’re not going to see jewelry makers because we keep it cheese-related. Lots of people use this as a head-start on holiday shopping and entertaining too. The newest CA artisan cheese spreads are showcased too. This year, I’m excited about Chevoo (pronounced SHAY-voo), run by an Australian couple who live in Sonoma. They’ve taken fresh Cyprus Grove goat curd and put it into an olive oil base that has been infused with different herbs. This is brand new. The tasting tent is the place to try all of these new gourmet products.
We have artisan cheesemakers from outside our area who want to participate but we try to limit it to California. We let Beehive Cheese (hand-rubbed Barely Buzzed, Teahive, Seahive) attend because they’re from Northern Utah and there’s no other cheese organization they can associate with and we are the closest festival they can attend. And we also let Willapa Hills come down from Southwest Washington come too. They started out with just sheep’s milk cheese and now have expanded into sheep/cow milk blends (Two-faced Blue, Ewe Old Cow).
Details: California’s 10th Artisan Cheese Festival is March 18-20, 2016 at the Sheraton Sonoma County in Petaluma and various cheese country locations. Tickets for all festival events are sold separately and all events take place, rain or shine. Click here to go to Eventbrite to purchase tickets.
The 18th Sonoma International Film Festival (SIFF) starts Wednesday and will screen over 90 films from more than two dozen countries over 5 nights and 4 days. The big nights have been well-covered in the media. Among the treasures that you might not have yet discovered are several films, each an artwork in itself, on artists and designers, some virtually unknown, whose gift for creative expression will inspire and delight. $15 tickets are available for pre-purchase online for all of the films mentioned below. Victor Mancilla’s documentary, ART and Revolutions, about Mexico’s famed artist-engraver, José Guasalupe Posada, will screens Saturday at the Sonoma Valley Museum of Art, will have an accompanying art exhibition and a lively post-screening Q& A with the director and Jim Nikas, the collector. The opening night film, Alan Rickman’s A Little Chaos, which has Kate Winslet playing an unorthodox thinking widow hired to design part of the gardens at Versailles, has also peaked my interest. I love how Winslet embodies strength on scene and I’m intrigued with garden design, which poses interesting questions, artistic and otherwise. What is nature, how do we fit into it and how should we shape it when we can both physically and visually? Some of these fascinating issues are practical and others philosophical but we can only hope that Winslet’s Sabine de Barra tackles them substantively as she (predictably) snuggles up with the court’s renowned landscape architect artist André Le Notre (Matthias Schoenaerts) to design one of the most exquisite gardens ever conceived.
Now, on to the art line up—
Searching for Posada: ART and Revolutions (Mexico/USA, 2014, 41 minutes) Called a “revolutionary artist of the people” and hailed as “the Goya of Mexico” and yet virtually unknown, Mexican artist and printmaker José Guadalupe Posada (1852-1913) created a vast portfolio of important work. Mexican director Victor Mancilla (201 Squadron: The Forgotten Eagles (2009) Best Historical Documentary award, Smithsonian Institution) tells Posada’s story through Jim Nikas (of Marin), an obsessed American collector of Posada’s works. Nikas, who has the largest collection of Posada’s in the U.S., embarks on a passionate search for the truth about the artist. Traveling to the Posada’s hometown of Aguascalientes, to Leon and then Mexico City, Nikas meets art historians and encounters things that would have amazed even the artist Posada himself, including Fidel Castro’s pajamas and Che Guevera’s backpack. Three-and-a-half years in the making, ART and Revolutions© was shot on location in Mexico and features music by pianist Natasha Marin, wife of actor and avid Chicano Art collector Cheech Marin. (Screens: Saturday, March 28, 5 PM, Sonoma Valley of Art, $15 tickets) There is a post-screening Q & A with the director and Jim Nikas and an Exhibition of Posada’s original artwork from the collection of the Posada Art Foundation.
Art House—(USA, 90 min) Photographer Don Freeman’s masterful documentary Art House explores the handmade homes crafted by and lived in by eleven American—Frederic Church, Russel Wright, George Nakashima, Raoul Hague, Costantino Nivola, Paolo Soleri, Henry Chapman Mercer, Wharton Esherick, Henry Varnum Poor, Byrdcliffe Arts Colony, and Eliphante. Embracing the synergy of curves, natural materials and muted light, each glorious home reflects its creator’s distinctive voice and practice as it merges with architecture. An anthem to creative souls who follow their hearts, this inspirational and gorgeously shot doc makes the sleek pages of Architectural Digest and Dwell seem passé. (Screens: Thursday, March 26, 5:30 PM, Women’s Club; Sunday, March 29, 7:30 PM Sonoma Valley Museum of Art. $15 tickets)
Beltracchi: The Art of Forgery (Beltracchi: Die Kunst der Falschung)—(Germany, 2014, 93 min) It’s ironic that 58-year-old German Wolfgang Beltracchi looks like Alfred Durer. Beltracchi masterminded one of the most lucrative art scams in postwar European history. For decades, this self-taught painter, and self-proclaimed hippie, passed off his own paintings as newly-discovered masterpieces by Max Ernst, André Derain, Max Pechstein, Georges Braque, and other Expressionists and Surrealists from the early 20th century. His wife, Helene Beltracchi, along with two accomplices, created convincing backstories and sold the paintings for six and seven figures through auction houses in Germany and France, including Sotheby’s and Christie’s. One fake Max Ernst hung for months in a retrospective at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. In 2004, Steve Martin purchased a fake Heinrich Campendonk for $860,000 through a Parisian gallery. Arne Birkenstock’s Lola award winning documentary Beltracchi: The Art of Forgery (“Beltracchi: Die Kunst der Falschung,” 2014), features the larger than life Beltracchi sharing his secrets; those he duped sharing their dismay; and those who caught him talking about the painting that blew it all up. (Screens: Thursday, March 26, 8 PM, Woman’s Club and Sunday, March 29, 5 PM, Sonoma Valley Museum of Art, $15 tickets)
Generosity of Eye—(USA, 63 min) Octogenarian William Louis-Dreyfus, the father of Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Elaine Benes on “Seinfeld) and now “Veep” ) started collecting art in the early 1960s, things that caught his eye, not investment pieces. While there are no Warhols, Freuds, or Picassos in his 3,500 piece collection, he conservatively estimates it to be worth at least $10 million and possible as much as $50 to $60 million. (from 5.26.14 Wall Street Journal article) There are pieces by Paul Gaugin, Vassily Kandinsky, Leonardo Cremonini, George Boorujy, Helen Frankenthaler, and self-taught African-American artist and former slave Bill Traylor. Louis-Dreyfus served as chairman of Louis Dreyfus Group, a global conglomerate started by his great-grandfather in 1851. Forbes estimated his net worth at $3.4 billion in 2006. Director Brad Hill, who is Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ husband, has captured the very personal story of her discovering how her father’s passion for art and justice led him to donate most of this collection over the next several decades to the New York-based non-profit, the Harlem Children’s Zone, HCZ. This touching story of a major art collection transforming into educational opportunity that will help kids in Harlem escape the vicious cycle of poverty has the intimacy of a home movie. (Click here to view the Louis-Dreyfus Family Collection web site which includes the entire collection) (Screens: Thursday, March 26, 9:30 AM Sebastiani Theatre and Sunday, March 29, 5:30 PM Burlingame Hall. $15 tickets)
Dior and I —(France, 90 min) There are just a handful of fashion greats who have had French designer Christian Dior’s enduring impact on 20th century style. Filmmaker Frédéric Tcheng (co-director Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel, 2012 and Valentino: The Last Emperor, 2008) delivers another insightful exploration of this style pioneer’s enduring influence through the storied world of the House of Christian Dior. Dior passed in 1957 but his name has lived on through this contemporary fashion house, now owned by Groupe Arnault. This thoughtful doc delivers a dramatic behind-the-scenes look at the new Artistic Director, Raf Simons’ very first Haute Couture collection. From conception through its ultimate exhibition, the process is shown to be a nerve-racking labor of love. Stoic Simons must coax the very best from his dedicated collaborators who literally make it all happen. Tcheng’s revealing homage to pressure cooker couture is fascinating. (Screens: Thursday, March 26, 2 PM Sonoma Community Center and Saturday, March 28, 8:30 PM Sonoma Valley Art Museum $15 tickets)
Art & Design Shorts Program—Fine cinematography comes in various packages. SIFF has a soft place for shorts, recognizing that, outside of the festival circuit, there is little chance to experience the synergy of a well-executed short. The festival offers three curated shorts programs and will screen dozens of individual shorts in advance of its feature-length programming. British artist David Hockney, Italian architect and interior designer Paola Navone, , 5th generation farmer and vintner Jim Bundschu, multifaceted designer Michael Vanderbyl and various Native American architects, builders and tribal members are the subjects of five Art & Design shorts that are guaranteed to stimulate your senses and fire up your imagination. Total run time is approximately one hour (Screens: Friday, March 27 12:30 PM and Sunday, March 29, 9:30 AM both at Woman’s Club. $15 tickets)
ARThound’s previous festival coverage:
SIFF 18 details:
Full festival schedule by film type is available online here.
Full schedule in calendar form is available online here.
Official Full SIFF Film Guide is available online here.
Information about passes and tickets is here.
Sebastiani Theatre – 476 First St. East (seats 325)
Sonoma Community Center-Andrews Hall – 276 East Napa Street (seats 150)
Mia’s Kitchen at Vintage House – 126 First Street West (seats 150)
Sonoma Woman’s Club – 574 First Street. East (seats 100)
Sonoma Valley Museum of Art – 551 Broadway (seats 70)
Vintage House– 264 First Street East
La Luz Center – 17560 Gregor Street, Boyes Hot Springs (3.5 miles from town square)
Petaluma’s big weekend of cheese and gourmet delights—California’s Artisan Cheese Festival is underway at the Sheraton Sonoma County
California’s Artisan Cheese Festival is back for its ninth year at the Sheraton Sonoma County in Petaluma and ARThound is just back from my first event of the day, a morning Cheese and Chocolate paring seminar with James Beard award-winning author and educator, Laura Werlin, and TCHO Chocolate’s E-Commerce guru, Heather Haskell. Cheese and chocolate are two food favorites that may not sound like a match made in heaven, but together, with the right pairings, we explored how they can be transcendent. We had the chance to mix and match 6 cheeses with 6 chocolates and sips of Lagunitas Brewing Company beers and “Cask 3,” a special new reserve port from Petaluma’s Sonoma Portworks. I was particularly enchanted with Willapa Hills’ “Lily Pad” cow’s milk cheese—a brand new hard cheese inspired by Gruyere—when paired with TCHO’s “66%” blended semi-sweet couverture chocolate from their baking line. I was even more wowed when the duo met the with the smoky depths of Lagunitas Brewing Company’s “Imperial Stout,” a roasted malt barley with 9.9% alcohol. The day is still young and there’s a round of afternoon seminars to go and this evenings’ Chefs vs. Chefs — The Best Bite, a popular roaming feast that will showcase top local Bay Area chefs using artisan cheeses in a variety of applications with more than 20 top restaurants, caterers, wineries and breweries in competition for our affection.
And did I mention samples galore? Participants sample new, limited-production, and rare artisan cheeses paired with exquisite gourmet delights that accentuate and learn all about the art of making cheese. The festival has non-profit status and its proceeds support California farmers and cheesemakers in their ongoing effort to advance sustainability. Tickets are available for individual events, including Sunday’s popular Grand Tasting Tent (tasting and marketplace) at www.artisancheesefestival.com.
Love great conversation, food, farming, family and film? Another screening of the sold-out “Changing Season: On the Masumoto Family Farm” has been added to CAAMFest for Saturday, March 21 in Oakland—SO worth the drive
CAAMFest, the Center for Asian American Media’s annual film festival, has added another screening of Jim Choi’s documentary Changing Season: On the Masumoto Family Farm, which has its (sold-out) world premiere on Friday, March 20, 7 PM, at the OMCA (Oakland Museum of California). The OMCA event, which features a pre-film get together, the film screening and the entire Masumoto family on stage in story-telling and conversation is at “Rush.” This means it is sold out BUT there may be a few tickets released at the last moment. The new added screening is Saturday, March 21, at Oakland’s New Parkway Theatre at 7PM and there are ample tickets now but this screening too will most likely sell out. Mas, Nikiko and Marcy will also be in attendance and a lively Q&A will follow the screening.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Nikiko and David “Mas” Masumoto on Monday evening at UC Berkeley (we’re all alums) and this dynamic father daughter duo touched my heart with their loving connection, positive energy and years of farming wisdom. I brought along my dear friend, long-time SRJC librarian Karen Petersen, who first introduced me to Mas via Epitaph for Peach, his 1995 lament over the loss of heirlooms. The public response to Mas’ writing was so encouraging that it essentially led him to re-evaluate the decision to bulldoze his precious heirloom trees. Our meeting couldn’t have come at a better moment because I’d spent the day, and the previous week, out in the garden paving the way for the plantings to come. If you’re the type of person who believes as I do that your garden or orchard is a reflection of who you are, then this is a film and a family that you won’t want to miss. These famous fourth generation Japanese American farmers are best known for their highly-prized heirloom Sun Crest peaches as well as their tenacious adherence to sustainable practices. Over years, they’ve reaped a harvest of not only delicious fruits but also dreams, reflections and abiding kinship. We discussed what it was like to be filmed and the new directions their lives are taking now that Nikiko has returned to home to step into her father’s work boots on their certified organic 80 acre farm in Del Ray (south of Fresno). That’s 80 acres of organic peaches, nectarines, grapes and a fig tree that all need nurturing, often in grueling heat which it turns out is also the perfect incubator for storytelling. They’re all highly creative but Mas’ writing on farming and food includes numerous best-selling books which have been lovingly treasured and dog-eared by foodies, farmers and imagined gardeners.
This beautifully shot film, which was funded by CAAM, chronicles the transitions undergone by Mas and his daughter as they lovingly enact the rituals of passing the reins from one generation to the next and reflect back on the family’s WWII internment in a camp near their farm. Stay tuned to ARThound for the interview. For more information on CAAMFest 2015, click here.
CAAMFest—Asian American film, food, music and comradery kicks off Thursday, March 12, and runs for 11 days in San Francisco, Berkeley and Oakland
The Center for Asian American Media’s CAAMfest turns 33 this year and continues its morph from a pure film festival into a series of festive happenings that fuse cutting edge independent film with music and food—all with an Asian American twist. CAAMFest takes place over the next 11 days in venues all around the Bay Area including the Asian Art Museum and the Oakland Museum of California, which add their enticing exhibits to the mix. Formerly the San Francisco Asian American Film Festival (SFIAAFF), CAAMFest 2015 offers more than 100 movies and videos focused on the discovery of new talents, voices and visions. It’s by far the largest festival of Asian American movies in North America. Under the leadership of Masashi Niwano, now in his fifth year as festival & exhibitions director, the event has become one of the country’s major platforms for conveying the richness and diversity of the Asian American multicultural experience. ARThound loves this festival because it’s so excellently curated, delivering rich and unusual stories from around the globe that stay with you for years.
This year, you’ll see Asian American broadly defined too. Iranian director Rakshan Banietemad’s new film, Tales, which picked up the award for Best Screenplay at Venice, caught the CAAMFest programmers’ eyes, not just because it’s a great film but because the director, working under dior conditions in Iran, creatively stitched together a series of shorts, stories from her previous films, to create a full length film. In so doing, she managed to navigate the bureaucracy of the Iranian cultural ministry which requires a license for a feature but not for shorts. Bravo! There are also stories involving the Asian diaspora. Juan Martín Hsu’s La Salada is set in Argentina’s bustling discount market, La Salada, just outside of Buenos Aires, and involves an ensemble cast of Korean, Taiwanese, and Bolivian immigrants whose experiences all converge at the market. It’s thus no surprise that “travel” is this year’s theme. Opportunities for armchair travel abound and over 200 guests will be flying in CAAMFest.
Opening Night: The festival kicks off at the historic Castro Theatre on Thursday evening (March 12), with Benson Lee’s Seoul Searching (2015), his new feature film which garnered quite a buzz when it premiered at Sundance in January. A tribute to the 1980’s teen movies of John Hughes, but infused with a Korean sensibility and Lee’s own experiences, this dramedy is set in a state run summer camp in Korea that brings together Korean teens from all over the globe for the purpose of teaching them about their culture. Lee uses the teen’s stories, and their unexpected twists, to explore the Korean diaspora. Lee’s Planet B-Boy, about break-dancers in an international competition, won best documentary and the audience award at CAAMfest in 2008. Lee and several cast members will attend.
Opening Gala: After the screening, there’s an opening night gala at the Asian Art Museum, with a 1980’s dance party with cocktails and fine food amidst the Seduction exhibit of Edo-period Japan. The exhibition has over 60 works of art and features Japanese artist Hishikawa Moronobu’s (1618-1694) spectacular 58 foot long painted silk handscroll, A Visit to the Yoshiwara, which is shown completely unfurled for the first time. The masterpiece, on loan from the John C. Weber, depicts daily life in the entertainment district in the 17th century.
CAAMfest’s Centerpiece movie: Shonali Bose’s Margarita with a Straw (2014) screens at Castro on Sunday, March 15th and represents the powerful storytelling and moments of palpable intimacy that CAAMFest is famous for. Kalki Koechlin plays Laila, a young woman from Delhi who is determined not to let her cerebral palsy interfere with her life —she writes lyrics for a rock band, flirts wildly with her classmates and dreams of going to New York to participate in NYU’s prestigious creative writing program to which she’s been admitted. Set in Delhi and New York, the film is a brave and glorious homage to that old adage—“follow your heart.”
Closing Night: The festival’s closes with Bruce Seidel’s Lucky Chow, a six-part PBS series which will be showcased over the course of two days—Saturday and Sunday, March 21 and 22—at Oakland’s New Parkway Theater. The series features Danielle Chang (LUCKYRICE culinary festival founder) as she travel across America, taking in the Asian food landscape. Accompanying the film will be an Asian-inspired curated menu from the New Parkway kitchen. Other food-related films are Grace Lee’s Off the Menu: Asian America and Edmond Wong’s Supper Club exploring Bay Area restaurants.
Honoring the 40th anniversary of Cambodia’s fall to the Khmer Rouge: Lest we not forget the tragic moments that also define cultures, CAAMfest is presenting a collection of powerful stories of survival and resiliency from Cambodia’s tragic Khmer Rouge period. As part of the Spotlight feature on acclaimed filmmaker Arthur Dong, his new documentary, The Killing Fields of Dr. Haing S. Ngor, chronicles the years encapsulating the Khmer Rouge’s tyranny through the eyes of Dr. Haing S. Ngor, who escaped to America and recreated his experience in the film The Killing Fields, for which he won an Academy Award in 1984. Dong will be in conversation with film critic and author B. Ruby Rich on Friday, March 20 at New People Cinema.
Perfectly Peachy: The festival is also honoring the Masumoto Family, fourth generation peach California peach farmers, with a CAAMFeast Award and a special evening of storytelling at the OMCA (Oakland Museum of California) on Friday, March 20, where the CAAM-produced documentary, Changing Season: On the Masumoto Family Farm, will have its world premiere. The entire family— Mas, Marcy, Nikiko and Korio Masumoto—will be in attendance. The Masumotos, who have an 80 acre farm south of Fresno, are famous for their highly-prized heirloom Sun Crest peaches and tenacious adherence to sustainable practices as well as their lyrical writing on farming and food. When was the last time you visited the Oakland Museum? CAAMFest provides a perfect opportunity to combine film with art. Fertile Ground: Art and Community in California (ends April 12) is an exciting collaboration between SFMOMA and OMCA that explores California artists, many of them Bay Area artists. Marion Gray: Within the Light (ends June 21) is a riveting exploration of San Francisco-based photographer Marion Gray’s work over the past 40 years documenting Bay Area artists and art happenings. Bees: Tiny Insects, Big Impact (ends September 20) will educate and entertain the entire family.
Music: In addition to the movies, Korean musicians have a strong presence at CAAMFest with performances from Awkwafina (Chinese Korean American rapper Nora Lum from Queens) and Suboi, the Vietnamese “Queen of Hip Hop” and a host of other party rockers who will keep things lively before and after the movies.
Stay tuned to ARThound for an interview with the Masumotos about all things peachy.
When/Where: CAAMfest 2015 runs March 12-22, 2014 at 8 screening venues in San Francisco, Berkeley, and Oakland and as well as select museums, bars and music halls.
Tickets: This popular festival sells outs, so advance ticket purchase is highly recommended for most films and events. Regular screenings are $14 with $1 to $2 discounts for students, seniors, disabled and current CAAM members. Special screenings, programs and social events are more. Festival 6-pack passes are also available for $75 (6 screenings for price of 5). All access passes are $450 for CAAM members and $500 for general. Click here for ticket purchases online. Tickets may also be purchased in person and various venue box offices open one hour before the first festival screening of the day. Rush Tickets: If a screening or event has sold all of its available tickets, there is still a chance to get in by waiting in the Rush line. The Rush line will form outside of the venue around 45 minutes before the screening is set to begin. Cash only and one rush ticket per person and there are no guarantees.