The 8th Annual Petaluma International Film Festival kicks off Friday, October 28th, and offers a weekend of exciting cinema
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:
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
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)
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)
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.
The 7th Petaluma International Film Festival starts Friday, October 16, and offers a weekend of really diverse world cinema
When did you last see a film from Burkina Faso, Cuba, Ethiopia, Kyrgyzstan or Macedonia? With 35 independent films from 18 countries, the 7th Annual Petaluma International Film Festival (PIFF7) offers a line-up that covers these and other remote corners of the globe, along with films from more familiar places, including Petaluma. This year’s festival is Friday through Sunday at Petaluma’s Boulevard 14 Cinemas, and offers 16 full-length films, 19 shorts and the popular Sonoma Filmmakers Showcase with several filmmakers in attendance. There’s also a new feature film from Petaluma’s director A.D. Freese, Bastards y Diablos, which has its Northern CA premiere at PIFF.
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 their careers out by creating a short film, Shafa has purposely paired all the feature-length 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:
The festival kicks off at noon on Friday with German filmmakers’ Florian Heinzen-Ziob & Georg Heinzen’s documentary Original Copy (2015, Germany), a delightful ode to Mumbai artist Sheikh Rehman who lovingly creates one-of-a-kind hand-painted film posters for an old movie palace in Mumbai. Romanian director Andra Tévy’s 17 minute short The Wall (Mur, 2014) will also open the festival. PIFF offers six screenings daily, running from noon till just before midnight.
Sunday’s Closing film:
The festival closes with a Sunday 10:15 PM screening of American director Tim French’s crime drama Intersection (2015) about a troubled man who is haunted by the circumstances of his daughter’s death in a car crash and returns to the small town where she died. Screening with this is Italian director Francesco Gabriele’s comedy, Italian Miracle (2015), a 9 minute short which screened at Cannes this year and is set in rural Italy where a young man is called upon to translate an English speaking woman’s confession to the local priest.
Saturday’s Sonoma Filmmakers Showcase:
Now in its third year, the Sonoma Filmmakers Showcase, Saturday at 6 PM, will screen four shorts from local filmmakers, recognizing our community’s rich and diverse talent. All the filmmakers will be on hand for a post-screening Q&A. On the program—Bill Chayes’ Metal Man (2014, 37 min). John Harden’s New (2014, 16 min), Janna Ji Wonders’ I Remember (2015, 30 min), and Quinn Fujii’s Nashville Yacht Club (2015, 10 min).
Full schedule here.
Film descriptions here.
PIFF Details: The 7th Petaluma International Film Festival is Friday, October 16, through Sunday, October 18, 2015 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) For more information: Phone (415) 251-8433 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org .
This weekend’s 5th Petaluma International Film Festival spans the remote corners of the globe—ARThound looks at the line-up
With more than 40 independent films from 20 countries and a new program showcasing local filmmakers, 5th Annual Petaluma International Film Festival (PIFF), this Friday through Sunday, has its best line-up ever. Organized by Saeed Shafa who founded the popular annual Tiburon Film Festival in 2002, PIFF not only emphasizes great storytelling and international points of view; it has films that you just won’t see elsewhere. The festival kicks off at noon on Friday with German filmmaker Hermann Vaske’s acclaimed documentary Balkan Spirit (2013, Germany) which explores the vast creative landscape of the war-torn Balkans and closes with a Sunday 10:15 PM screening of award-winning documentarian Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi’s dynamically-shot Touba (2013, Senegal/USA) reveals a face of Islam the world rarely glimpses—the Grand Magaal pilgrimage of 1 million Sufi Muslims to their holy city of Touba, Senegal. PIFF offers six screenings daily, running from noon till just before midnight, with each time slot allocated to a full-length film and at least one short (30 minutes or less).
This year, filmmakers and/or films span the globe from Athens to Kosovo to remote Papua New Guinea to Senegal to Yemen. That’s right…Papua New Guinea! How does Shafa find these gems? “When we send out our call for entries, they come to us,” said Shafa. “Fortunately, every year more countries are participating and more filmmakers are getting to know our festival and the kind of programing we have. This, at the same time, makes our selections very difficult but is the reward of having so many good films to choose from for our sophisticated audiences.”
The fine selection of entertaining shorts this year proves that stories can be highly effective in a limited time framework. Shafa has purposely paired all the feature-length films with shorts to get the point across. The incomparable Gérard Depardieu stars as a befuddled door-to-door salesman in Constance Meyer’s comedic short Frank-Étienne Vers la Béatitude (2012, France) and in just 12 minutes gets caught up in a struggle between an irresistible young woman (Marina Fois), her ex, and their dog. (screens Saturday 8 PM)
New to this year’s festival is Sonoma Filmmakers Showcase, Saturday October 12, 6 PM—a program celebrating 5 short films made by Sonoma County filmmakers in support of the community’s rich and diverse talent. All the filmmakers will be on hand for a post-screening Q&A. On the program—Greg Blatman’s Kitty Litter (2012, 9 min, shot in Petaluma); Beth Nelson’s The Sky is the Roof (2013, 30 min—historical overview of pre-colonial Napa Valley); Laura Owen & Aron Campisano’s Chocolatés (5 min); Bret Smith’s Rat-Face Burattino (2013, 5 min) and Paul Winston’s The World is My Stage (2013, 26 min).
Full schedule here.
Film descriptions here.
ARThound has attended this festival every year since it opened and has implicit trust in Saeed Shafa’s programming but here are the films caught my eye:
FRIDAY, OPENING DAY
Balkan Spirit —Friday, noon, : The festival kicks off with German filmmaker Hermann Vaske’s acclaimed documentary Balkan Spirit (2013, Germany). Vaske and Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek explore the cultural, philosophical, political and artistic renaissance that is literally breathing life into this amazing region after decades of war and stagnation. The engaging film features Angelina Jolie, Isabelle Huppert, Emir Kusturica, Dušan Makavejev, Abel Ferrara, Jasmila Zbanic and many other who will be forever on your creative radar. 80 minutes. Screens with Shane Atkinson’s short, Penny Dreadful (USA, 2013, 13 min).
The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc—Saturday, 2 PM *great for kids*: French filmmaker Luc Besson’s action films (La Femme Nikita, Colombiana, The Fifth Element, The Messenger) often feature a courageous female lead. The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc (France, 2013) stars Louise Bourgoin as Adele Blanc-Sec, a daring female investigative reporter and action-seeker. Based on the historical comic book series by French comics artist, Jacques Tardi, the film has the whip-smart and charming young heroine using her reasoning skills to solve a mystery that will save her comatose sister Agathe (Laure de Clermont). Adele believes that an imprisoned scientist, Professor Espérandieu (Jacky Nercessian), can reanimate a legendary doctor, who in turn might be able to revive Agathe. With the help of her number-one fan, Andrej Zborowski (Nicolas Giraud), Adele must evade her nemeses long enough to save her sister. 107 minutes. In French with English subtitles
The Professor—Saturday, 2 PM with short Frank-Étienne Vers la Béatitude: In Tunisian director Mahmoud ben Mahmoud’s retro-thriller, the struggle for social justice and human rights in late 1970s Tunisia is dramatized against the backdrop of a perilous extra-marital affair between a law professor (played by Ahmed Hafiane) who heads Tunisia’s new human rights commission and his radical young student . The period Ben Mahmoud has recreated captures the historical roots of Tunisia’s long slide into tyranny. The period explored coincides with recently deposed Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali’s career-boosting appointment as General Director of National Security, a major stepping stone towards his 23-year authoritarian rule. Begun in the final days of Ben Ali’s reign, the film was subject to official interference, and could only be completed after the ousted dictator fled to exile in Saudi Arabia last year. Michael Portal’s stirring musical score, with European and Arabic references, has been praised. (2012, Tunisia, France, Qatar, 92 minutes) Screens with Constance Meyer’s comedic short Frank-Étienne Vers la Béatitude (2012, France, 12 minutes).
Sonoma Filmmakers Showcase—Saturday, 6 PM—A new addition to PIFF, a special screening of five short films made by Sonoma County filmmakers in support of the community’s rich and diverse talent. All the filmmakers will be on hand for a post-screening Q&A. On the program—Greg Blatman’s Kitty Litter (2012, 9 min, shot in Petaluma); Beth Nelson’s The Sky is the Roof (2013, 30 min—historical overview of pre-colonial Napa Valley); Laura Owen & Aron Campisano’s Chocolatés (5 min); Bret Smith’s Rat-Face Burattino (2013, 5 min) and Paul Winston’s The World is My Stage (2013, 26 min). Total Length: Approx. 2 hours
Agnus Dei—Saturday 10 PM, screens with short Jacobo: Kosovar filmmaker Agim Sopi’s feature drama is based on a true horror story born out of the brutal atrocities of the Kosovo War which occurred in late 1990’s. The film’s backdrop is the face-off of Serb paramilitaries against Kosovar Albanian rebels (KLA) as the Serbs try to remove all Kosovo Albanians from Kosovo. The story involves Peter (Astrit Alihajdaraj), a young Serb solider who is the product of a forbidden love between his Serb mother and Kosovar Albanian father. Peter goes off to war and rescues and then ends up falling in love with an Albanian girl named Maria (the beautiful Dafina Berisha). They travel back to Peter’s mom’s house, only to discover a terrible family secret that will destroy Peter’s entire world. This modern day Odepius-like tale is perfect for its late night time slot. (2012, Kosovo, 85 min) In Serbian with English subtitles. Screens with David del Águilla’s Jacobo (2012, Spain, 14 minutes)
Isolated —Sunday, 2 PM, screens with short Via Tango: American director Justin Le Pera’s documentary Isolated (USA 2013) was shot in remote New Guinea, which seems reason enough to check it out. It follows 6 thrill seeking surfers who embark on a journey to search for one of the world’s last undiscovered waves New Guinea, a vast sprawling region where black magic, sorcery and cannibalism sometimes occur. There’s thrilling surfing footage as they encounter epic waves. The film gets very serious when they run up against human rights atrocities surrounding the West Papua-Indonesian civil war and an unethical mining corporation—alarming maladies that seem to plague the world’s most beautiful places. The film features never before seen footage of an ancient aboriginal culture. 90 minutes. Screens with the Spanish short, Via Tango.
The Last Winter (Zemestane akha)—-Sunday 6:15 PM, Screens with the animated short Double Occupancy: Saeed Shafa, PIFF founder, has a passion for the great poetic of film. This year’s gem from Iran is Salem Salavati’s documentary The Last Winter (Zemestane akhar) (Iran, 2012), an elegant parable about the threatened culture of Iranian Kurdistan told through the story of a family who is unable to change and to come to terms with a tragedy. Salavati’s documentary is an expanded version of his previous short Snowy Dreams with the same picturesque winter scenery, calm, realistic life style and culture of Iranian Kurdistan. 95 minutes. English subtitles. Screens with the animated short Double Occupancy (2012, Germany, 9 min) by German filmmaker Fabian Giessler.
Touba—Sunday 10:15 PM: The festival closes with a lush doc. Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi’s Touba (Senegal, 2013) has won awards for its cinematography and received glowing reviews for delivering a rare sensory experience. This observational film follows the annual Grand Magaal pilgrimage of 1 million Sufi Muslims to the holy city of Touba, Senegal. Dynamically shot in 16mm, it captures the sights and sounds and rituals of the Mouride Brotherhood: one of Africa’s most elusive organizations. Pilgrims travel from all over the world to pay homage to the life and teachings of Cheikh Amadou Bamba, whose non-violent resistance to French colonial persecution in the late 19th century inspired a national movement: freedom of religious expression through pacifism. Vasarhelyi, a Sundance fellow, is the acclaimed director of the award-winning documentary Youssou N’Dour: I Bring What I Love (2008) which explored the African pop artist N’Dour as he released a spiritual album that unexpectedly alienated his Senegalese countrymen. Touba screens with the Lebanese filmmaker Mokhtar Beyroth’s short, Studio Beirut (Lebanon, 2013, 15 min).
PIFF Details: The 5th Petaluma International Film Festival is Friday, October 11, through Sunday, October 13, 2013 at Petaluma’s Boulevard Cinemas, 200 C Street, Petaluma. Tickets are $11 for all PIFF screenings and are available in person or for online purchase at Petaluma’s Boulevard Cinemas. All inclusive festival pass is $150 and can be obtained by phoning (415) 251-8433 or by emailing email@example.com.
The fall film festival season we’ve been waiting for kicks off in early October with three film festivals North of the Golden Gate—the 36th Mill Valley Film Festival (Oct 3-13, 2013), the 18th Sonoma County Jewish Film Festival (Oct 3-Nov 21, 2013) and the 5th Petaluma International Film Festival (Oct 11-13, 2013).
Stay-tuned to ARThound for detailed coverage, but below are the bare bones and ticketing information on each. The three-day Petaluma International Film Festival overlaps with the final Fri-Sat-Sun of the Mill Valley Film Festival and the Sonoma County Jewish Film Festival and Mill Valley Film Festival both share an October 3 opening, With some planning though, you can easily see plenty of films at each of these festivals.
Mill Valley Film Festival (Oct 3-13)
Heading into its 36th year, the acclaimed Mill Valley Film Festival (MVFF36) kicks off Thursday, October 3, 2013 in high style with the Co-Opening night films Nebraska, from director Alexander Payne, and The Book Thief from director Brian Percival. Bruce Dern and Will Forte will be in attendance for the Bay Area Premiere of Nebraksa at CinéArts@Sequoia in Mill Valley and Academy Award®-winner Geoffrey Rush and Sophie Nélisse and Brian Percival will be in attendance for The Book Thief at the Century Cinema Corte Madera in Corte Madera. An Opening Night Gala at the Corte Madera Town Center will follow the Opening Night Screenings where guests will enjoy delicious local cuisine and wine and music.
On the heels of the prestigious Venice and Toronto festivals, MVFF has the proud distinction of presenting Bay Area premieres of the last five Academy Award-Winners for Best Picture—Slumdog Millionaire, The Hurt Locker, The King’s Speech, The Artist and Argo—and festival organizers Mark Fishkin and Zoe Elton expect no less this year. Aside from its array of big premieres, big nights, stars and luminaries, and tributes and awards, the carefully planned 11 day festival offers over 150 films and events that fit the informed, progressive and Bohemian zeitgeist of Northern California. A few of the special interest categories include—animation, animal rights, Asian, Central Europe, Children’s Festival, comedy, environment/nature, fine arts, food, health, history, human rights, indigenous peoples, women, world cinema, and war.
There’s a huge buzz about Judy Dench’s performance in Philomena Steven Frears’ heart-tugging adoption story starring Dench and Steve Coogan. Philomena tells the story of a down-on-his-luck journalist (Coogan) who teams up with older woman (Dench, 78 in real life) whose son was taken away after she became pregnant as a teenager and was forced into a Catholic convent cum slave-labor home for unwed pregnant girls run by Northern Irish nuns. The movie is based on a true story of Irish woman Philomena Lee’s 50-year struggle to find her son, who was sold for adoption in America, as told by Martin Sixsmith in his 2009 book The Lost Child of Philomena Lee: A Mother, Her Son and a Fifty-Year Search.
Because MVFF makes ticket available to California Film Institute members in advance of the general public, many of the films and special tributes are nearly sold out before they are publicly available. (For a list of films currently at rush, click here.) I’ll be pointing out several films over the next few days that still have availability and are unlikely to screen elsewhere, or, that have special programming combined with their screening that make them a must-see at Mill Valley.
Details: The festival’s homepage is here. Advance ticket purchase is essential as this festival sells out. To purchase tickets online for MVFF screenings, browse the film listings—the full list and scheduling information are online here. Most tickets are $14 and special events and tributes are more. Tickets can also be purchased in person at select Marin ticket outlets.
Rush tickets: If seats become available, even after tickets have sold out, rush tickets will be sold. The rush line forms outside each venue beginning one hour before show-time. Approximately 15 minutes prior to the screening, available rush tickets are sold on a first-come, first serve basis for Cash Only.)
Sonoma County Jewish Film Festival 2013 (Oct 3 – Nov 21)
The Jewish Community Center, Sonoma County presents the 18th annual Sonoma County Jewish Film Festival (SCJFF) which opens Thursday October 3, 2013 at Rialto Cinemas, Sebastopol, and ends November 21, 2013. The festival conveniently runs on Thursdays at 1 PM and 7:30 PM and presents seven carefully selected films from Israel, France, Germany, Austria and the USA. “You don’t have to be Jewish to love these films,” says Ellen Blustein, Film Festival Director who emphasizes their great stories. “We’re committed to providing high quality, entertaining, independent films to our loyal audience – after all – they are our community.”
Opening the festival is Sophie Lellouche’s debut film, the romantic comedy Paris-Manhattan (2012) screening Thursday, October 3, at 1 PM and 7:30 PM — Alice (Alice Taglioni) is beautiful, successful pharmacist in her 30s who is obsessed with Woody Allen and his films. In lieu of a manly shoulder, she spills her secrets to an iconic poster of Woody that hangs in her bedroom. She even prescribes his films to her customers who need advice and guidance beyond the traditional medicine she dispenses. France, 77 minutes, French with English subtitles. click for trailer. Screens with Woody Before Allen, Short film, USA, 13 minutes, English.
The SCJFF always has a special event and on Thursday, October 31 presents a screening and a special musical performance. The evening begins with music—a quartet from the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra will perform for the first time ever in Sonoma County. Then, Josh Aronson’s acclaimed documentary Orchestra of Exiles (2012) will screen—the suspenseful chronicle of how one man, Bronislaw Huberman, helped save Europe’s premiere Jewish musicians from obliteration by the Nazis during WWII. This densely layered story of the creation of the Palestine Symphony Orchestra (which in 1948 became the renowned Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, now conducted by Zubin Mehta) involves key characters including the high Nazi official, Goebbels; renowned conductors, Furtwangler and Toscanini; a future head of state, Chaim Weizmann; the families of victimized Jewish musicians who made up the ranks of orchestras across central Europe and Albert Einstein, who was an amateur violinist who liked to read music with Huberman. The film features the music of Itzhak Perlman, Zubin Mehta, Pinchas Zukerman, Joshua Bell and others. After the screening, there will be a reception where audience members can mingle with the musicians. Details: Click here for tickets and information about the entire festival or call 707-528-4222 or visit the Rialto Cinemas Box Office. Ticket prices range from $10-$20.
Petaluma International Film Festival (Oct 11-13)
5th Annual Petaluma International Film Festival (PIFF) runs Friday, October 11 through Sunday, October 13th at Petaluma’s Boulevard 14 Cinemas. Organized by Saeed Shafa who founded the popular annual Tiburon Film Festival in 2002, PIFF’s programming also reflects a strong emphasis on international points of view and great storytelling. The festival offers six screenings daily, starting at noon and running till about 11 PM, each time slot allocated to a full-length film and at least 1 short (30 minutes or less) for a total of 17 full-length films and 23 shorts. This year, filmmakers and/or films span the globe from Athens to Kosovo to remote Papua New Guinea to Senegal to Yemen.
Opening Day: The festival opens Friday, October 11 with a noon screening of Hermann Vaske’s Balkan Spirit (2013, Germany, 80 minutes). Vaske and Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek explore the cultural, philosophical, political and artistic renaissance that is literally breathing life into this amazing region after decades of war and stagnation. The engaging film features Angelina Jolie, Isabelle Huppert, Emir Kusturica, Dušan Makavejev, Abel Ferrara, Jasmila Zbanic and many other who will be forever on your creative radar.
5 Films by Sonoma Flimmakers, Saturday October 12, 6 PM—PIFF will present a collection of films made by Sonoma County filmmakers in support of the community’s rich and diverse talent. All the filmmakers will be on hand for a post-screening Q&A. On the program- Greg Blatman’s Kitty Litter (2012, 9 min, shot in Petaluma); Beth Nelson’s The Sky is the Roof (2013, 30 min—historical overview of pre-colonial Napa Valley); Laura Owen & Aron Campisano’s Chocolatés (5 min); Bret Smith’s Rat-Face Burattino (2013, 5 min) and Paul Winston’s The World is My Stage (2013, 26 min).
Shafa has a passion for the great poetic of film. This year’s gem from Iran is Salem Salavati’s documentary The Last Winter (Zemestane akhar) (Iran, 2012, 95 min), an elegant parable about the threatened culture of Iranian Kurdistan told through the story of a family who is unable to change and to come to terms with a tragedy. Salavati’s documentary is an expanded version of his previous short Snowy Dreams with the same picturesque winter scenery, calm, realistic life style and culture of Iranian Kurdistan. Screens with the short Double Occupancy at 6:15 PM on Sunday, October 13, 2013.
PIFF Details: Tickets are $11 for all PIFF screenings and are available in person or for online purchase at Petaluma’s Boulevard Cinemas, 200 C Street, Petaluma. All inclusive festival pass is $150 and can be obtained by phoning (415) 251-8433 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Full schedule here. Film descriptions here.
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.
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.