Geneva Anderson digs into art

“Czech that Film,” a traveling film festival of 5 award-winning Czech films starts Friday, May 31, 2013, at San Francisco’s Roxie Theatre

Czech director, David Ondříček, one of Variety’s 10 Directors to Watch in 2013, will conduct an audience Q & A following the screening of his new film, “In the Shadow” (2012) on Tuesday, June 4, 2013 at “Czech That Film 2013 presented by Staropramen.”  Photo: Hynek Glos, Lidové noviny

Czech director, David Ondříček, one of Variety’s 10 Directors to Watch in 2013, will conduct an audience Q & A following the screening of his new film, “In the Shadow” (2012) on Tuesday, June 4, 2013 at “Czech That Film 2013 presented by Staropramen.” Photo: Hynek Glos, Lidové noviny

When’s the last time you saw a contemporary Czech film?  For most of us, the answer is never, or, years ago at a film festival.  It’s not often that the opportunity presents itself.   The last Czech film I saw was Jan Švankmajer and Eva Švankmajerová’s Otesánek (Little Otik, 2000) a fascinating reincarnation of Czech folklore, that touched on the both the maternal instinct and fertility issues.  It featured a childless Czech couple who purchased a wooden stump, Little Otik, which became the desperate woman’s surrogate child and the man’s nightmare.  Being Czech, I’ve longed for more access to contemporary Czech film.   Little did I know that San Francisco’s  Roxie Theatre, which has a long commitment to screening indie films, had its first Czech film festival last year, New Czech Films U.S. Tour 2012.  There was sufficient demand for them to offer it again.

Starting this Friday, May 31, is Czech That Film 2013,” presenting  five of the best new Czech films, one screening each evening at 7 p.m., through Tuesday, June 4, 2013, at  San Francisco’s Roxie Theatre.  “The program features everything from social dramas to comedies and film noir, and much more – all generously ladled with the wry humor that marks the works as distinctly Czech,” explained Mike Keegan, Special Events Programmer, Roxie Theater, who selected the 5 films that the Roxie will screen from a pool of 12 films.  Czech That Film is sponsored by The Consulate General of the Czech Republic in Los Angeles together with the Honorary Consul General of the Czech Republic in San Francisco, Silicon Valley Richard Pivnicka and Staropramen, the renowned Czech brewery.

Opening Night: The festival kicks off on Friday, May 31 at 7:00 pm with an opening screening of Zdeněk Jiráský’s “Flower Buds,” (Poupata)(2011, 91 min) winner of four Czech Lions in 2012, including Best Film. Jiráský’s powerful first feature is about the struggles of a small town family trapped in the ugly, snow-clogged, nameless village who lead a bleak life in the aftermath of totalitarian rule. The film has been recognized in Chicago, Warsaw, Cleveland, Minneapolis, and many other major international film festivals.

trailer Zdeněk Jiráský’s “Flower Buds

Closing Night: The festival wraps on Tuesday, June 4 at 7:00 pm with a screening of “In the Shadow (Ve stinu) (2012, 106 min), a new period drama directed by David Ondříček, one of Variety’s 10 Directors to Watch in 2013.  Starring veteran Czech actor Ivan Trojan (“Želary) and Sebastian Koch (“The Lives of Others”), this modern film noir explores the political and psychological labyrinth of Stalinist Czechoslovakia.  Ivan Trojan is Hakl, a member of Prague’s Communist police force charged with investigating what seems to be a routine robbery at a goldsmith’s shop.  His investigation, however, unveils darker secrets about the Communist Party.  Soon, State Security replaces him on the case with a German specialist in “Zionist crime,” played by Sebastian Koch. When Hakl continues his investigation on his own, he sets both men on a collision course with the ominous powers of the Communist state. The film swept the 2013 Czech Lion awards (the Czech Academy Awards), winning nine prizes, including Best Film, Best Director, and Best Screenplay. Ondříček, known internationally for his many popular Czech films, will be on hand after the screening for an audience Q & A.  (Screens Tuesday, June 4, 2013 at 7 p.m.)  Following the Q & A, the festival will close with an afterparty at the nearby West of Pecos, 550 Valencia Street, San Francisco.  Combined price for screening and afterparty is $15.

trailer David Ondříček’s “In the Shadow

Three other award-winning films will round the festival.  Contemporary drama “The House,” (Dom)(2011, 97 min) from acclaimed Slovak writer-director Zuzana Liová, won awards at the Bratislava and Palm Springs International Film Festivals.  The film powerfully stages unstapled shift towards capitalism in small Slovak town. Remarkable for its depth of characterization, this sensitively observed, intelligently made realist tale of generational conflict is set in a remote Slovak village where old grudges die hard.  Ambitious teen Eva is about to graduate from high school and eager to experience the world outside her pokey hometown.  Meanwhile, her controlling father is painstakingly building her a house on the family property. After Eva meets a handsome new neighbor, she is tempted, like her now-disowned older sister before her, to leave the family nest sooner rather than later.  Liova’s tightly constructed screenplay makes meaningful looks and repeated gestures speak louder than words about expectations and desires. Winner: Best Film, Best Actress, Art Film Festival.  (Screens Monday, June 3, 2013 at 7 p.m.)

Slovak writer-director Zuzana Liová discusses The House at the 56th BFI LFF

Perfect Days,”(Zeny maji sve dny)(2011, 108 min) nominated for three Czech Lions. This romantic comedy by renowned director Alice Nellis features brilliant acting (Ivana Chýlková) from a range of characters. It effortlessly makes light of the obstacles met in middle age, and playfully laughs in the face of disappointment. (Screens Saturday, June 1, 2013 at 7 p.m.)

trailer Alice Nellis’ “Perfect Days” (will have English subtitles at the Roxie)

Perfect Days,”(Zeny maji sve dny)(2011, 108 min) nominated for three Czech Lions. This romantic comedy by renowned director Alice Nellis features brilliant acting (Ivana Chýlková) from a range of characters. It effortlessly makes light of the obstacles met in middle age, and playfully laughs in the face of disappointment. (Screens Saturday, June 1, 2013 at 7 p.m.)

Tomás Rehorik’s Signàl(2012, 113 min) is a comedy about a small Czech town that starts to think there is money is to made with cell phones.  Popular Czech actors, Bolek Polívka and Karel Roden, (15 minutes, Ronin) are co-stars and director Jiří Menzel has a supporting role. (Screens Sunday, June 2, 2013 at 7 p.m.)

trailer Tomáš Řehořek’s Signàl(2012) (will have English subtitles at the Roxie)

Czech that Film” officially began in Salt Lake City in April, then traveled to Phoenix, Denver, Los Angeles, all before arriving in San Francisco. The festival will continue on to Chicago, Portland, New York, Washington, DC, before concluding in Seattle in July, 2013.  A total of 12 films will be screened but different cities may select a reduced program. Special events will complement the festival in each city, including opening and closing receptions and Q&A’s discussions with directors. announced.

Details: Czech That Film 2013 is May 31-June 4, 2013 at San Francisco’s Roxie Theatre, 3117 16th Street, San Francisco, CA  94103 .  All Screenings start at 7:00 p.m.  All films are in Czech with English subtitles.  Tickets are $10 per film ($6.50 for seniors) and $15 for the June 4, Closing Night screening and afterparty with David Ondříček in attendance.  Tickets can purchased in advance online  here or at the Roxie Theatre.

Friday, May 31           “Flower Buds”

Saturday, June 1         “Perfect Days”

Sunday, June 2            “Signal”

Monday, June 3          “The House”

Tuesday, June 4          “In the Shadow” (followed by Q&A with director and Closing Night afterparty at West of Pecos)

May 29, 2013 Posted by | Film | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A to Z Concerts presents 8 virtuoso cellists and soprano Carrie Hennessey in “The V Concert” Saturday, September 10, 2011, to benefit Cinnabar Theater

Soprano Carrie Hennessey of Sacramento will sing Heitor Villa-Lobos’ “Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5” for Voice and Eight Cellos in “The V Concert” on September 10, 2011. In June 2010, Hennessey made her debut with Cinnabar Theater in the title role of the opera “Emmeline,” by Tobias Picker. Photo: courtesy Carrie Hennessey

One of the best ways to celebrate the glorious last days of summer in Sonoma County is with an outdoor concert.  Next Saturday, September 10, 2011, “The A to Z Concert series,” will visit the West Petaluma gardens of Sandra and Borue O’Brien.  The performance will feature acclaimed Sacramento soprano Carrie Hennessey performing Villa-Lobos’ “Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5” for Voice and Eight Cellos and other works exclusively by composers whose last names begin with the letter “V.”  “The V Concert” is a benefit for Cinnabar Theater’s opera program and is organized by Sonoma County cellists Judiyaba and Gwyneth Davis, who created “The A to Z Concert series,” a 2-year project comprising 24 concerts with composers whose names represent every letter of the alphabet.  In addition to Villa-Lobos, “The V Concert” will include works by Vivaldi and by the 16th- century Flemish composer Vaet—all in one of West Petaluma’s most beautiful private gardens, surrounded by a redwood grove.  Hosts Sandra and Borue O’Brien have also planned a silent auction and will serve wine, cheeseboards, and desserts.

“This is our 20th concert,” explained cellist Judiyaba, a long-term Sebastopol resident, who organized “The A to Z Concert series” (or “The Alphabet Concerts”) with cellist Gwyneth Davis, a member of the Eloquence String Quartet.   “We started this series because we just love to play chamber music and this gives us an opportunity to explore new repertoire and old favorites and we’ve found so much new music.  What’s fun about our group is that it is composed of eight cellists who have played in literally every orchestra in the Bay Area─the SF Symphony, SF Opera, regional orchestras─so it is very representative.”

 V Concert Program:  Judiyaba whimsically described “The V Concert” as a “varied, venturesome and vibrant program of virtuosi violoncelli” (using the full formal name for the cello).  “The most challenging is the Villa-Lobos—it’s tricky and fun.  We are doing three pieces by the composer “Vaet” [pronounced “Vate”], which are 16th-century motets, or 3-to-5 part choral pieces which could also have been played on instruments.”

Heitor Villa-Lobos (1887-1959), Latin America’s most important composer, had little formal music training.  He instead absorbed the influences of his native Brazil’s indigenous cultures, themselves based on Portuguese, African, and American Indian elements.  Between 1930 and 1945, he composed a series of nine suites he called the Bachianas Brasileiras (“Brazilian Bach pieces”) which meld Brazilian folk and popular music with the style of Johann Sebastian Bach, applying Baroque harmonic and contrapuntal techniques to Brazilian music.  The Bachianas Brasileiras No. 1 and No. 5, both scored for 8 cellos, show the composer’s love for the sonorities of the cello, an instrument that he himself played in Rio de Janeiro’s cinema, theatre, and opera orchestras.  Brazilian soprano Bidú Sayão was Villa-Lobos’ favorite singer and made a number of recordings of his compositions, including the definitive recording of the Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5 (which can be heard here).  Carrie Hennessey will sing this haunting soprano solo in “The V Concert.”  

Sebastopol cellist Judiyaba is co-creator of “The Alphabet Concerts,” a 2 year project comprising 24 concerts with composers whose names represent every letter of the alphabet. She will perform in “The V Concert” with 7 other cellists in a benefit for Cinnabar Theater on September 10, 2011. Photo: courtesy Judiyaba

Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741), the prolific Venetian superstar of Italian Baroque music, will dominate “The V Concert” program, with performances of his Concerto for two cellos (with multi-cello accompaniment), his Cello Concerto in A minor (featuring SF Opera cellist Victoria Erhlich and accompanied by….yes…more cellists!), and the lilting pastoral aria “Domine Deus” from his beloved Gloria sung by Carrie Hennessey (accompanied by cellos).  All of these pieces showcase the rhythmic exuberance, harmonic invention, and virtuosic string writing that catapulted Vivaldi to celebrity during his lifetime and has kept his music in the limelight ever since.

Jacobus Vaet (c.1529-1567) was a Flemish Renaissance composer noted for distinctive and intricate polyphonic (multi-voiced) sacred music, including nine complete extant masses, and both sacred and secular motets.  The three motets on this program will feature the 8-cello ensemble playing parts originally written for singing voices.

The cellists for “The V Concert” are: Kelly Boyer, Gwyneth Davis, Poppea Dorsam, Victoria Erhlich, Leighton Fong, David Goldblatt, Judiyaba, and Ruth Lane (a Petaluma resident).  And the soprano is Carrie Hennessey.   A wonderful line- up!

Total run time: approximately 2 hours, with intermission. Wine, cheese and desserts.

Cinnabar Theater:  “The V Concert” is a benefit for Cinnabar Theater’s opera program, its founding program.  Cinnabar Theater, Petaluma’s beloved opera and theatre company, was established by the legendary Marvin Klebe in the early 1970’s in the old red schoolhouse that was the original Cinnabar School (near the intersection of Skillman Lane and Petaluma Blvd. North.)  “The main reason why Marvin Klebe founded this company,” said Elly Lichtenstein, Cinnabar’s Artistic Director, “was because he wanted to do opera in a different way, with intimate ensemble works where the individual performers were treated as artists.”  Over the years, Cinnabar, a nonprofit, has dedicated itself to encouraging community participation in the arts and to community education as well.  The theater offers a highly regarded Young Repertory Program that trains youth as young as 4 years old in the dramatic and musical performing arts. 

Sebastopol cellist Gwyneth Davis is a co-creator of “The Alphabet Concerts.” She has performed with most of the regional orchestras in the Bay Area, plays for Cinnabar Opera, and is a pastry chef. Photo: courtesy Judiyaba

Lichtenstein explained that Cinnabar Theater normally produces two operas annually but this year it will feature just one opera, Mozart’s Don Giovanni (March 23-April 15, 2011), and the musical She Loves Me, which opens Cinnabar’s 39th season on September 9, 2011.

Silent Auction:  all proceeds will benefit Cinnabar Theater’s opera program.  Prizes include:

Vineyard tour of Kastania Vineyards, Petaluma

10 one-day passes Roxie Theatre

Round of golf at Rooster Run Golf Club, Windsor Golf Club, and Adobe Creek Golf

4 $25 gift certificates for Absolute Home and Garden

4 $25 gift certificates for Empire Nursery


The V Concert: Saturday, September 10, 2011, 4 p.m., 200 Queens Lane (off King Road), Petaluma, CA.  Tickets: $20 available, or phone 707-763-8920, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday through Friday.  Reservations highly recommended.

A to Z Concert series:”  The Alphabet Concerts is a 2 year project.  “The W Concert” is October 2, 2011, 7 p.m, Petaluma Museum, featuring Kurt Weill, William Walton and more.

Cinnabar Theater:  Cinnabar Theater’s fall season kicks off on September 9, 2011 with the musical  She Loves Me.  This delightful romantic comedy is based on the play of the same name and the popular film The Shop Around the Corner, on which the more recent film You’ve Got Mail is also based.  (Book by Joe Masteroff/Music by Jerry Bock; Lyrics by Sheldon Harnick; Based on Parfumerie by Miklos Laszlo.)  Get your tickets here or call 707.763.8920.  Cinnabar Theater, 3333 Petaluma Blvd. North, Petaluma, CA  94952, 707.763.8929.

September 1, 2011 Posted by | Chamber Music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Worst In Show premieres tonight at IndieFest–a humorous documentary about Petaluma’s annual world’s ugliest dog contest

Every dog has its day, but tonight is reserved for the ugly dog.  Tonight, local filmmakers Don Lewis of Petaluma and John Beck of Benecia and a few of the contestants in Petaluma’s World’s Ugliest Dog Contest will appear at San Francisco’s Roxie Theatre at IndieFest for the world premiere of Worst in Show, a riveting hour long documentary on the contest that put them all on the map.

Unlike the very popular 2000 mockumentary Best in Show by filmmaker Christopher Guest, Worst in Show follows real contestants—both human and canine—behinds the scenes on the 2009 and 2010 ugly dog circuit that culminates in Petaluma’s annual “Worlds Ugliest Dog Contest.”  While there are many ugly dog contests, this one, the most popular event at Petaluma’s Sonoma Marin Fair, has been around for 22 years and has a global following.    

In Worst in Show, the dogs steal the scenes as their owners interact under completely self-imposed pressure for a very small prize $1600 and the chance to be in the limelight until displaced.  Some competitors are relentless in their pursuit of the limelight. 

Dane Andrews, an actor from Sunnyvale, has been on the ugly circuit since he was 11 and has shown 3 generations of Chinese cresteds, a hairless breed which some people consider naturally ugly.  Rascal won in the contest in 2002 and Dane appears throughout the film pimping the dog with a gusto and compteitiveness that puts many people off.   John Adler, sporting a mohawk that seems to math his crested’s sparse tufts has the fire in him to be the next Dane.  When both are upstaged by Miles, a Boxer-mix rescue dog with a major underbite, owned by low-key Miles Egstad from Citrus Heights, CA, egos are bruised.   

Pabst quickly won the hearts of the audience who chanted “Pabst, Pabst, Pabst” creating an enthusiastic ruccous and the celebrity judges followed suit giving him wins in all three rounds of the competition. This was the first time in seven years a mutt won the competition, upstaging the long-run of Crested wins.  

The film screens tonight February 9th at 9:15 p.m. and February 13th at 2:30 p.m as part of the 13th Annual San Francisco Independent Film Festival (IndieFest).  The festival features 85 absolutely independent films and videos and unspools February 3-17, 2011 at the Roxie Theater, 3117 16th Street in San Francisco.   For tickets or more information, telephone (415) 820-3907 or

February 9, 2011 Posted by | Film | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment