Geneva Anderson digs into art

Petaluma Cinema Series 15 fabulous films on Wednesday Nights through May

In Frederick Marx's Journey from Zanskar, screening at the Petaluma Film Series this Wednesday, a road threatens the indigenous Zanskar's culture and unbroken Budhist traitions children are sent to a special school to preserve the language and culture. Photo: Nick Sherman

The 4th season of the Petaluma Cinema Series is underway.  Bay Area award-winning filmmaker Frederick Marx’s 2010 documentary,  Journey from Zanskar, screens Wednesday, February 9, 2011 at 7 p.m. at the Carole L. Ellis Auditorium on Santa Rosa Junior College’s Petaluma campus.  Frederick Marx will be in conversation with Mike Traina, series organizer and SRJC Film Instructor, at 6 p.m. and the community is encouraged to attend. 

The Petaluma Cinema Series offers 15 films in 15 weeks every fall and spring in conjunction with the SJRC’s fall and spring semesters.  The series mixes community and guests with film students in a cinemateque environment and is sponsored by the Petaluma Film Alliance, a strategic partnership between the SRJC, community businesses, and private individuals dedicated to film awareness within the community.  The Ellis Auditorium is a spectacular film facility, offering HD, full surround sound and new seating.  

Mike Traina has organized both the series and the alliance and is excited about its potential. The overriding objective is to showcase a balanced blend of foreign, classic, and independent films and to create a progression that showcases film techniques for the students who are taking it as a class.  The first third of the films are about the filmmaker’s journey and a broad introduction to film appreciation at a more advanced level.  In the middle block, each film is selected to showcase a particular aspect of film aesthetics–production design, cinematography, sound, or acting.  The last third is special topics– animation, film noir, surrealism.  And because the college emphasizes special calendar events—black history month, so forth–I try to create some overlap within the cinema series.  In March, all of the introductions will have some focus on women in the industry.  I’ve got two directors–Jacqueline Zünd will be in conversation about Goodnight Nobody and I’ll screen Mira Nair’s film Monsoon Wedding which I’m also using to highlight its cinematography.  I’ve got two icons too— Elizabeth Taylor and Marlena Dietrich.

Fredrick Marx’s Journey from Zanskar, screening Wednesday with Marx in the pre-film discussion, was very popular with audiences at the Mill Valley Film Festival last October.  The 90 minute documentary tells a moving and important story about the heroism of monks and children who are trying to preserve Tibetan culture.  Like many documentaries in this genre, the film is also controversial and has been criticized (Zanskar Resource) for its role in creating a situation that will popularize Zanskar and thereby accelerate the destruction of its untainted culture and traditions.

For Mike Traina, including the film in the series was an easy choice “Marx is a long time Bay Area filmmaker and I like to showcase work that is produced in Bay Area and filmmakers who try to work outside the industry and he has done this quite successfully.  His Hoop Dreams, about boys and basketball, was nominated for an Oscar in 1995.   He’s also trying to raise awareness about Zanskar and has a nonprofit related to roads and schools in the region.  Anytime we can bring a filmmaker of this caliber in and provide the community with direct access, we try to do it.”

Petaluma Cinema Series line-up:

February 9: Journey from Zanskar (Frederick Marx, 2010, USA)

February 16: Moolaadé (Ousmane Sembene, 2004, Senegal)  Moolaadé tells the extraordinary tale of a brave West African woman who decides to shelter four little girls from the torturous (and sometimes fatal) procedure of female circumcision, a traditional rite of passage in her village. This sumptuously shot and thought-provoking film, directed by the African continent’s most internationally acclaimed filmmaker, elegantly addresses one of the most controversial issues of our age. 

February 23: Y Tu Mamá También (Alfonso Cuaron, 2001, Mexico)  Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna star in this sexy coming-of-age road movie. Acclaimed Mexican filmmaker Alfonso Cuaron explores the sensual and chaotic relationships between the three central characters as well as the socio-political changes taking place in Mexico itself, ultimately offering the viewer powerful lessons concerning life, love, and growing up.

March 2: The Blue Angel (Joseph von Sternberg, 1930, Germany)  Joseph Von Sternberg’s 1930 expressionist classic uses memorable performances and extraordinary visual design to tell the story of a pretentious professor (Emil Jannings) and the seductive cabaret singer (Marlene Dietrich) who manipulates him into despair and shame. A relentless, twisted tragedy of repression and moral degradation, The Blue Angel is a milestone in the expressionist canon and a portrait of crumbling Weimar Germany.

March 9: Monsoon Wedding (Mira Nair, 2001, India)  Cultures and families collide in Mira Nair’s exuberant Bollywood tale of five interweaving love stories set against the background of an arranged Indian marriage. Cathartic and colorful, this entertaining crowd pleaser has warmed the hearts of audiences around the world and become one of India’s biggest global box office sensations.

March 16: Goodnight Nobody (Jacqueline Zünd, 2010, Switzerland)

March 30: A Place in the Sun (George Stevens, 1951, USA)

April 6: Raging Bull (Martin Scorsese, 1980, USA)

April 13: The Conversation (Francis Ford Coppola, 1974, USA)

April 20: The Big Animal (Jerzy Stuhr, 2000, Poland)

April 27: Double Indemnity (Billy Wilder, 1944, USA)

May 4: Fantastic Mr. Fox (Wes Anderson, 2009, USA)

May 11: You, the Living (Roy Anderson, 2007, Sweden)

May 18: Annie Hall (Woody Allen, 1977, USA)

Details: Wednesday evenings from February 9 through May 18, 2011.  Pre-film lectures at 6 p.m.  Films at 7 p.m.  Theatre seats 257 persons with handicap accessibility.  General Admission $5, Seniors and PFA members $4, Individual Series Pass $40, Students with ASP card free.  Box office is open from 5:30-7:15 p.m. on Wednesday nights.

Parking: On campus parking is $4 and visitors to the campus will need $4 in change or crisp bills to purchase a dashboard parking pass from the yellow machines in the parking lots. The machines do not give change.  The pass is good until midnight.

Special Cinema Series Parking Passes:  Those attending the series can purchase a $20 series parking pass at the box office at Carole L. Ellis Auditorium to display on their dashboards which will cover parking from 5 p.m. onward on evenings that films are screening thus avoiding SRJC’s yellow parking machine experience altogether.  

For additional information email:  or

February 7, 2011 Posted by | Film | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hello Dolly! Sally Heath’s Collection of Nested Christmas Dolls at SRJC’s Mahoney Library through Friday, December 17th, 2010

Sally Heath's collection of Matryoshka Christmas dolls is on display at SRJC's Petaluma Campus Mahoney Gallery through December 17th.. Photo: Geneva Anderson

When Sally Heath saw her first set of Matroyshkya dolls in a Santa Rosa gift shop in the early 1990’s, a hobby was born.  Heath, a retired SRJC Physics instructor, and long-time Santa Rosa resident, now has 121 sets of these charming wooden nested dolls and 117 of these are on display in the Connie Mahoney Reading Room at the Mahoney Library on SRJC’s Petaluma campus.

A Matryoshka is a Russian nesting doll. Matryoshkas are often used as symbols of Russian culture, but nesting dolls actually have their origins in Japan, The first Russian matryoshka was made in 1890 in a folk crafts workshop near Moscow.  A Russian folk painter encountered a set of seven Japanese nesting figures representing the Seven Gods of Fortune and he and a wood turner made a set of eight alternating boy and girl dolls.  It is thought the word “matryoshka” originates from the Latin root “mater” meaning “mother.” 

 Matryoshka are most often made of wood from trees of the genus tilia. Species of genus tilia are commonly known as linden wood or lime wood (not the citrus lime tree) and as basswood in the United States. The small solid figure in the center of the nest of dolls is first turned on a lathe. The bottom half of the next larger doll is turned so the center doll rests inside it and then the top half of that doll is turned to fit on the bottom half. This bottom and top turning process is continued until all the layers are completed.

Sally Heath's collection of Matryoshka Christmas dolls is on display at SRJC's Petaluma Campus Mahoney Gallery through December 17th.. Photo: Geneva Anderson

Matryoshka are considered folk-art, kitsch and camp and come in at all price and quality points.  When Sally Heath first started collecting in the early 1990’s, the only dolls that she could find locally were from China and were sold under a label called “Authentic Models” and came in a box with a plastic cover.   She encountered her first Russian-made matroyshkya couple of years later in a Christmas Shop in Santa Fe and immediately recognized their superior workmanship and fine painting detail.  From that point on, she has collected mainly Russian-made matryoshka.

 The display in the Connie Mahoney Reading Room occupies 6 cabinets.  The first and second (left most) cabinets contain Russian-made matryoshka, including Heath’s largest set which contains 15 hand-painted dolls.  The largest doll in this set is about 10 inches tall while the smallest is about the size of a peanut and skillfully painted. 

The heads of many matryoshka are greatly enlarged and the face dominates the body, a distortion which gives them a primitive but very expressive and endearing look.  “The attention to detail can be impressive” said Karen Petersen who runs the Mahoney Gallery.  “In some, the clothing is  finely embellished with glitter and flourishes.  And some of the dolls here serve as portraits of churches and important landmarks.”   

Nesting dolls come in a variety of shapes and are turned on a lathe. These round dolls are part of Sally Heath's extensive collection of nested wooden Christmas dolls on display in the Connie Mahoney Reading Room in the Mahoney Library on SRJC's Petaluma Campus through December 17th. Photo: Geneva Anderson

Many of the “Santa” figures in the display are not Santa Claus but rather “Ded Moroz” or Grandfather Frost, who serves as the Russian equivalent of our Santa Claus. Grandfather Frost leaves presents for children on the New Year Tree. Unlike Santa Claus, he doesn’t travel down chimneys and does not drive a sleigh pulled by reindeer. He enters houses through front doors and either drives a troika or walks with a long magical staff.

Ded Moroz is commonly accompanied by Snegurochka, or Snow Maiden, his granddaughter, who helps him deliver his toys and treats. Snegurochka’s name is derived from the Russian word for snow, sneg. She is most commonly depicted with blond hair and wearing a long silver-blue robe and a furry cap. 

A Hawaiian variant of Ded Moroz (Russian Grandfather Frost) plays the ukelele and has sunglasses. Part of Sally Heath's collection of nested wooden dolls on display in the Connie Mahoney Reading Room in the Mahoney Library on SRJC's Petaluma Campus through December 17th. Photo: Geneva Anderson

The upper shelves of the third cabinet and forth cabinets contain Russian-made Ded Moroz and Snegurochka.  Below these are some uncommonly shaped sets of dolls, including some round, oval and sharply pointed sets.  A number of these open at the bottom rather than in the middle.  

The last two smaller cabinets contain nested dolls from different countries, including a set of three Limoges porcelain Santa dolls which don’t really nest and each has a hinged opening at Santa’s belt. Heath says this set has doubled in price since she bought it. 

When Heath discovered the nested dolls for sale on the Internet, she went into high gear and began buying sets on Ebay.  “You can spend hundreds of dollars on these. I sort of have a limit. I try not to spend over $10 per doll.  The

A Russian Snegurochka or “Snow Maiden” nested doll most commonly depicted with blond hair and wearing a long silver-blue robe and a furry cap. Photo: Geneva Anderson

math is like this.  If I have a set of 7, the limit is $70.00 or less for the set.   The last set I went over though.  They’ve got brown fur that is hand-painted on against white and there’s some blue and the heads have lovely gems set in.  I paid the most per doll I’ve ever paid for this set. ”

Heath brings her matryoshkas out every holiday season and delights in arranging and displaying them throughout her home.   When they’re not on display, she stores them in special protective containers that she’s constructed from milk cartons and several sets can be kept safely in one big box.  She always keeps a few out in her kitchen though. “There’s just something about them that makes me smile.”


The Connie Mahoney Reading Room is located inside the Mahoney Library on Santa Rosa Junior College’s Petaluma Campus, 680 Sonoma Mountain Parkway, Petaluma, CA,  94954.    Parking on campus is $4.00 and is by permit only and the machine requires exact change. 

 Hours: 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and 9 a.m. to 1 PM Friday.   Phone (707) 778-3974.    The library will close for the holiday/semester break on Friday, December 17th, at 1 p.m.

A double set of Ded Moroz and Snegurochka nested Russian wooden dolls. From Sally Heath's collection of Matryoshka Christmas dolls on display in the Connie Mahoney Reading Room in the Mahoney Library on SRJC's Petaluma Campus through December 17th. Photo: Geneva Anderson

December 13, 2010 Posted by | Art | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment