Geneva Anderson digs into art

The 4th Petaluma International Film Festival starts Friday, October 19, 2012, and runs all weekend at Petaluma’s Boulevard Cinemas

Slava Ross’ “Siberia Monamour” is a story of survival set in remote Siberia, with a screenplay developed under the prestigious Cannes Residence program. Young Mikahil Protsko gives a standout performance a recently-orphaned boy who befriends a wild dog. It screens on Sunday, October 21, 2012 at the 4th Petaluma International Film Festival.

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.

ARThound’s Picks:

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.)

Marie Jung plays a talented young Luxembourg chess player, Sophie Latour, who beats a famous chess master in “The Symmetry of the Butterfly” (“D’Symmetrie vum Päiperlek”), a new feature film from Luxembourg screening at the 4th Petaluma International Film Festival on Friday.

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.)

Iranian director Mohammad-Ali Talebi’s award-winning “Wind & Fog” (“Bad o meh) tells the story of a young boy who is injured and traumatized by Iran Iraq war and his slow path to healing. The film a special award at the prestigious Berlinale film festival in 2011.

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.

October 18, 2012 Posted by | Film | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Understanding the World through Film: 2nd Petaluma International Film Festival, October 22-24, 2010

Oana Marian’s 2009 documentary short “Sunset,” screening Sunday at the 2nd Petaluma International Film Festival, was shot at Petaluma’s Sunset Line and Twine Factory and features a mysteriously rebellious twine machine. Image courtesy Mihai Malaimare.

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.

October 24, 2010 Posted by | Film | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment