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  • Laura Dekker sails solo in 'Maidentrip' the remarkable story of a 14-year-old Dutch girl’s solo odyssey in her quest to become the youngest person to sail around the globe. Photo: First Run Features

Anyone can put on a film festival these days. But not anyone can stage a carefully curated event, with dozens of provocative films that stimulate the mind and elevate the soul.

The Sebastopol Documentary Film Festival does just that. Now in its seventh year, the festival is showing 71 films, the most in its history.

Yet it's not the quantity of material, it's the quality that makes this festival unique, as well as its unusual programs.

There's a special series of "hybrid" films, for example, that go beyond the bounds of traditional documentaries, using narrative techniques typically found in fictional movies.

Then there's a "surprise film," described in the program as a "fairy tale about love, death, art, holding on and letting go."

The festival's program director, Jason Perdue, said he couldn't identify the film because it's yet to have its North American premiere, but he highly recommends the sneak preview.

"The surprise film crosses many of the lines of the typical documentary," he said. "And the filmmaker will be here."

One film Perdue is proud to identify is the opening night feature (Thursday, March 27) called "Maidentrip." It's the remarkable story of a 14-year-old Dutch girl's solo odyssey in her quest to become the youngest person to sail around the globe.

Not only does Laura Dekker do everything required of a sailor, she takes time to film herself, sometimes under harrowing conditions.

The opening night party follows "Maidentrip" at the Sebastopol Center for the Arts, in the newly remodeled Veterans Building, and is a chance to mingle with filmmakers and celebrate the winners of the festival's awards.

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