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True stories on screen

When: Sebastopol Documentary Film Festival

When: March 23-26

Where: Sebastopol Center for the Arts and Rialto Cinemas

Admission: All tickets for regular screenings and special programs cost $12. Opening night, $35 in advance or $40 at the door. Closing night, $22; party only $10. Discounts with festival memberships, which cost $40, single; $60, dual. All-access pass: $250.

Information: 707-829-4797, sebastopolfilmfestival.org.


During its first decade, the Sebastopol Documentary Film Festival has featured and helped so many filmmakers that now some of them are repaying the favor with return visits.

“We are thrilled to have several films this year that have been developed with the help of the Sebastopol Documentary Film Festival,” said festival director Randy Hall.

The festival celebrates its 10th anniversary this month, presenting 63 films from around the world in four days, March 23-26, at the Sebastopol Center for the Arts and Rialto Cinemas.

“Six years ago, we started working with a nonprofit out of Silver Springs, Maryland, called Docs in Progress,” Hall said. “The executive director, Erica Ginsberg, came to Sebastopol and ran a facilitated pitch session for filmmakers develop their projects in a room full of other filmmakers.”

The goal was to help filmmakers prepare for their efforts to recruit investors to back their films. Ginsberg will make her sixth appearance at this year’s training session at the Sebastopol festival. Titled Peer Pitch West, the program is presented in conjunction with the online documentary filmmaker community The D-Word.

“What’s interesting is that this year, this program is paying dividends,” Hall said. “We had four films come in that had gone through this development program and they’re now going be on the screen in Sebastopol for our audience.”

The four films are:

“Drokpa,” directed by Yan Chun Su, USA, 2016, 79 minutes. The nomads of the high plateau of eastern Tibet have maintained a subsistence lifestyle for thousands of years, and are now forced to adapt to changing climate, as their rangelands turn to desert. In Tibetan with English subtitles. 4:30 p.m. March 24. Rialto Cinemas.

DROKPA Trailer from yan chun su on Vimeo.

“Twice Upon A Time,” directed by Niam Itani, Lebanon/Qatar/USA, 2016, 74 minutes. Amid the Syrian conflict, Niam, a 32-year-old Lebanese woman and refugee of the Lebanese civil war in the 1980s, forms a rare friendship with Khalil, a 12-year-old Syrian boy now dealing with his own refugee status. In Arabic with English subtitles. 7 p.m. March 24. Sebastopol Center for the Arts, Little Red Hen theater.

“Big Sonia,” directed by Lean Warshawski and Todd Soliday, USA, 2016, 90 minutes. Sonia Warshawski has been making a difference in her community, using her experiences as a Holocaust survivor to motivate others. He efforts have helped keep her dark memories of those experiences at bay, until she is forced to face her own retirement at age 90, when she is served with an eviction notice for her tailor shop. 7:30 p.m. March 25. Sebastopol Center for the Arts, Little Red Hen theater.

Big Sonia Festival Teaser from Inflatable Film on Vimeo.

“The Groove Is Not Trivial,” directed by Tommie Dell Smith (an early leader of the Sebastopol Documentary Film Festival), USA, 2016, 60 minutes. Scottish fiddler Alasdair Frasier, a longtime fixture in the Northern California music scene, delves into his own his musical traditions and discovers that there is an underlying truth in the music, a “groove” that offers hope for the future. In English. 4 p.m. March 26 (the closing day film of the festival.) Sebastopol Center for the Arts, Brent Auditorium.

Not all of the returning filmmakers at this year’s festival — there are a dozen in all — went through the Peer Pitch West program in Sebastopol, but “we are thrilled to have several films that have been developed with the help of the Sebastopol Documentary Film Festival,” Hall said.

True stories on screen

When: Sebastopol Documentary Film Festival

When: March 23-26

Where: Sebastopol Center for the Arts and Rialto Cinemas

Admission: All tickets for regular screenings and special programs cost $12. Opening night, $35 in advance or $40 at the door. Closing night, $22; party only $10. Discounts with festival memberships, which cost $40, single; $60, dual. All-access pass: $250.

Information: 707-829-4797, sebastopolfilmfestival.org.

“We’d like to think we had a hand in helping these filmmakers develop their projects,” Hall said. “We don’t try to take credit for the films’ success, because I think that has more to do with the grit of the filmmakers, but I do believe we get to share just a little bit in their success.”

You can reach staff writer Dan Taylor at 707-521-5243 or dan.taylor@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @danarts.