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Sebastopol Documentary Film Festival


Sebastopol Documentary Film Festival

By Jann Eyrich 

The road for a documentary filmmaker is long. Many projects take five years to complete. The festival circuit is an important step in getting their films seen. 

A pair of 2016 SDFF films were submitted by local filmmaker Mischa Hedges (Of the Sea) and Bay Area independent filmmakers Erica Jordan and Dianne Griffin (Painted Nails). Today their films continue to travel – Of the Sea continues to be seen in ‘Community Screenings’ up and down the California Coast and was premiered on local PBS station, KRCB in December of 2016 while Painted Nails is on the road now with the United Nations Association Film Festival.

The story is in the journey and the journey never ends for the filmmakers who have thankfully changed the way we look at our world – whether it’s our local fish market or corner nail salon. Painted Nails followed their subject to Congress where she was the first person in over thirty years to testify as to the dangerous working conditions in the cosmetics industry. Not all films screened at the SDFF fit into the social or environmental justice categories; certainly not all films screened at the SDFF have websites with TAKE ACTION buttons but all need support to continue their work.

The 10th Anual SDFF will run March 23 – 26, 2017.

Our community is invited to screen documentaries in their full beauty – on the big screen. Sadly, some of these films will not otherwise see the light of day but for many filmmakers, it’s enough for an engaged audience to view their work. 

For example – talk to Roscoe Bryant, a 46-year old African-American man who continues to coach Little League baseball teams in his troubled Oakland neighborhood wracked by three decades of gang violence. Get his take on attending the 2016 Sebastopol Documentary Film Festival along with his documentarian, Eugene Corr who made the film about his passion, Ghost Town to Havana. Every member of the audience last year will remember how no one left after the film, tenaciously hanging onto the Q+A until the shy coach was convinced to remove his ball cap and pass ‘the hat’ around the auditorium. 

Films selected for the SDFF have been screened by a team of local volunteers trained by the festival’s director and program coordinator; the selection for the festival, by an experienced committee – also volunteer. The announcement of the schedule for the 2017 SDFF will be made in mid-February at the Launch Party for members and sponsors of the festival.

The image pictured at the top is from Sacred which is the opening night film to be screened March 23rd at the Brent Auditorium at the SCA followed by a reception with the film’s director, Thomas Lennon. This is a documentary project which began in the studios of WNET in New York and involved over 40 filmmakers in a worldwide quest to document religious ceremonies. SDFF’s program chair, Jean McGlothlin tells us, “…80% of the films submitted to this year’s festival came over the transom – meaning we didn’t invite them, they were submitted through channels and they made the cut.” Sacred was one of them.

To understand what it means to participate in the festival is to read what Thomas Lennon posted on Sacred’s Facebook page, 

“…A letter came this AM inviting us to be the opening film for the Sebastopol Documentary Film Festival next year. “As Sacred started to unfold in glorious color, intimacy and scope, I could barely contain my excitement.” Then the letter quotes French filmmaker Lydia Terki, “There is a language beyond speech, and cinema is made for it. I couldn’t ask for more than that.”