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Petaluma Buzz: Film Fest Petaluma returns with new partners, all-virtual line-up

Film Fest Petaluma returns with changes, and a new producing partner: Hard times often lead to innovative solutions. For the Petaluma Film Alliance — the Santa Rosa Junior College organization that annually sponsors Film Fest Petaluma — year two of the pandemic has inspired a fruitful new collaboration with Healdsburg’s Alexander Valley Film Festival. Last week, producer-educator Mike Traina announced that there will be a 2021 festival (postponed last year), with another notably diverse showcase of short films from around the world.

This year, however, instead of taking place at the Mystic Theatre, the festival is going the online route, with four separate programs of shorts streaming from April 23 to May 2. The offerings have been culled from a combination of direct submissions and films screened at other international festivals over the last year.

“No in-person events,” said Traina, “except for some live drive-in events up in Alexander Valley. We will run Q&As and panels via live Zoom webinars with filmmakers from all over the world, as opposed to pre-recorded talks, so ticket-buyers can interact and ask questions.”

In sharing a single streaming platform, Film Fest Petaluma and Alexander Valley Film Festival will each bring something to the table, with the latter offering several feature length films, and the former bringing its popular annual selection of shorts, organized into a quartet of programs with provocative themes.

The “Borderlines” program includes seven eclectic shorts about boundary-breaking behavior, for good and otherwise, primarily within the Spanish-speaking world. A boy races across hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico to reach his grandfather. in “La Capa Azul/The Blue Cape” (directed by Alejandra López, Puerto Rico/U.S., 5 minutes). “The Dishwasher” (by Nick Hartanto and Sam Roden, U.S., 13 minutes), follows a Mexican dishwasher at an upscale New York restaurant when his chef asks him to locate some really good tortillas. “Kini” (by Hernán Olivera, Uruguay, 11 minutes) begins with a beloved family matriarch making a surprising revelation to her four adult children, and shows the chaos and collisions that follow. The remaining five films in the program come from the U.S., Spain and Puerto Rico.

“Horror Delights,” with a total of eight films ranging from 7 to 18 minutes, is a favorite element of the festival, traditionally offered as a late-night program designed to inspire laughs more than screams, spanning all tones and genres from animated to live-action. Highlights of the 2021 program include “Stuffed” (by Theo Rhys, UK, 19 minutes), a musical of sorts, about a lovelorn taxidermist named Araminta, whose big romantic dream is to find a nice man and stuff him. “Boy Eats Girl: A Zombie Love Story” (by Sarah Gurfield, U.S., 7 minutes) is a rom-com style short about two zombies who “meet-cute” while competing over a fresh corpse, and find that their brains may be dead but their hearts are still working just fine. And the animated “Ghost Dogs” (Joe Cappa, U.S., 11 minutes) is a mind-bender about a family’s new rescue pup, which is haunted by the lingering spirits of deceased pets.

“Global Visions,” with six films running between 4 and 27 minutes, showcases a global panorama of visually stunning and emotionally resonant shorts, including the heartwarming “Jilbab” (Jaan AlBalushi, Bahrain, 4 minutes), a quirky look at a costumed street busker’s daily life. Also on the program are “Homesick” (Koya Kamura, Japan/France, 27 minutes), in which a father crosses the deadly Fukushima nuclear disaster zone to see his son, and 2021 Oscar nominee for best live-action short, “White Eye” (Tomer Shushan, Israel, 20 minutes), filmed in a single breathtaking shot, as a man attempts to retrieve his stolen bicycle and ultimately confronts a stranger, with surprising results.

The fourth program is “Close Encounters,” appropriately brief films in which small moments of deep human connection shape the lives of the characters. The eight shorts in the program run between 8 and 16 minutes, and come from the U.S., Germany, Japan and Australia. In “Under the Lights” (Miles Levin, U.S., 10 minutes), an epileptic teenager named Sam eagerly awaits the school prom, even though he knows the lights will likely cause a seizure. “Extra Sauce” (Alireza Ghasemi, Germany, 14 minutes) is a Bermanesque fantasy-drama in which the not-so-great actor Hans, one hour before his new play begins, meets the Angel of Death backstage. And when a young man comes out to his family in the stop-motion-animated “Night and Day” (Peter Anthony, U.S., 10 minutes), he soon discovers an uncle he’d never known about before.

“The live events and panels will be announced soon,” said Traina, who added, “Strange times, but we’re going to adapt.” For tickets and information visit PetalumaFilmAlliance.org.

Have a good idea for a Buzz item? Maybe a photo to go with it? Drop a line to Community Editor David Templeton at david.templeton@arguscourier.com.

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