Sebastopol (USA) - Top Documentary Film Festival opens in Cittaslow Town

Udderly Direct
Betting the Farm
The World Before Her
The Iran Job
Tokyo Waka
Still Moving: Pilobolus at Forty
In Search of Blind Joe Death: The Saga of John Fahey


Sebastopol, California was the third town in the United States to earn the Cittaslow designation. Cittaslow Sebastopol joined the international and national networks of Cittaslow in June 2010. Sebastopol was awarded the highest scores of the founding Cittaslow USA towns. Among the Cittaslow criteria that Sebastopol was noted for were those focused on quality of life, wellbeing, sustainability, culture, and the arts.

As one manifestation of its independent, intellectual spirit, the Sebastopol Documentary Film Festival begins its 6th year, March 21-24, 2013. Named one of the top 10 film festivals, this year’s program brings 49 films from around the world to this small rural town 55 miles north of San Francisco.

The films range from the beautiful to the profoundly moving, from local to very far away. Frequently the filmmaker is available to talk afterwards. Following the screening of the dairy movies (below), the March 24 closing event of the festival will be hosted by Slow Food Russian River. Local cheeses, ice cream and other organic fare will offered to cap off the 4-day celebration of film.

The Sebastopol Documentary Film Festival is sponsored by the Sebastopol Center for the Arts. The festival is a community-wide event, with screenings in numerous auditoriums throughout the town. Tickets may be purchased online for individual films or for all 4 days through Brown Paper Tickets.

Examples of the unusual films to be screened at Sebastopol’s Film Festival are included below:

Udderly Direct tells the story of raw milk dairy farmers and the issues they face in the media blizzard surrounding children getting sick from unpasteurized milk. Filmmaker Randy Hall will be available afterwards to answer questions.


Paired with Udderly Direct is Betting the Farm. This film documents the tenacity of eight Maine organic farmers who banded together to form their own organic milk company when their contracts were simultaneously dropped by a national milk company.

On the more international scale, The World Before Her takes viewers to “beauty boot camp” where 20 young women learn how to compete in the Miss India pageant. Winners will be catapulted to instant stardom and a lucrative career, not to mention freedom from a repressive, patriarchal society. In stark contrast is another boot camp in India run by militant fundamentalists providing education and combat training to young girls so they can become good Hindu women.


Tracing an unusual journey, The Iran Job follows African-American basketball player, Kevin Sheppard for a season as he contracts to play for a team in Iran. Over the course of his stay there, he befriends three outspoken Iranian women who share with him their opinions about politics, religion and gender roles. In the process, he becomes witness to the uprising, and eventual suppression of Iran’s Green Movement.

Bug People is a playful, visually luminous short that investigates our discomfort with multi-legged critters. This is paired with  Tokyo Waka, a “city poem” dedicated to the wild, adaptive crow population of Tokyo. Through imagery and anecdotes, the Japanese filmmakers draw upon Buddhist, Shinto and animist spirituality to highlight the city’s bird scavengers as well as the spirit of Tokyo itself.

The history of a men’s dance collective, Still Moving: Pilobolus at Forty traces the maturation of a dance troupe that began in the 1970′s when 4 male athletes joined an improve dance class and transformed modern dance in the process.  Naming themselves after a microscopic fungus, they settled down in rural Connecticut and dedicated themselves to teaching their unique movement philosophy to dancers and non-dancers alike.

Two musical offerings trace vastly different forms of American music. The life of John Fahey, the “father of American Primitive Guitar” is sensitively chronicled by the Canadian submission of In Search of Blind Joe Death: The Saga of John Fahey. The film includes live action archival footage with an animated tribute to this tremendously influential composer, guitarist, author and provacateur.  Smoke Songs, on the other hand, looks at the crossroads of tradition and modern as it follows the musicians of “Blackfire,” a Navajo punk-rock band from Arizona that uses music to transform the ravages of racism and forced relocation into creative expression and youth empowerment.