On Friday, the Petaluma International Film Festival kicks off three days of nonstop feature films, documentaries and shorts at Boulevard Cinemas.
The festival begins with “Raw Opium”, a documentary about a commodity that has tremendous power – both to ease pain and to destroy lives. The opium poppy is the raw material for heroin, fueling a vast criminal trade larger than the economies of many countries.
From an opium master in Southeast Asia to a UN drug enforcement officer on the border of Afghanistan hunting down the smugglers of central Asia to a Portuguese street worker dealing with addiction, “Raw Opium” is a journey around the world and through time, where conflicting forces do battle over the narcotic sap of the opium poppy.
Another timely film is “Aicha, Crazy Holiday,” which revolves around an Arab family living in France whose vacation plans are thrown off by the Arab Spring. Instead of traveling to visit relatives in the old country, the family opts for a vacation at a B&B in Aquitane, leading to a comedy of errors and cultural confusion.
Later on Friday, audiences can catch a flick from Luxemburg called “The Symmetry of the Butterfly,” whose main protagonist is a misogynistic chess player who withdraws from public life in bitterness and anger after being defeated by a young woman. A computer scientist offers his help in beating the opponent using a quantum computer only to fall in love with the girl.
On Saturday, “Sing Your Song” offers an up-close look at singer, actor and activist Harry Belafonte. The documentary focuses on Belafonte’s rise to fame as a singer, his experiences touring a segregated country and his provocative crossover into Hollywood. Director Susanne Rostock shows Belafonte as a tenacious hands-on activist, who worked intimately with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., mobilized celebrities for social justice, participated in the struggle against apartheid in South Africa, and took action to counter gang violence, prisons, and the incarceration of youth, work that led to surveillance by the Federal Bureau of Investigations.
On Sunday, award-winning Russian director Slava Ross takes us to an abandoned village in "Siberia Monamour." There we meet three families, including an old man and his grandson waiting for the boy’s father, who will never come back, a man and his wife raising three daughters, the only thing that still ties them, and a veteran of two Caucasian wars trying to return to normal life.
The fates of characters interlace unexpectedly and force them to make their choice again and again, uncovering humanity and compassion.
Boulevard Cinemas is located at 200 C Street in Petaluma. Tickets are $10 per film or $150 for weekend pass. For information on all the movies, visit www.PetalumaFilmFestival.org.