by Gil Mansergh


A “Festival” is defined as “a gala celebrating some aspect of the community,” and there in a nutshell, is why the Fifth Annual Sebastopol Documentary Film Festival  (SDFF) has been honored as:

• “One of the 20 Coolest Film Festivals” by MovieMaker Magazine

• “The BEST Sonoma County Film Festival” in the North Bay Bohemian 2012 Readers Poll

• “One of the 12 Best Small Town Film Festivals” in the country (and the only one on the list from the West Coast) by the PBS/POV Blog


The wider Sebastopol community has embraced this grass-roots film festival and nurtured its growth and development over the past six years in many different ways.  As Linda Galletta, Executive Director of the Festival’s sponsoring organization says, “The Sebastopol Center for the Arts  (SCA) honors diverse forms of art, including sculpture, pottery, , painting, photography, drawing, the literary arts, music, dance and film. This year, the SCA made a substantial commitment to film by bringing Jason Perdue on staff as the Director of Film Programs. The wisdom of this decision is reflected in the vibrancy, innovation and professionalism Jason and his core committee of dedicated volunteers bring to this year’s Fifth Annual Film Festival, and the recognition on both the national and local level about how very special the SDFF really is.”


Business and residents in and around Sebastopol show their support in many tangible ways. As Jason Perdue notes: “We don’t have the corporate or university support that many of the other film festivals [on the lists] have, so we can’t provide airfare or ground transportation for the filmmakers. We try to make up for this with discounted accommodations generously provided by Fairfield Inn, and the gracious welcome from people who invite visiting filmmakers to stay in their guest rooms. We also provide free or low cost food and drink with support from Peter Lowell’s, Laguna Farm, Slow Food Russian River, Forchetta/Bastoni, French Garden, Smokehouse Barbeque Bistro, Hopmonk Tavern, Whole Foods, and Bohemian Creamery as well as Balletto, and Z-mor wineries, Claypool Cellars, Blue Angel Vodka, and the Wine Emporium, and tea and coffee from Guayaki, My Friend Joe, Taylor Maid Farms and Holy Cow.


Sebastopol native Cynthi Stefenoni is proud that “ one of the things that distinguishes this festival is that the filmmakers all feel at home here and like the fact that we really care about them and their films.” Serving as the festival’s volunteer coordinator, Cynthi adds, “That’s mainly because of all my great volunteers and the genuine interest from the general public. Their sunny outlook and willingness to go the extra mile to explain things and find things out for [filmmakers] and for all the attendees puts people at ease and makes them happy to be here.” She finishes with a small pep-talk, “ So feel free to be happy and have fun during the Festival weekend.  Your good moods are infectious… your friendly outlook is what keeps putting the Sebastopol Documentary Film Festival on the map.  Keep it up!”


SCA Board and SDFF committee member Jean McGlothlin appreciates how “music and art are part of the Film Fest. She points out that the SCA gallery exhibit “Art of Light,” was curated to coincide with the Festival.” She also delights that after the 7:00 pm Thursday showing of Mark Cousin’s magical film “The First Movie” at the Analy High Auditorium, a marching band will lead people on downtown sidewalks to the Opening Night reception at the Sebastopol Center for the Arts on Morris Street.” With obvious enthusiasm Jean adds, “busker/musicians will play at the various film screening venues throughout the weekend, and Hopmonk Tavern will have a special live performance of the band Fishbone following the Sunday evening screening of Chris Metzler and Lev Anderson’s documentary about the band called “Everyday Sunshine.”


Winner of the SDFF 2012 Jury Award for her feature film “Trust: The Second Acts In Young Lives,” filmmaker Nancy Kelly appreciates how the SDFF interweaves art and film. “Over the years of filming “Trust,” I and my camera witnessed first-hand the transformative process of making art; the role of art in creating community; and the nature of creative thinking.”


Running March 29-April 1, information and programs are available online at