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North by North Bay

The straight scoop on several local film fests


FEATHERED FIENDS Classic nature-goes-amok thriller 'The Birds' screens at the second annual Hitchcock Film Festival.
  • FEATHERED FIENDS Classic nature-goes-amok thriller 'The Birds' screens at the second annual Hitchcock Film Festival.

Spring has sprung in the North Bay, bringing the promise of sunny skies and blooming flowers. That's all well and good, but some of us would still rather get out of the allergy swarm and spend the day in a dark theater watching movies.

Fortunately, spring also ushers in film-festival season, with everything from classic Hitchcock heart-stoppers to revealing documentaries. Here are some must-see hits at four separate festivals.

Bringing independent films and filmmakers to independently minded west Sonoma County since 2007, the Sebastopol Documentary Film Festival ( runs March 27–30 throughout town, and boasts over 70 films covering a wide range of topics. Highlights include the spirited Man Behind the Throne, following behind-the-scenes superstar choreographer Vincent Paterson, and Expedition to the End of the World, which follows a band of Danish sailors traveling above the Arctic Circle in three-mast schooner. Many screenings will have the filmmaker on hand, and the most interesting of these might be Mirage Men, with an appearance by director John Lundberg, which explores the government's role in the UFO phenomenon.

Recently, news of a remake of director Alfred Hitchcock's classic thriller The Birds surfaced on the web with the mindless Michael Bay attached to produce. While that shudder travels down the spine, take heart that what film critic David Thomson called Hitchcock's "last unflawed film" can still be seen on the big screen.

This year, Bodega Bay's Hitchcock Film Festival ( shows The Birds March 29, opening a trio of Hitchcock's best alongside Shadow of a Doubt, filmed in Santa Rosa, and the director's most well-known masterpiece, Psycho. See all three if possible, but make sure to get there early to catch The Birds in all its suspenseful goodness before modern Hollywood mucks up another classic.

Now in it's 17th year, the Sonoma International Film Festival (www.sonomafilmfest. org), happening April 2–6 in and around Sonoma Plaza, is always good for celebrity sightings along with its array of soon-to-be-hit films. Opening-night's Dom Hemingway, starring Jude Law as a tough–as-nails safecracker, is already receiving attention for Law's performance. Also featured is Half of a Yellow Sun, a dramatic telling of the Nigerian Civil War of the late 1960s, starring Thandie Newton (Crash) and Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave), that's earning praise for its evocative exploration of class and cultural struggle.

Known as the "United Nations of film festivals," the Tiburon International Film Festival (, runs April 10–18 at the Tiburon Playhouse Theater. Two films this year in particular contrast the rural world with the modern urban one. From Kazakhstan, Little Brother is the story of a young boy in a remote village left to live on his own after his older sibling leaves for the city. And from South Korea, Sweet Corn is about an old-fashioned farmer whose son leaves to work for the newly built hotel just as the crops come under threat.

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