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Spring Screens

Film events and festivals bloom in the North Bay

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Sebastopol Documentary Film Festival

Founded in 2007, the Sebastopol Documentary Film Festival is the North Bay's premier showcase of independent documentaries from both international filmmakers and homegrown talent. Returning this March 28–31 for its 12th year, this year's festival boasts one of its most locally focused programs yet, with films covering the breadth of lives in the North Bay.

Opening night's film, Harvest Season, follows the stories of Mexican-American winemakers and the migrant workers in Napa and Sonoma counties, who grapple with several issues while 2017's wildfires ravaged the region.

The next night, the documentary Holly Near: Singing for Our Lives shines a spotlight on Sonoma County resident and songwriting activist icon Holly Near. Directed by veteran filmmaker Jim Brown, the film comprises Near's own footage and recordings, interviews with contemporaries like Gloria Steinem and Jane Fonda, and a live concert filmed at Berkeley's Freight & Salvage. Throughout it all, Near's work in several social endeavors highlights her ability to inspire peace, justice, feminism and multicultural consciousness.

Other film highlights includes the March 31 anniversary screening of the early internet documentary Home Page and filmmaker Doug Block's subsequent blog, the D-Word, an online discussion forum that includes over 16,500 members from 128 countries, and is in its 20th year.

Several short film programs, conversations, panels and other special events complement the feature film schedule, taking place Thursday to Sunday, March 28–31, at the Sebastopol Center for the Arts and Rialto Cinemas in Sebastopol.

Festival schedule and passes available at sebastopolfilmfestival.org.

'Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan'

Finally, San Rafael takes to the stars in a big way when it welcomes iconic actor, writer and director William Shatner to town for a conversation to accompany a screening of the best Star Trek movie ever, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, on May 16 at the Marin Center.

In revisiting his beloved character of James T. Kirk, captain of the starship Enterprise in both the original 1966 Star Trek television series and then in seven feature films, the first thing that Shatner points out is that the character almost didn't exist.

"The people who were doing Star Trek had made a pilot with another actor," says Shatner. "And they couldn't sell it, but the idea was intriguing enough. A very unusual and maybe unique event took place; NBC said make another pilot with a different script and recast everybody except the guy playing the Vulcan [Leonard Nimoy]."

STAR DATE Captain's log: 
5-16-2019. Expect to encounter highly intelligent lifeforms at the Marin Center in San Rafael...
  • STAR DATE Captain's log: 5-16-2019. Expect to encounter highly intelligent lifeforms at the Marin Center in San Rafael...

So it was, and the role of Captain Pike was changed to Captain Kirk. Shatner was called in to read the new part. "I thought they took themselves a little too seriously and I suggested that we have more fun with it," he says. "I had, the year before, done a film on Alexander the Great and I was riding horses, wearing a breechcloth and doing weight training. So I had an idea of what a hero might act like, and I kept thinking of a phrase I had heard somewhere, 'the look of eagles.'"

Taking all that, Shatner created an archetype in science fiction, the brash but brave Captain Kirk, who fights for his crew and for the good of all. Though the original series lasted only three short years, the crew of the starship Enterprise would return in 1979 for the first of several feature films. Those films also famously spawned many other television series that continue to this day, not to mention books, video games and other media.

In revisiting the character of Captain Kirk in the movies, the actor approached Kirk as an older, wiser captain. "I began to look more closely on how an aging hero, who is one step slower, might act and feel," says Shatner. "And on the loneliness of having an inanimate ship as the love of his life. There were many strains of things that I didn't comprehend or look at when I was playing him on television."

While 1979's Star Trek: The Motion Picture garnered mixed reviews, the sequel became a smash hit with critics and audiences. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan is in fact a sequel to an episode from the original series, "Space Seed," in which the superhuman Khan is revived from suspended animation and attempts to capture the Enterprise. That episode ends with Khan and his crew being exiled to a planet, where we find them at the beginning of the 1982 film.

"Somebody knowledgeable said, 'Let's get back to the series,'" says Shatner of Wrath of Khan. "The stories were the important part. So when they said let's do a story instead of running-and-jumping, I thought that was the right way to go. And it turned out to be a success because we did that."

As the title points out, Khan makes his wrath known in the movie, and as portrayed by the late Ricardo Montalbán, Khan is considered one of Star Trek's greatest villains. The film concludes with not only one of the most memorable yells in cinema history ("Khhaaaan!") it features Shatner, Montalbán and Nimoy all giving world-class performances.

"Leonard was a wonderful actor, everything done so internally, and a great gentleman and wonderful friend," says Shatner. "The best of acting is a tennis game between the actors, and there's this playful thing that should happen. If it's there, it becomes alive; even if the dialogue isn't necessarily sparkling, actors can bring it to life if they bring themselves to life, and these guys were able to that."

William Shatner beams down Thursday, May 16, to the Marin Center's Veterans Memorial Auditorium, 10 Avenue of the Flags, San Rafael. 7:30pm. $39 and up. 415.473.6800.

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