Another Plea for Help from Chinese Factory Found in Christmas Card

A December 23 story in The Washington Post echoes details of SDFF 2019’s Letter from Masanjia. The Post’sA Girl Said She Found a Plea for Help in Her Christmas Card. The Seller is Investigating,” recounts a story that will be eerily familiar to anyone who saw last year’s entry, Letter from Masanjia. In this new story, a 6 year-old child opened a Christmas card and found a note from a worker claiming to be working under duress as forced labor and pleading for its reader to contact a human rights group. The find has led to an investigation and has halted sale of the card by British retail chain Tesco. This story bears a grim resemblance to the one recounted in Leon Lee’s Letter from Masanjiawhich began when a Portland woman found an S.O.S. note in a box of Halloween decorations. The film recounts her decision to act on the note, and follows up on the impacts of the note and the actions it set in motion, which exposed a labor camp system that persecutes political and religious dissidents. Letter from Masanjia played at SDFF 2019 and is currently available through a number of streaming platforms.

SDFF 2019 Alum Gets Emerging Storyteller Fund grant for The Sebastopol Siege

SDFF 2019 alum and Alpha Mare co-director Mimi Wilcox received Kartemquin’s Emerging Storyteller Fund grant for The Sebastopol Siege. Wilcox pitched the film at SDFF’s 2019 Peer Pitch. Kartemquin selects grantees that follow it’s mission of using documentary “to deepen our understanding of society through everyday human drama,” according to program director Jolene Pinder. Kartemquin is a collaborative community that empowers documentarians who create stories that foster a more engaged and just society.

The subject of the Wilcox’s short film is the “Sebastopol Seige,” a 1973 incident in which two men took Michaela Madden, a recently widowed mother of 5, hostage for 8 hours in her rural home­ along with a sheriff’s deputy and Press Democrat reporter. Wilcox’s film takes the incident as its starting point to explore how Madden was subsequently vilified by her community. When her family revisits the story 45 years later for the film, the powers of human compassion and police aggression come into conflict in a larger exploration of family mythology and trauma. The film, along with a slate of other Kartemquin award winners, will be previewed at a works-in-progress screening in Chicago on October 29.

Wilcox’s 2019 SDFF short, Alpha Mare, is being screened with the Worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin at this year’s last Best of the Fest screening on Nov. 7 at 7 p.m.

Pulitzer Prize Winning Journalist & SDFF 2019 Alum Lowell Bergman Gives Local Talk on State of Journalism

Pulitzer prize-winning journalist Lowell Bergman, who gave a talk on investigative journalism to accompany SDFF 2019’s screening of Factory of Lies (Jakob Gottschau, 2018), will give a talk and Q&A session this Weds., Sept. 18 at 8 p.m. at The Raven Performing Arts Theater in Healdsburg. His appearance is being sponsored by Sonoma West Publishers (SWP) and Northern California Public Media (KRCB.)

The public is invited to attend, and general admission is $10 at the door (doors open at 7:30 p.m.). All Sonoma West Times & News subscribers will be admitted free.

For more information, see this Sonoma West Times article, 0r download a PDF of the flyer.

A co-presentation of Rialto Cinemas & Sebastopol Documentary Film Festival

Festival Pass $65 – 10 admissions  
General Admission $10

Ay Mariposa
Fri, Sept. 13 at 5 p.m. • Sun, Sept. 15 at 12 p.m.
Mon, Sept. 16 at 3 p.m. • Wed, Sept. 18 at 1 p.m.

Backyard Wilderness 3D
Sat, Sept. 14 at 12 p.m. • Tues, Sept. 17 at noon
Thurs, Sept. 19 at noon

Into The Canyon
Fri, Sept. 13 at 1 p.m. • Sun, Sept. 15 at 5 p.m.
Mon, Sept. 16 at 5 p.m. • Weds, Sept. 18 at 7 p.m.

Sat, Sept. 14 at 5 p.m. • Sun, Sept. 15 at 1:20 p.m.

Point of No Return

Fri, Sept. 13 at 7 p.m. • Sun, Sept. 15 at 3 p.m. w/ filmmaker Q&A!
Tues, Sept. 17 at 1 p.m. • Thu, Sept. 19 at 3 p.m.

The River and the Wall 

Sat, Sept. 14 at 1:10 p.m. • Mon, Sept. 16 at 1 p.m.  
Weds, Sept. 18 at 5 p.m.

Rivers of a Lost Coast

Sun, Sept. 15 at 7 p.m. • Tues, Sept. 17 at 7 p.m.
Thurs, Sept. 19 at 1:15 p.m.
Co-sponsored by (50% ticket sales donated to co-sponsor CalTROUT)!

Sea of Shadows 

Sat, Sept. 14 at 7 p.m. • Tues, Sept. 17 at 3 p.m.
Thu, Sep 19 5 p.m.

The Weight of Water

Fri, Sept. 13 at 3 p.m. • Mon, Sept. 16 at 7 p.m.
Weds, Sept. 18 at 3 p.m.

Wonders of the Sea

Sat, Sept. 14 at 3:15 p.m. • Tue, Sept. 17 at 5 p.m.
Thu, Sept. 19 at 7 p.m. 3D Screening!

To Purchase Festival Passes, Please Visit the Rialto Box Office!

Purchase general admission tickets Here.

Visit the Rialto’s Air Land Sea page Here.

Get a PDF of Air Land Sea films, including full descriptions Here.

SDFF 2019 Alumni Collaborate on

New Project Crip Camp

Filmmaker Lauren Schwartzman, whose short Dust Rising was not only featured in SDFF 2018, but is also a Best of the Fest selection, is collaborating with long-time SDFF Alum Jim LeBrecht on the upcoming documentary Crip Camp.

A 35-year veteran of the film industry, who has made over 145 films, Le Brecht has honored SDFF with his presence several times in the festival’s history, most recently running a filmmaker discussion panel, “Composing for Docs,” with William Ryan Fritch at SDFF 2019. Emerging filmmaker Lauren Schartzman also attended SDFF 2019, accompanying her award winning, environmental short Dust Rising.

One of the first 7 projects selected by the Obamas for their Netflix-based production company, Higher Ground, Crip Camp documents LeBrecht’s memories of a ramshackle summer camp for disabled teens just down the road from Woodstock in the 1960s and 70s. The camp would not only transform lives, but also shaped the future of the disability rights movement.

LeBrecht has spent his career balancing his work as a sound designer, mixer and composer, with his work as an ardent disability rights activist. This film combines both passions, and will be his directorial debut. Emerging filmmaker Schwartzman joined the film as an associate producer and assistant editor.

“Elephant Path – Njaia Njoku,” Extended Streaming, Upcoming Broadcasts & Filmmaker Q&A

PBS Rebroadcast & Extended Streaming

For those of you that missed it at SDFF 2019, “Elephant Path” (Todd McGrain, 2017) has had its streaming run extended on PBS World Channel and will be available through the site until September 9. The documentary is part of PBS’s Doc World Series, and is also airing on August 11 at 3 p.m. on KQED.

To stream the film, you can either watch directly on the WORLD Channel film page, or you can watch via the PBS App on all your devices! Once you’re in the app, just search for “Elephant Path”.

World Elephant Day World Channel Facebook Broadcast & Filmmaker Q&A

Elephant Path – Njaia Mjoku will also be broadcast at noon on World Elephant Day (August 12)  on the WORLD Channel’s Facebook Page, followed by a live chat with filmmaker Todd McGrain and Elephant Listening Project’s current researcher Daniela Hedwig. Join the conversation with Todd and Daniela during and after the screening!

Follow @WORLDChannel to receive notifications for the event, and go to Elephant Path’s website for more info.

Worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin 

on PBS Masters

SDFF 2019 selection and fan favorite, Worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin (Arwen Curry, 2018) will air on PBS American Masters/KQED August 2, 2019 at 9 p.m.

In addition to SDFF, Worlds of Ursula K. Le Guinhas screened around the US and the world (from China to Lithuania), taking home awards for Best in Fest from DCIFF and Boston SciFi Film Festival. If you can’t catch it on PBS, it’s showing at the Sebastopol Center for the Arts, Thursday, Nov. 7 at SDFF 2019 Best of the Fest!

A Great Ride selected for Amazon Prime’s All Voices Festival

Stream At Home & Help Fund Filmmaker’s New Project!

SDFF 2019 Official Selection A Great Ride has been selected for Amazon Prime’s All Voices Festival. The more complete views the film gets, get the more likely filmmaker Deborah Craig and her crew are to be finalists and potentially win funding for her next project (already in progress) about Sally Gearhart. You can also catch A Great Ride on the big screen as part of SDFF 2019 Best of the Fest on September 12, where it will show with other audience faves, Lifeboat and I Have Something To Tell You.

See A Great Ride on Amazon Prime’s All Voices Festival here.

Get tickets to Best of the Fest’s Audience Favorites showing on September 12 here.

Madame Mars Goes To Cambridge,
 STEM Summit and SDFF Best of the Fest!

Festival Favorite Madame Mars and its fabulous filmmaker Jan Millsapps will be on their way to the UK in July after receiving an invite from the University of Cambridge. On their way back to California they’ll also be popping into NYC’s Academy of Sciences’ Global STEM Summit for an appearance. You can catch Madame Mars: Madame Mars: Women And The Quest For Worlds Beyond at SDFF’s Best of the Fest Shorts Program on June 6th at 7 p.m. along with other festival faves: Stretch, Spraying under the Stars and Waterfolks. Tickets are available here.


Feb. 3, 2020

SDFF 2020 Member Launch

7 p.m. at Sebastopol Center for the Arts

Feb. 6, 2020

SDFF 2020 Lineup Released

Tickets On Sale for General Public

Mar. 26-29, 2020

SDFF 2020 Festival Weekend!