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Film Fest Petaluma marks 10 years of singular cinema in the city by the river

There are many film festivals in Sonoma and Napa counties, but only one alliance, the Petaluma Film Alliance.

On May 5, the alliance, which curates such community events as the weekly Petaluma Cinema Series, returns to the Mystic Theatre in downtown Petaluma for its 10th annual Film Fest Petaluma.

Headed by Santa Rosa Junior College film professor and communication studies department chair Michael Traina, the Petaluma Film Alliance is a partnership between the SRJC and local businesses like Clover Sonoma and Copperfield’s Books as well as private members.

Traina’s life in film had previously taken him to Washington, D.C., where he worked on the American Film Institute’s programming team, and to Antelope Valley College in Southern California, where he taught and ran a film festival for 13 years.

When Traina took a job teaching film at SRJC’s Petaluma campus in 2008, he brought with him the programs he was leading in Southern California.

“Petaluma did not have a film festival at that time, and the city seemed ripe for the opportunity,” says Traina. After taking a leadership class through the Petaluma Chamber of Commerce, Traina formed the Petaluma Film Alliance.

Each fall and spring semester, the alliance hosts the Petaluma Cinema Series on Wednesday nights, showing classic and contemporary films in the Carole L. Ellis Auditorium, accompanied by pre-screening lectures and post-screening discussions.

The alliance also runs the Youth in Film program to provide workshops and internships for filmmaking students. That program culminates in the Sonoma County Student Film Festival.

The alliance’s largest community offering is undoubtedly the annual Film Fest Petaluma. “The focus of the festival is the short film form,” Traina says. “I think shorts are a unique sort of treat, and something that many regions of the country are starved to see. When you see short films, it takes you on a ride through comedy and drama, and different storytelling styles. There’s a little something for everyone.”

Traina also puts an emphasis on inviting filmmakers to the event, and he expects 17 directors, actors and producers of the 33 selected films to take the stage and discuss their works.

“It’s a very intensive and creatively inspiring experience that gives you a taste of the world, and of where the cinema art form is at right now, he says.”


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