Once upon a time, at some party or other in Hollywood, the host proudly showed off his expansive DVD collection, after claiming to have dumped his books to make space. ?DVDs are the new novels,? he crowed proudly, unaware that he had offended not only this particular writer, but nearly everyone within earshot who had ever curled up with a paperback ? let alone written one. After my blood ceased to boil, I decided to welcome him into my consciousness as one of my myriad mental charity cases: Perhaps he couldn?t read and empowered himself with an arsenal of media; perhaps the deceased love of his life was a librarian and now the mere thought of books taunt his broken heart; perhaps he knew something I didn?t about the evolution of language, which gave new meaning to the phrase ?disc read error.? Perhaps he was an idiot. I surveyed the titles on his shelf ? the usual ? all of which were culled from a film school syllabus or the AFI 100 and de rigeur for anyone in the biz. It was, however, a ?Great Gatsby?-esque moment amongst the DVDs that lead to my final, uncharitable, perception of my host. None of the discs had been opened, their shrink-wrap shrouds intact, tell-tale, like a translucent caul. Of course, in the motion picture version of this moment, the disc my character plucks from the shelf for closer examination would be the 1974 adaptation of ?The Great Gatsby,? penned by Coppola and starring Redford, because, you know, I?m postmodern like that.
When Sonoma-born filmmaker Mike Abela made a breathless call to this office to inform me of mini-film-fest he?s hosting this Saturday, I had cause for pause. After I briefly reprimanded the young cineaste about editorial lead times (at least three weeks, people), I agreed to bleed some ink for his cause, because, you see, he and pal Patrick Sean Gibson named it ?Bookshelf.? The fest?s slogan, which Abela later forwarded in an email, reads more like a mission statement ??Bookshelf,? an experimental film festival exploring the back roads of a collaborative medium.? Good mission to have in my book. Sponsored by the Sonoma International Film Festival and Sonoma Old School Skate & Surf, unspools at 2 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 10 at the historic Sebastiani Theatre, 476 First St. East. Featured filmmakers include Mike Abela and Patrick Sean Gibson, of course, as well as other Sonoma Valley High School alumnus filmmakers Jessie Coccia and Stacy Stranzl. Abela and Gibson didn?t limit the scope of their fest to just a block radius, however, as films from the greater Bay Area, Los Angeles, Maryland and even Japan. I would be remiss not to disclose that we in FilmArt3, the cinema division of Three House MultiMedia (the parent of this institution) will also have works screened, which I learned from Abela while writing this very column. Perhaps Abela will waive the $4 general admission (it?s $5 for student, who ?must bring i.d.?). Perhaps I?m an idiot.
Writes Abela, ?We will have ?experimental films? in this festival, hence the name, in case people are confused.? They will be ?experimental? through various approaches such as visual, sound, concept, approach, etc. We also have some GREAT animation, which is experimental in its own nature.? Indeed. And a DJ, a violin player, a raffle for prizes from Sonoma Old School a cash award for one lucky filmmaker have been thrown in for good measure.
Interestingly, Monday?s Wall Street Journal featured a small story that suggested the book was closing on independent cinema as more major studios sever ties with their indie-units and focus energies, instead on larger tent-pole fare. I?m not worried. So long as chaps like Abela and his ilk continue to bring their voices to the screen, the future of independent cinema will continue to be written.