The Alexander Valley Film Festival is coming back to north county for its fifth year on Oct. 17.
The festival runs until Oct. 20 and includes a host of films, ranging from documentary feature length films to shorts made by local students.
“Humanity is our theme for 2019,” said Alexander Valley Film Society Executive Director Kathryn Hecht in a press release. “From Jennifer Siebel Newsom’s daring and frank exploration of America’s income disparity in ‘The Great American Lie’ to Molly’s relentless fight for the truth in ‘Raise Hell: The Life and Times of Molly Ivins,’ we are reminded that what makes us singular is also what makes us one. Our program of films sizzles collectively with want, expectation, desperation, justice and love.”
When asked about films that she felt summarized this year’s theme of humanity, Hecht pointed to “Raise Hell: The Life and Times of Molly Ivins” and locally, to “Truehumans,” a documentary that tracks the impact of closing the Sonoma Developmental Center.
“Raise Hell: The Life and Times of Molly Ivins” will be screened as part of the festival’s neighborhood screening before the festival's official opening date. The documentary tells the story of Texas-based political columnist Molly Ivins.
For “Raise Hell” director Janice Engel, Ivins’ story is a critical one to tell.
“It’s incredibly relevant to what’s going on right now,” she said. “I’ve gotten in trouble for saying this — Molly Ivins is more relevant right now than when she was alive.”
The film has made the rounds at various film festivals, including Sundance and South by Southwest. Engel said that on its journey, she’s spoken with children who have been inspired by Ivins’ life and work after seeing the film.
Engel said that Ivins represents humanity because she understood that “we are one species and we all have a shared humanity.”
Engel, who first heard about Ivins’ work in 2012, was inspired to create the film after going on a deep dive of the columnists work.
“I’m blown away by it, I really am,” Engel said of “Raise Hell.” “Most of my films that I’ve made, I never look at again. This film I’ve watched over and over again. I still cry, I laugh, I chuckle — she’s evergreen. Her humor, that satire, it speaks truth.”
“Truehumans” will be shown in a block screening titled “What It Means to Be Human” on Sunday, Oct. 20. The screening includes a showing of “Blind Adventure Camp” and “Refuge in the Rockies,” in addition to “Truehumans.”
To director Malinalli López, “Truehumans” follows the festival’s theme of humanity because it explores what happens to those involved after a place like the Sonoma Developmental Center, which provided aid to the developmentally disabled, gets shut down.
“The closure (of the Sonoma Developmental Center) brings up that question of humanity — that’s why it’s titled ‘Truehumans,’” she said. “The people who live there are so vulnerable and they’ve really relied on other people or their families to advocate for them because they can’t speak. This really brings up a big question of justice — what does it mean that they’ve been evicted, what does it mean that they can’t speak for themselves?”
The documentary includes interviews with local representatives who have been vocal about the center, as well as interviews with the families and people who were directly impacted by the closure. López said that she hopes the film will help advocate for those impacted who may not be able to advocate for themselves.
“I really enjoyed just seeing how all of these people came together to remind everybody that we’re all human and we all have different needs,” she said. “It’s on us to really advocate for them, and in doing so that reminds us of our own humanity and we can be vulnerable at any point in time.”
To find out more about the Alexander Valley Film Festival, or to purchase tickets for the festival, visit avfilmsociety.org.