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Palo Alto Weekly

Arts & Entertainment - May 20, 2011

New festival for fall

Palo Alto International Film Festival premieres in September

by Joann So

An international film festival celebrating the convergence of art and technology will take place in Palo Alto this fall. Organizers at the Palo Alto Institute are busy preparing for the months ahead.

The four-day Palo Alto International Film Festival, scheduled from Sept. 29 to Oct. 2, will show 20 feature films and 25 short films in venues such as the Aquarius Theatre and the Palo Alto Children's Theatre. Events will also include talks, panels and workshops; art installations and exhibitions; and an awards ceremony for film entries.

Scheduled speakers include Walter Murch, sound designer for films including "Apocalypse Now"; and John Knoll, one of the creators of Adobe Photoshop and visual-effects supervisor for the Star Wars series.

Films will include "Something Ventured," a film looking into the makings and supporters of large technology companies such as Apple and Intel. Another offering, "Press, Pause, Play" is a documentary questioning the digital revolution's effect on democratized culture and the art that is produced.

Devyani Kamdar, executive director of the Palo Alto Institute, said this area is a perfect place for a film festival. "The Bay Area is the center of film technology," she said, citing examples of studios including Pixar and Lucasfilm, along with the many Silicon Valley firms.

Hollywood may be where films are produced, but Silicon Valley plays an indispensible role by providing the technology behind the scenes and onscreen, the festival organizers said.

"Technology and art are often separated into two tracks but this festival will bring them back together. ... It's how it should be," said Alf Seccombe, the festival's director of programming. Seccombe and colleague Alex Ippolite, the festival's managing director, are former Sundance Film Festival organizers.

Kamdar noted that an early photographic experiment, "Sallie Gardner at a Gallop" in 1878 by Eadweard Muybridge and Leland Stanford contributed to the development of film technology used today.

"Technology isn't just tools, but the masters of tools are the artists," she said.

Kamdar provided the example of Vuclip to illustrate the interplay between art and technology. Vuclip, a Milpitas-based mobile video services company, "is changing the film industry in India," she said. It enables users to download 15 minutes worth of movies, which resulted in some traditional three-hour Bollywood films being cut to 15 minutes.

"People are making 15-minute movies now," Seccombe said.

Shifts in the distribution of films are also happening through companies such as Google and Netflix, Kamdar added.

There are other film festivals based at Stanford University, such as the United Nations Association Film Festival, but Palo Alto actually had its own festival in the 1970s and '80s, Kamdar said.

"It's a hole that needs to be filled," Ippolite said.

The Palo Alto Institute is a creativity lab investigating ideas in "unseemingly related areas such as medicine, mathematics, film, art and technology," Kamdar said.

At the festival, children will also have activities of their own. The Digital Natives Children's Program will show films for different age groups, and have outdoor screenings and interactive workshops, Ippolite said.

As festival previews, the institute has been offering screenings in Palo Alto, including "Kamikaze Girls" this past Sunday, which raised $520 for firefighters in Sendai, Japan.

Info: Film festival passes are now available for purchase at . Volunteers are also needed. The festival is also still accepting submissions of short films. For more information, call 650-641-8947 or go to .