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Students debut films at Sebastiani Theatre

SONOMA VALLEY HIGH SCHOOL teacher Peter Hansen stands in front of the group of high school and middle students who showed films in the film festival Thursday morning at the Sebastiani Theatre. Robbi Pengelly/Index-Tribune

SONOMA VALLEY HIGH SCHOOL teacher Peter Hansen stands in front of the group of high school and middle students who showed films in the film festival Thursday morning at the Sebastiani Theatre. Robbi Pengelly/Index-Tribune

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Sonoma’s young filmmakers got a chance to show their films at the Sebastiani Theatre Thursday as part of the 17th annual Sonoma International Film Festival.

Sonoma Valley High School students in Peter Hansen’s film class and local middle-school students in the Boys & Girls Clubs of Sonoma Valley’s film workshop debuted their shorts, features and public service announcements to a full house.

The nonprofit Sonoma International Film Society, which produces the film festival, donates money to the high school media arts program and funds the middle school film workshops to invest in youth visual arts and to keep media arts programs from getting cut in local education. With hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations over the past 12 years, Hansen said SIFF has made it possible for him not to worry about getting the right equipment or having a place to teach, but rather, allow him to focus on engaging his students.

“Look around you,” Hansen told a group of 40 plus high school and middle school students that made or acted in films shown Thursday morning, “you did this – you sold this place out. All of the people in the audience are here for you.”

The two-hour free program featured films ranging from comedic to serious. PSA topics included the drought and water saving tips, dealing with school bullies and being on time. “Persevere” followed high school wrestler Max Schimm through his training and victories. “She Was” examined the inner mind of a teenaged girl questioning her sexuality. “Mean Guys” provided a hilarious spoof on the famous “Mean Girls” movie that featured Lindsay Lohan. The last film, “Retribution,” wowed the audience with its use of special effects and digital animation.

“I say this every year, and I’ll say it again,” Hansen told the crowd at the end of the program, “I’m speechless.”

The student films will show again at the Sebastiani Theatre Sunday, April 6, from 12:45 to 2:45 p.m. At the end of the program, the audience will be able to ask questions to the young filmmakers in the Q&A session. For more information on the high school’s film program and to see student works, visit svhsvideo.com; for film festival details, go to sonomafilmfest.org.