Petaluma campus screens documentary “Almost There”

Kyle Schmidt, Staff Writer


Art. Abuse. Redemption. The documentary feature “Almost There” follows the life of a decrepit artist who has revealed his deepest, darkest secret.

The film screened at the Petaluma Cinema Series on Santa Rosa Junior College’s Petaluma campus March 25 with co-directors Dan Rybicky and Aaron Wickenden, who participated in an onstage interview and Q&A.

In “Almost There,” the co-directors first encounter elderly painter Peter Anton at the Pierogi Festival in West Chicago. They become close friends with Anton and soon discover the artist’s collapsing house, cluttered with junk and a magnitude of mold.

Rybicky and Wickenden try to help Anton tell the tale of his extraordinary life and publish his autobiographical scrapbooks titled “Almost There.” However, they discover Anton’s criminal past taking pornographic images of children.

“He really didn’t want to become famous; what he did want is to be able to have his shame revealed so he can finally face it and be reconnected to his community,” Rybicky said.

As their trust with Anton diminishes, the documentary pivots to the redemption of Anton’s reputation to the community by helping him express his apologies.

Rybicky said the internal meaning of his film is, “To prove that you can persevere through all different sorts of circumstances and still survive. I feel like that is still a good lesson for documentary filmmakers as well because it takes so much time and effort and perseverance to actually finish something.”

Rybicky received his masters of fine arts at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts and is now a professor teaching cinema art at Columbia College in Chicago. He worked under big names in the film industry like Martin Scorsese and John Sayles.

Wickenden is an Emmy nominated filmmaker experienced in editing, directing and producing. He is now collaborating with Oscar winner Morgan Neville to edit their upcoming film “Best of Enemies.”

Sebastopol Documentary Film Festival Program Director Jason Perdue also visited the Cinema Series in light of the Film Festival on March 26-29. The Festival screened “Almost There” March 29 at Rialto Cinemas.

“Almost There” is not available to the public and is currently in the film festival circuit.

Upcoming films in the cinema series are “Under the Skin” April 8, “Salaam Bombay!” April 15 and “The Celebration” April 22.