Scroll down for trailers from the International Monarch Film Festival

When Cristiana DiPietro put a call out for submissions to the International Monarch Film Festival, filmmakers from around the world responded. After whittling down the entries to 22 films from Germany, Thailand, France, Canada and throughout the U.S., she added nine titles from Monterey County filmmakers.

"We are really adamant about helping the local filmmaking community out," said DiPietro, a Pacific Grove resident and owner of the nonprofit film festival, now in its second year. "They'll be able to see their films on the big screen, which is what they were intended for."

The International Monarch Film Festival will screen its 31 movies, documentaries and short films on Wednesday and Thursday at Lighthouse Cinemas, 525 Lighthouse Ave., Pacific Grove. Tickets range from $5 for an individual short to $25 for an all-day pass.

Films include "Extraordinary Ord" by local filmmaker Eric Palmer, about the 1994 closing of the Fort Ord Army base in Seaside and the present-day struggle over its future; "The Fight for Water: A Farm Worker Struggle" by Juan Oseguera, which documents the human impact an environmental decision had on a farming community in the heart of the Central Valley when its water supply was shut off; and "Butterfly Stories" by Christoph Schuch, billed as a witty road trip along the butterfly trail from Chicago to the highlands of Mexico, including the spectacular monarch migration.

"It culminates with the main star in Mexico, where all the other monarch butterflies — that come from here and wherever else they come from — meet and start their families," DiPietro said. "I wanted to put the film in because it was beautifully done and features one of our local stars, the monarch butterfly."

DiPietro has had help bringing together the festival from her marketing manager, Karen Ottinger, and her husband, Matthew Kalamane, whom she met in seventh grade at Pacific Grove Middle School.

"Dust," by local filmmaker Shane Book, is part of the Student Short Package being screened Wednesday at the International Monarch Film Festival
"Dust," by local filmmaker Shane Book, is part of the Student Short Package being screened Wednesday at the International Monarch Film Festival in Pacific Grove.

As an independent film producer — her film "Zero Dark Dirty" is set to be released in 2014 — DiPietro is familiar with the film festival circuit and the difficulties filmmakers face in finding a distributor or simply getting their work to a screen. In addition to bringing interesting films to the Peninsula, she hopes to open doors for local filmmakers.

"One of the things I'm doing with the festival's 'Locals Corner' is to give filmmakers a place that doesn't cost them a penny to show their films. As a producer, I know how hard and expensive it is to ... get your film playing for a premiere or just a screening. It's very hard to do and time-consuming, and can be very expensive."

It is also an opportunity for local filmmakers to connect with colleagues from around the world to talk shop and learn about taking their next steps into film distribution, she said.

The festival has all four screens at the Lighthouse Cinemas booked, enough room for about 400 or so moviegoers.

"Any time that you can get people together to celebrate independent films, it's awesome," DiPietro said.

Local films playing at the International Monarch Film Festival

The International Monarch Film Festival includes these nine titles by local filmmakers
"Dust" by Shane Book
"Extraordinary Ord" by Eric Palmer
"Monarch Movement" by Robert Pacelli
"Posey" by Billy DaMota
"The Bikini Shop" by Ami-Sue Lawless
"The Right Regrets" by Ralph Senensky
"The Song" by Marwan Hussein
"The People Watcher" by Matthew DiPietro
"What Makes Us Human" by Kellen Gibbs