The Sonoma International Film Festival starts this evening, offering a stellar line-up of cinema, food and wine— all in gorgeous Sonoma
This evening, the curtain rises on the 16th annual Sonoma International Film Festival, pairing 5 nights and 4 days of nearly nonstop screenings— 105 new films from more than 30 countries— with great gourmet food and wine. Highly anticipated by its loyal film-savvy audience, who see an average of 5 or more films each, this festival takes place in eight venues within walking distance of Sonoma’s charming town square. Known for its laid back vibe and exceptional “back-lot” tent serving passholders the finest local wines and gourmet offerings, this sweet festival has a lot to offer both locals and destination visitors.
Stay-tuned to ARThound for festival coverage.
SONOMA SPOTLIGHT AWARD: This year SIFF will honor Golden Globe-winning actress Mary-Louise Parker and actor Demián Bichir at a Tribute event taking place on Saturday evening, April 13. Mary-Louise Parker has enjoyed a diverse career in film, television and on stage. She was most recently seen in the hit action-comedy Red opposite Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich and Helen Mirren. Her upcoming feature films include Red 2, R.I.P.D., Jamesy Boy and Behaving Badly. Parker is widely known for her starring roles in such films as Fried Green Tomatoes, Boys on the Side, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, Reckless, The Client, Naked in New York, Bullets Over Broadway and Longtime Companion. Parker also won a Golden Globe and received four SAG Award nominations for her portrayal as Nancy Botwin in the hit Showtime television series Weeds and also received a Golden Globe and an Emmy Award for her role in the TV mini-series Angels in America. She is also a highly acclaimed stage actress and was a Tony Award nominee for Prelude To A Kiss, Reckless and Proof, winning the Tony in 2001 for Proof. She was most recently seen in Dead Man’s Cell Phone and the Broadway revival of Hedda Gabler.
Demián Bichir received an Academy Award, SAG Award and Independent Spirit Award nominations for Best Actor for his portrayal of an undocumented worker in A Better Life. He also starred in Steven Soderbergh’s 2008 two-part epic Ché as a young Fidel Castro, as well as Oliver Stone’s Savages, both with Benicio del Toro. He is known to television audiences for his role on the Showtime series Weeds. His will next star in the Paul Feig comedy The Heat, Robert Rodriguez’s Machete Kills and has the lead role in the new FX series The Bridge.
“Both Parker and Bichir exemplify such amazing traits as actors,” says SIFF Executive Director Kevin McNeely, “We are thrilled to celebrate their contribution to independent film…and even more excited to be able to reunite this Weeds duo.” (The tribute is 6 to 7 p.m. and the tribute dinner is 7 to 9 p.m., Saturday, April 13, 2013 at the Sonoma Veteran’s Memorial Building.)
The Film Line-Up:
Opening Night: The festival kicks off on Wednesday evening with three screenings, all around 6:30 p.m: Ariel Vromen’s The Iceman (2012) at the Sebastiani Theatre; Gilles Legrande’s You Will Be My Son (Tu Seras Mon Fils) (2010) at Burlingame Hall and Icelandic director Baltasar Kormákur’s The Deep (Djúpiô), Iceland’s official foreign-language Oscar entry, at The Women’s Club. Thematically, you can go in any direction your taste takes you. This festival has something for everyone. I am focusing on films that tell great stories that you aren’t likely to see screened anywhere else and the opportunity to see stars and directors in live conversation. Most of the films screen twice, so with careful planning you can see most of them.
Director Ariel Vromen and star Ray Liotta will both attend the Sebastiani Theatre screening of The Iceman (2012), a drama thriller based on the life of notorious New jersey Mafia hitman Richard Kuklinski, starring Michael Shannon, Winona Ryder, Ray Liotta, Chris Evans and James Franco. Based on Anthony Bruno’s novel “The Iceman: The True Story of a Cold-Blooded Killer,” the film tracks Kuklinski as he falls in love, gets married and goes from editing together porno movies to becoming a father by day and a hit man for low-level mafia man Roy DeMeo (Ray Liotta) by night.
Epicurean Delights: Food and wine is where SIFF stakes its claim. This year, there are four films, two set in France and two in Italy, which address winemaking and one, Sikh Formaggio, which has Sikh immigrants from India making fine Parmigiano-Reggiano in Northern Italy’s struggling Parmesan cheese industry while attempting to keep their identity and beliefs in a foreign land.
Gilles Legrande’s You Will Be My Son (Tu Seras Mon Fils)(2010), from France, is a modern and sensitive retelling of the parable of the prodigal son set in the beautiful Saint-Émilion region. The story is set around a prestigious winemaker, the subtle transmission of his knowledge to a successor and traditions within the world of wine. (Screens Wednesday, April 10, 6:45 p.m. Burlingame Hall and Saturday, April 13, 6 p.m. Sebastiani Theatre)
Veteran documentarian David Kennard’s new film A Year in Burgundy documents Burgundy’s touch-and-go harvest of 2011 which brought unprecedented spring heat waves and storms. Along with Martine Saunier, a famous wine importer, born in Burgundy, but living in the Bay Area, he follows seven wine-making families— Domaine Leroy, Morey-Coffinet, Denis Mortet, Perrot-Minot, Bruno Clavelier, Michel Gay et Fils and Dominique Cornin— through the course of an entire year. Some of these families go back four generations. Saunier, who has sold wine for 40 years, knows the families personally. The film is not about showing how wine is produced industrially. Instead, the duo wanted to show how winemakers’ lives unfold, working every day in the vineyard, in the cellar, and in private life. The result is a sophisticated, even poetic film about the very heart and soul of this fabled wine region. (Screens once—Thursday, April 11, 6 p.m. at the Sebastiani Theatre)
Lo Zucco: The Wine of the Son of the King of the French, a U.S. Premiere from Italian director Lidia Rizzo about the Duke of Aumale, known as the King of the French, the richest Frenchman of the late 18th Century. When exiled from France, he settled in Sicily where he applied the agricultural precepts of Virgil. Who would have imagined that the great chef Vatel’s closely-guarded secret of Chantilly cream would lead to the discovery of the long-lost secret of le vin de Zucco? The Duke’s famously pure wines are no longer produced but the Zucco farm still exudes the charm of its incredible, romantic history. (Screens Thursday, April 11, 3:15 p.m. and Sunday, April 14, 1:30 p.m., both at Vintage House.)
Cannubi: A Vineyard Kissed by God: Spanning a mere 15 hectares (37 acres) in the Piedmont region of northern Italy, the 250 year-old Cannubi vineyard is world renowned. The highly sought-after plot of land grows the Nebbiolo grape, producing Barolo – one of the best red wines of Italy. Determining Cannubi’s precise boundaries is a very complicated and emotionally-charged issue. Conflict between producers over the vineyard’s true designation continues as wineries seek to have the coveted “Cannubi” wording on their labels. James Suckling, one of the world’s top wine critics, visited Cannubi to talk with the winemakers involved. This 37 minute short chronicles their thoughts, feelings and passion toward their craft – and the vineyard that fuels it all. (Screens Thursday, April 11, 3:15 p.m. and Sunday, April 14, noon, both at Vintage House)
Of Local Interest:
Project Censored The Movie! Ending the Reign of Junk Food News: We all know and joke about the farcical state of our news media. Since 1976, the very vital Sonoma State-based media watchdog group, Project Censored (PC), has sought to uncover the real agendas of corporate media by publishing an annual list of the top censored stories. Now there’s a thoughtful documentary, by former PC Sonoma State University student and Star editor Doug Hecker and longtime PC supporter Christopher Oscar, which features original interviews about PC and media censorship and PC’s longstanding efforts to expose important stories that are rarely—if ever—reported by corporate media. The 58 minute film captures luminaries Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn, Michael Parenti, Greg Palast, Oliver Stone, Daniel Ellsberg, Peter Kuznick, Cynthia McKinney, Nora Barrows-Friedman, John Perkins, Jonah Raskin, and others. Several PC affiliated faculty and students also participate including Dr. Carl Jensen, PC’s former director and Professor Mickey Huff, its current director. (Screens: Friday, April 12, 6:30 p.m.,Sebastiani Theatre, and Sunday, April 14, 3 p.m., Burlingame Hall)
Rebels With A Cause, (U.S., 2012, 74 min): We of blessed zip codes, Marin and Sonoma County, know how special the communities we live in are. This valiant documentary, produced by Nancy Kelly and Kenji Yamamoto, who have collaborated on critically-acclaimed documentary and narrative films for the past 25 years, connects all Bay Area residents with our legacy of progressive thinking and activism. Rebels With A Cause documents the extraordinary efforts of several local citizens who saved the lands of the Point Reyes National Seashore and Golden Gate National Recreation Area from development. Their efforts resulted in an 80 mile-long park that supports open space, recreation, agriculture and wildlife and shaped the environmental movement as we know it today, ultimately leading to a system of 14 National Seashores as part of the National Park Service. Narrated by three-time Academy Award nominee Frances McDormand, the film had its world premiere at the Mill Valley Film Festival last fall and won the audience favorite award for Best Documentary. The coastal cinematography is stunning, making it an essential to see on the big screen. (Screens: Thursday, April 11 pm at 3:15 p.m., Sebastiani Theatre and Sunday, April 14, noon, MacArthur Place)
Two other environmental films, both narrated by Robert Redford are noteworthy— Watershed: Exploring a New Water Ethic for the New West is Mark Decena’s important documentary about the urgent threat facing the once-mighty Colorado River and exploring a new water ethic. (Screens Friday, April 12, 6:15 p.m., Woman’s Club) A Fierce Green Fire: The Battle for a Living Planet, directed by Mark Kitchell, is a big-picture exploration of the environmental movement’s evolution of grass-roots and global activism. It examines the Sierra Club’s battle to halt dams in the Grand Canyon; Love Canal residents’ struggle against 20,000 tons of toxic chemicals; Greenpeace’s heroic campaign to save whales and baby harp seals; Brazilian rubbertappers’ fight to save the Amazon rainforest; and the battle to acknowledge and address climate change. (Screens Thursday, April 11, 6:45 p.m., Saturday, April 13, 11:45 a.m.. both at Vintage House)
VAMOS AL CINE PROGRAM: Last year, as a celebration of SIFF’s 15th anniversary, Claudia-Mendoza-Carruth organized “La Quinceañera Film Fiesta,” featuring the best of cinema “en español.” “La Q’s” success marked the fact that for the first time in Sonoma Valley, both Latino and film festival audiences enjoyed a selection of award-winning films from Mexico to Bolivia. This year’s “Vamos al Cine” program presents films from various countries. Highlights include:
Mia from Argentina will feature an engaging Q&A with its director, Javier van de Couter, coming from Buenos Aires. This narrative feature, which is also part of SIFF LBGT programming, is about the struggles of the transgender community. Alé is a trans woman who lives in disparity in a shanty town of Buenos Aires, surviving by collecting recyclables for cash. She discovers the diary-suicide note of another trans woman named Mia, leading her to become entwined with Mia’s grieving family. The film offers a tender and realistic window into humanity-regardless of whether one is queer or straight. (Screens Friday, April 12, 9 p.m., Sebastiani Theatre)
Fat, Short and Bald (Gordo, calvo y bajito) (2011), from Colombia, will also have its director Carlos Osuna attending. Using bright primary colors and an innovative animation technique, where the faces of the real actors are in animated form, this clever and touching story is about a man who lives a gray life thinking that by being fat, short and bald there is no chance for him… until a man just like him, loved by everyone and very assertive, becomes his boss. (Screens Saturday, April 13, noon, Women’s Club)
Lunafest—shorts by, for and about women: A traveling film festival of award-wining shorts LUNAFEST is an integral part of the festival sponsored by Luna, the makers of those fabulous tasty and nutritional bars. This year’s program features 9 films which will make you laugh, tug at your heartstrings and motivate you to make a difference in your community. Incredibly diverse in style and content, LUNAFEST is united by a common thread of exceptional storytelling – by, for and about women. The main beneficiary is the Breast Cancer Fund, is dedicated to eliminating the environmental causes of breast cancer. (Friday, April 12, 7:15 p.m. Sonoma Valley Museum of Art)
Closing Night: The festival closes with the North American Premiere of A Monkey on My Shoulder (À coeur ouvert), directed by Marion Laine (A Simple Heart) and starring Juliette Binoche (The English Patient) and Venezuelan superstar Édgar Ramírez (Carlos), as cardiac surgeons who have two passions: their jobs and each other. When Mila unexpectedly becomes pregnant, the prospect of a baby undermines the balance of their relationship. Javier’s drinking becomes uncontrollable and they spiral downwards from unbridled passion to rage. (Screens Sunday, April 14, 6:30 p.m., Sebastiani Theatre)
Wine, Food and “Backlot”
Anyone who has been to Sonoma knows that this is a community that savors life along with the finest of food and wine. “The Backlot,” the festival’s culinary hub, is a one-of-a-kind hospitality tent on the North side of Sonoma’s City Hall that is open to all pass holders. Here, they can mingle in a chic lounge environment while enjoying the best wine country vintages and culinary delights. You’ll also notice at many of the screenings that staff is on hand giving out generous samplings of treats like yogurt, ice cream and snack bars
Details: the Sonoma International Film Festival runs April 10-14, 2013, in Sonoma, CA. Eight screening venues are all within walking distance of the central town plaza. Street parking is ample.
Ticket Information: SIFF offers several pass options, ranging from “One Day Movies Only” passes ($60) to VIP Star Passes ($900), offering the full festival experience—first entry to all films and panels, all receptions and after parties, VIP and industry mixer events, dinners, Gala and Awards ceremony. Individual tickets may also be purchased on a stand-by basis at the last minute for $15 cash at the screening venue. Detailed pass information at http://www.sonomafilmfest.org/film-festival-passes.html
All passes can be picked up at the festival Box Office located on the East side of City Hall on Sonoma Plaza beginning Wednesday, April 10 at 1:00 PM. The box office will be will be open 4/10 (1:00 – 9:00PM); 4/11-4/13 (9:00 AM – 9:00 PM) & 4/14 (9:00AM – 5:00 PM).
The full list of films is below or at www.sonomafilmfest.org.
Sebastiani Theatre – 476 First St. East
New Belgium Pub at The Woman’s Club – 574 First Street. East
Mia’s Kitchen at Sonoma Community Center – 276 E. Napa Street, Room 109
Murphy’s Irish Pub – 464 First Street East
Sebastiani Winery Barrel Room – 389 Fourth Street East
Sonoma Valley Museum of Art – 551 Broadway
Sonoma Veteran’s Memorial Hall – 126 First Street West
Vintage House- 264 First Street East
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