ARThound

Geneva Anderson digs into art

Sonoma International Film Festival passes are on sale now and prices will increase on Monday, March 17, 2014

Yılmaz Erdoğan's “The Butterfly's Dream” (2013), Turkey’s submission for Best foreign Language Oscar, is one of will screen at the 17th Sonoma International Film Festival (April 2-6, 2014). Set during World War II in Zonguldak, Turkey, the film is the real life story of two young poets, forgotten by history, whose writing developed while they were both terminally ill with tuberculosis.  The title is from an ancient passage by Chinese thinker Chuang Tzu, in which he pondered his dream of being a butterfly. Erdoğan’s gorgeously shot film addresses the nature of reality and the power of artistic practice to mitigate hardship.

Yılmaz Erdoğan’s “The Butterfly’s Dream” (2013), Turkey’s submission for Best foreign Language Oscar, will screen at the 17th Sonoma International Film Festival (April 2-6, 2014). Set during World War II in Zonguldak, Turkey, the film is the real life story of two young poets, forgotten by history, whose writing developed while they were both fighting to survive tuberculosis. The title is from an ancient passage by Chinese thinker Chuang Tzu, in which he pondered his dream of being a butterfly. Erdoğan’s gorgeously-shot film addresses the nature of reality and the power of artistic practice to mitigate hardship.

If you love cinema, world class food and wine from local artisans and vintners, and the breathtaking beauty of the wine country, it doesn’t get any better than the Sonoma International Film Festival (SIFF).  Discounted passes are now on sale for the 17th annual SIFF—April 2-6, 2014.  Lock in your passes now, as the prices rise considerably on Monday, March 17, 2014.

This year, SIFF features over 115 hand-selected films from 22 countries—features, documentaries, world cinema, Vamos Al Cine (showcasing Spanish-language film), and shorts.  Two hundred filmmakers and celebrities will attend and participate in premieres, Q&A’s an panel discussions.  Guests, celebs and attendees all mingle on the square and in Backlot, SIFF’s decadent den of epicurean delights. Film luminaries who have walked SIFF’s red carpet include: Susan Sarandon, Bruce Willis, Michael Keaton, Blythe Danner, Danny Glover, Lauren Hutton, Demian Bichir, Ray Liotta  and Mary-Louise Parker.  This year’s special guests have yet to be announced.

The line-up, of which we have just a few details, includes 62 full length features films, all selected by Festival Director Kevin McNeely and his programmers Claudia Mendoza-Carruth and Steve Shor, who know exactly what appeals to the savvy audience of this extended weekend fest.  For the first time, SIFF17 welcomes a film from Nigeria, director Biyi Bandele’s acclaimed Half of a Yellow Sun,  an adaptation of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s bestselling novel of the same name.  This year’s Vamos Al Cine program, which began as programming for the Spanish speaking community but has morphed into one of the festival’s biggest draws, will focus on Cuban cinema with Cuban director and actor, Jorge Perugorria, attending.  And dog lover ARThound is excited about this year’s special programming for children (and the young at heart) and the guest appearance of the amazing Olate dogs (winner of America’s Got Talent 2012 and $1 million.  These joyful dogs will perform at the historic Sebastiani Theatre in a special morning that includes the world premiere of Peter McEvilley’s French short, Le Sauvetage—which features Peter Olate’s rescue dogs and addresses animal welfare—and a live musical performance by members of “Everybody is a Star.”   This year, there are an unprecedented 24 documentaries, many of which unpack our increasingly confusing organic and green lifestyle and impart groundbreaking research on the health and environmental impacts of plastic, fracking and hemp.  One of these, Wings of Life, a new Disneynature film, narrated by Meryl Streep, uses incredible cinematography, high-seed, time-lapse and micro filmmaking techniques to reveal the extraordinary importance of flowers and their pollinator partners.  And for foodies, three world cinema offerings explore the fusion of storytelling, fine cuisine and restaurants.

All films are screened in seven intimate venues, all within walking distance along Sonoma’s historic plaza.  Many screenings include delectable gourmet samplings.  The SIFF ambiance is laid-back and the experience is unforgettable…that’s why most guests return year after year.  And it’s for a great cause— since 2002, SIFF and its members have continually supported Sonoma Valley High School’s Media Arts Program. This student program opens doorways to creativity in the digital arts through filmmaking classes, animation, scriptwriting, film theory, and – most of all – storytelling.  So far this year, SIFF has donated $25,000 to Peter Hansen’s media arts program at SVHS, having given almost $450,000 over the past 12 years.

Cinema Pass—$175* – All Films & Panels (*Price increases to $250 on March 17, 2014)

Cinema Soiree Pass —$450* First Entry to films, VIP hospitality area, tribute, parties & receptions & “First Look.” (*Price increases to $600 on March 17, 2014)

Patron Pass/All Access—single $2,500; couple $4,000

 

Click here to purchase all SIFF passes.

Click here for more information, or call 707 933-2600

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March 12, 2014 Posted by | Film | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Sonoma International Film Festival starts this evening, offering a stellar line-up of cinema, food and wine— all in gorgeous Sonoma

In Gilles Legrand’s “You Will Be My Son” (“tu seras mon fils”), Niels Arestrup plays a distinguished vintner in France's St-Emilion region, who is about to be awarded the Legion of Honor.  He’s deeply attached to his vineyard and, now that he is aging, is obsessed with passing it all down to posterity.  Who will that be—his son or another protégé?   This story is richly honed with lush cinematography of one of France’s most fabled wine producing regions.  One of three films opening the 1th Sonoma International Film Festival.

In Gilles Legrand’s “You Will Be My Son” (“tu seras mon fils”) Niels Arestrup plays a distinguished vintner in the St-Emilion region, who is about to be awarded the Legion of Honor. He’s deeply attached to his vineyard and, now that he is aging, is obsessed with passing it all down to posterity. Who will that be—his son or another protégé? This story is richly honed with lush cinematography of one of France’s most fabled wine producing regions.

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 ClientNaked in New YorkBullets 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.  

Mary-Louise Parker (left) as drug dealing Nancy and Demián Bichir as Tijuana mayor, jilted husband and devoted daddy, Esteban Reyes, on the Showtime TV series “Weeds” which ran 8 seasons.  Parker and Bicher will be honored with a Spotlight Award at SIFF on Saturday, April 13, 2013.  Image: courtesy Showtime

Mary-Louise Parker (left) as drug dealing Nancy and Demián Bichir as Tijuana mayor, jilted husband and devoted daddy, Esteban Reyes, on the Showtime TV series “Weeds” which ran 8 seasons. Parker and Bicher will be honored with a Spotlight Award at SIFF on Saturday, April 13, 2013. Image: courtesy Showtime

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) 

Sonoma County real estate professionals Doug Hecker (left) and Chris Oscar spent six years making the documentary “Project Censored: The Movie,” which has its world premiere at SIFF.

Sonoma County real estate professionals Doug Hecker (left) and Chris Oscar spent six years making the documentary “Project Censored: The Movie,” which has its world premiere at SIFF.

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) 

“Dreamscapes,” is Wolfram Hissen’s new documentary on contemporary artist Stephen Hannock, that has its West Coast premiere at the 16th Sonoma International Film Festival.  The film explores Hannock's artistic process, following him from the opening of Northern City Renaissance (commissioned by Sting) to openings in Venice and New York to his studio in Williamstown, MA.  In 2011, Hissen brought “Christo & Jeanne-Claude: The Running Fence Revisited” to SIFF.   “Dreamscapes” screens Thursday, April 11 and Saturday, April 13.

“Dreamscapes,” is Wolfram Hissen’s new documentary on contemporary artist Stephen Hannock, that has its West Coast premiere at the 16th Sonoma International Film Festival. The film explores Hannock’s artistic process, following him from the opening of Northern City Renaissance (commissioned by Sting) to openings in Venice and New York to his studio in Williamstown, MA. In 2011, Hissen brought “Christo & Jeanne-Claude: The Running Fence Revisited” to SIFF. “Dreamscapes” screens Thursday, April 11 and Saturday, April 13, 2013

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

Screening Locations:

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

April 10, 2013 Posted by | Film | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Sonoma International Film Festival starts tomorrow, offering a stellar line-up of cinema, food and wine— all in gorgeous Sonoma

In Columbian director Carlos Osuna’s “Fat, Bald, Short Man” (Gordo, calvo y bajito), Osuna transforms a traditional story about a middle-aged man ridiculed for being different into a delightful film using bright primary colors and a loose animated style. The film is part of the Sonoma International Film Festival's new "VAMOS AL CINE" program which starts Friday, April 11, and includes 9 contemporary gems of Latin cinema.

In Columbian director Carlos Osuna’s “Fat, Bald, Short Man” (Gordo, calvo y bajito), Osuna transforms a traditional story about a middle-aged man ridiculed for being different into a delightful film using bright primary colors and a loose animated style. The film is part of the Sonoma International Film Festival’s new “VAMOS AL CINE” program which starts Friday, April 11, and includes 9 contemporary gems of Latin cinema.

This Wednesday, 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 a full festival preview and individual reviews.  

In addition to its special events—Opening Night, SONOMA SPOTLIGHT AWARD (honoring Mary-Louise Parker and actor Demián Bichir), and Closing Night—the festival offers 3 delightful art-related films that you will not be able to see elsewhere. 

“Dreamscapes,” is Wolfram Hissen’s new documentary on contemporary artist Stephen Hannock, that has its West Coast premiere at the 16th Sonoma International Film Festival.  The film explores Hannock's artistic process, following him from the opening of Northern City Renaissance (commissioned by Sting) to openings in Venice and New York to his studio in Williamstown, MA.  In 2011, Hissen brought “Christo & Jeanne-Claude: The Running Fence Revisited” to SIFF.   “Dreamscapes” screens Thursday, April 11 and Saturday, April 13.

“Dreamscapes,” is Wolfram Hissen’s new documentary on contemporary artist Stephen Hannock, that has its West Coast premiere at SIFF and screens Thursday, April 11 and Saturday, April 13, 2013.

Dreamscapes (USA, France, Germany, 2011, 37 min) is Wolfram Hissen’s new documentary looking behind and beyond the canvasses of contemporary artist Stephen Hannock.   The film, which has its West Coast premiere at SIFF, explores Hannock’s artistic process, following him from the opening of Northern City Renaissance (commissioned by Sting) to openings in Venice and New York to his studio in Williamstown, MA.  Hannock’s commanding landscapes, often massive in scale, are brought to life through shots of him in process and through reflections of those who have followed his remarkable career.  

In 2011, Hissen brought Christo & Jeanne-Claude: The Running Fence Revisited to SIFF. (Screens Thursday, April 11, 9:30 a.m., Burlingame Hall and Saturday, April 13, 2:45, Vintage House) 

The Cover Story—Album Art (USA, 111 min):  What would you give to hear Yoko Ono describe what provoked her to pose naked, front and back, with John Lennon for the cover of the now iconic “Two Virgins”?  Mill Valley filmmaker Eric Christensen has that story and many more in his highly entertaining documentary which presents the untold stories behind some of the classic covers of the vinyl era.  It’s really hard to get some of these famous musicians to reveal something that hasn’t been previously explored but talking about their album covers proved a magical and revelatory topic.  Yoko Ono, Elvis Costello, Nick Lowe, Bob Weir, Steve Earle, John Mellencamp, Sammy Hagar, Huey Lewis, Ray Manzarek of the Doors, Mark Volman of the Turtles, Chris Robinson of the Black Crowes, Jerry Harrison of Talking Heads, Rick Nielsen of Cheap Trick.  Those are just the people who appear in the first five minutes.  Yoko Ono also discusses the cover for “Seasons of Glass,” which featured the bloody lenses removed from Lennon’s face the night he was shot to death. (Screens: Thursday, April 11 at 10:30 a.m., Murphy’s Pub and Saturday, April 13, 9 p.m., Vintage House)

In Carlos Osuna’s “Gordo, calvo y bajito,” Antonio Farfán is a middle-aged man working in a notary office who believes that his dull life is the result of his looks: being fat, bald and short.  The film’s animation is in perfect tune with its theme, there’s a devastating power in the simple drawings of the characters and the realism of the backgrounds and the urban landscape.

In Carlos Osuna’s “Gordo, calvo y bajito,” Antonio Farfán is a middle-aged man working in a notary office who believes that his dull life is the result of his looks: being fat, bald and short. The film’s animation is in perfect tune with its theme, there’s a devastating power in the simple drawings of the characters and smeared realism of the backgrounds and the urban landscape.

Fat, Bald. Short Man (Gordo, calvo y bajito) (Spanish, English French, 2011, 91 min):  Using bright primary colors and an innovative rotoscoping animation technique, where the faces of the real actors are bone white and in animated form, this clever and touching story is about a man in Bogotá who, audiences round the world have related to.  Antonio lives a timid and gray life, one of pain and isolation, 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. Director Carlos Osuna, from Colombia, will lead a discussion afterwards. .(Screens Saturday, April 13, noon, Women’s Club)

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 9 films in Spanish with English subtitles from various Latin countries.

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

Screening Locations:

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

April 9, 2013 Posted by | Film | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The 15th Sonoma International Film Festival opens this Wednesday with a stellar line-up of cinema, food, and wine in gorgeous Sonoma

Michelle Yeoh and David Thewlis in "The Lady," which opens the 15th Sonoma International Film Festival this Wednesday. Yeoh plays Myanmar prodemocracy activist and Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi. Photo: Magali Bragard@2011 EuropaCorp-Left Bank Pictures-France 2 Cinema.

This Wednesday, the curtain rises on the 15th annual Sonoma International Film Festival, pairing 5 nights and 4 days of nearly nonstop screenings— 123 new films of all genres 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 seven venues within walking distance of Sonoma’s charming town square and has a lot to offer both locals and destination visitors. “What gives our festival a very personal feeling is the chance to mingle with filmmakers and actors in our Backlot tent and at screenings and we absolutely deliver on the best in the film, food and wine,” said festival director Kevin McNeely on Monday.

Christopher Lloyd whose latest film is "Last Call," will be presented with an Award of Excellence, honoring his distinguished acting career. Photo: courtesy Last Call

Tribute to Christopher Lloyd:  This year’s festival will honor acclaimed actress Christopher Lloyd with an Award of Excellence on Thursday April 12th, 2012, at 8:30 p.m. at the Sebastiani Theatre, after the World Premiere of Last Call.  Lloyd, now 74, began acting at the age 14 and rose to prominence in the 1980’s as Jim Ignatowski in the popular TV show, Taxi.  Lloyd is best known for playing Emmett Brown in the Back to the Future trilogy and Uncle Fester in The Addams Family and its sequel Addams Family Values and Judge Doom in Who Framed Roger Rabbit.  Throughout his career, he has acted on stage and in the summer of 2010, he starred as Willy Loman in a Weston Playhouse production of Death of a Salesman.  

John Waters performs "This Filthy World" at the 15th Sonoma International Film Festival, April 11-15, 2012. Image: courtesy SIFF

Last Call is a classic raunchy buddy comedy with a heart of gold—underachieving siblings Phil and Danny O’Donnell are forced to run the family pub to save their eccentric uncle Pete (Christopher Lloyd) from jail time and financial ruin.  The only problem is that Pete, a crazy off-the-boat Irishman, has already alienated most of the clientele, nearly run the bar into the ground and created an almost impossible situation.  The boys rise to the occasion, instigating a number of hilarious schemes, from turning the pub into a strip club to a high school speakeasy, just to keep it afloat.  Christopher Lloyd, along with fellow cast member Clint Howard (brother of Ron Howard), will be joined by producers Greg Garthe and Spence Jackson for a Q&A after the screening.   Following that, there will be a montage of Lloyd’s work and presentation of the Award of Excellence by Festival Director Kevin McNeely.

John Waters:  On Saturday evening, the festival welcomes innovative American filmmaker, actor, stand-up comedian, writer and artist John Waters, now 65, with a special tribute dinner and Waters’ one-man vaudeville show “This Filthy World,” at the Sonoma Veteran’s Memorial Building.  Waters is best known for creating Pink Flamingos (1972), Hairspray (1988), Cry-Baby (1990), and Serial Mom (1994).  “John Waters exemplifies some of America’s most unique filmmaking beyond mainstream storylines. said Festival Director Kevin McNeely.  “His ability to portray extreme characters with both darkness and humor is a testament to his extreme talent.”  (The dinner is 6 to 8 p.m. and the show is 8:15-9:15 p.m. on Saturday, April 15, 2012 at the Sonoma Veteran’s Memorial Building.)

The Film Line-Up:

The festival kicks off on Wednesday evening with three screenings, all at 7 p.m:  Luc Besson’s biopic,  The Lady, at the Sebastiani Theatre; Jill Sharpe’s documentary, Bone, Wind, Fire,  at the Sonoma Museum of Art and Orlando Arriagada’s  documentary, Beyond the Miracle, (Detras del Milagro) (2010, 52 minutes).  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.

The Lady (2011, 132 minutes) is the film to see for its timeliness and compelling drama.  Fresh from a landslide election to parliament last week, the heroic Myanmar prodemocracy activist and Nobel laureate, Aung San Suu Kyi, now 66, is the subject of The Lady.  Michelle Yeoh, one of Asia’s best known actresses, stars in this intimate chronicle of the exhausting and exhilarating life of Suu Kyi, who spent 15 years under house arrest before her release last year.  The Lady follows Suu Kyi starting in 1988 when she returned to Myanmar, formerly Burma, to care for her ailing mother and soon became iconic in the battle against the military dictatorship.  The story focuses on her family life—her marriage to British academic Michael Aris (David Thewlis) and their two sons.  Aris, an Oxford professor, strongly supported Suu Kyi’s decision to stay in Myanmar, raising their children and playing a pivotal role behind the scenes in campaigning for her Nobel Peace Prize.  This decision, for the greater good, entailed years of separation and was a tremendous burden yet it was mutually agreed upon and seemed to cement their courageous love.  This is inspirational film that will send chills down your spine and as you witness this courageous lady in action.

Jill Sharpe's "Bone, Wind, Fire," explores three iconic artists―Frida Kahlo, Georgia O'Keefe and Emily Carr―at highs and lows of their lives. Sharpe combed through thousands of pages of their personal diaries hoping to give viewers access to the thought lives of these women. Image courtesy: National Film Board of Canada

If you have the patience to wait and see The Lady when it comes to your local theatre—and it will come—then Jill Sharpe’s Bone, Wind, Fire  (2011, 48 minutes) is a beautiful contemplative documentary that pays homage to three iconic artists—Frida Kahlo,  Georgia O’Keefe and Emily Carr.  The film just snagged Best Canadian Film award at FIFA  (Montreal’s International Festival of Films on Art) and is an intimate and evocative journey into the hearts, minds and eyes of three of the 20th century’s most remarkable artists.  Each woman had her own response to her environment, to the people that surrounded her and to the artistic or practical challenges she faced in wringing beauty and truth from her particular time and place.  Bone Wind Fire uses the women’s own words, taken from their letters and diaries, to reveal three individual creative processes in all their subtle and fascinating variety.  ( Screens 7 p.m. Sonoma Valley Museum of Art.  Plays with short film Hotstuff.)

The main character in Romanian-born Radu Mihaileanu’s poignant and funny feature film The Source (La source des femmes)(2011, 135 min) is a very undemocratic arid mountain village in North Africa (the Atlas mountains of Morocco) in which women, young and old, fetch water, day in and day out, while the men sit back and watch.  Frustrated by this, a young bride―actually, an outsider from the South―played by the French-Algerian actress Leila Bekhti, works on her entourage, and urges the other women to strike: no more sex until their men go to work.  The opposition she faces is from both men and women, especially her mother-in-law.  Breathtaking cinematography and beautiful choral music.  What this film, released just as the Arab Spring protests were taking place, shows is that revolution starts at home, with the evaluation of  long-standing customs and attitudes.  And, of course, that human heart too can suffer from being arid. (Screens Sunday, April 15, 2012 at 6:30 p.m. at Sebastiani Theatre)

Lunafest—shorts by, for and about women

Lunafest is an annual traveling film festival of award-winning shorts by, for and about women.  This year, it features 9 films—stories of reflection, hope, and humor—that will travel to over 150 cities and benefit organizations like the Breast Cancer Fund.  All of the shorts sound fascinating but Saba Riazi’s The Wind is Blowing on My Street  tells a simple story with poignant implications, especially for the young Iranian lead actress in the film who appears in the credits as simply “anonymous.”  This veiled young woman can’t wait to come home and rip off her head scarf.   When she accidentally locks herself out of her apartment and her scarf is whooshed away in a gust of wind, the reality of living in contemporary Iran sets it.  The Iranian filmmaker who made it lives in New York and attends film school at NYU but she did a short stint in Iran’s film industry before leaving.  The program starts with a reception at 5:30 p.m. Friday, April 13, 2012 at the Sonoma Museum of Art and the screenings begin at 6:30 p.m.)

New: “La Quinceañera Film Fiesta”

The weekend’s programming kicks into high gear Friday with concurrent screenings in all venues across town.   New this year, in honor of the festival’s 15th birthday, is a festival-within-a festival, “La Quinceañera Film Fiesta” honoring Spanish-language filmmakers from across the globe Friday evening and two full days, Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.  There is a kick-off party with live mariachi music on Friday in the Backlot tent.   All films will be presented in Spanish with English subtitles at the Sonoma Charter School.  Ticket prices for each film will be $1, with childcare provided.   The mini festival was organized by Claudia Mendoza-Carruth, who has pulled 15 films from Argentina to Spain, including Orlando Arriagada’s  documentary Beyond the Miracle (Detras del Milagro) (2010, 52 minutes) which tells the story of four of the 33 Chilean miners who spent 69 days, 688 meters underground in 35°C heat in the hellish mine, Los 33.  Director Orlando Arriagada will be in attendance. (Screens: Wednesday, April 11- 7:00pm Women’s Club. Friday, April 13- 3:00 pm, Sebastiani Winery Barrel Room.  Plays with two short films by Carlos P. Beltran, Pasion and Voluntad & Paz.)

Chico y Rita (Chico & Rita) (Fernando Trueba, Tono Errando, Javier Mariscal, Cuba, 2010, 94 min)  is a musical Cuban film set in 1948 Havana which follows a jazz pianist and singer enthralled in a romance that unfolds against the backdrop of the Cuban revolution.  As the couple escape Cuba and travel to New York, Las Vegas and Paris to follow their dreams, all set Latin jazz, they discover that they really do need each other to make their music.  The film captures a defining moment in the evolution of jazz and earned an Oscar nomination for “Best Animated Feature.”

America….Ella se Atrveio (America…She Dared) (Sonia Fritz, 2011, Puerto Rico, 90 minutes) follows a thirty year-old mother, America, from her remote Caribbean village to Manhattan, where she seeks refuge after her abusive lover takes her daughter from her.  (Screens Friday 8:30 p.m., Sonoma Museum of Art and Sunday 4:30 p.m., Sonoma Charter School.  Filmmaker Sonia Fritz in attendance.)

Music, Music, Music

This festival always offers exceptional music documentaries and this year, there are two that are essential viewing—Kevin MacDonald’s Marley, which plays Saturday evening, and Judy Chaikin’s  The Girls in the Band, which plays Friday and Sunday afternoons.  Violinist Kenji Williams will also give a live performance on Friday and Saturday evenings as he accompanies his film Bella Gaia.

Jamaican reggae-superstar, Bob Marley, who died of cancer in 1981 at the tender age of 36, is the subject of Kevin MacDonald’s Marley (2012, 144 min), the new highly buzzed-about bio-pic about Marley which has the blessings of his son, Ziggy, his widow, Rita, and the long-estranged original Wailer, Neville  “Bunny” Livingstone.  The filmmaker, who also directed the Oscar-winning documentary One Day in September (1999) and The Last King of Scotland (2006), told New York Times writer John Anderson that said he set out to “interview anyone who was alive and intimate with Marley.” (NYT 4.6.2012)  Aside from children, partners and musicians, Marley introduces a new character, Dudley Sibley, a former recording artist and janitor who lived with Marley for 18 months in the back of the Jamaican recording studio, Studio 1, where young Marley started out.

This year, Judy Chaikin’s  The Girls in the Band (2012, 81 minutes) does for jazz what Lynn Hershman Leeson’s  !Women Art Revolution (2010)  did for women artists —through intimate interviews with three generations of women jazz artists, she explores the hidden significant history of women in jazz.  The film starts off with women from the 1930’s and 1940’s, the golden age of big band and swing, who relate their triumphs and struggles in a very sexist and racist environment.  Roz Cron, Clora Bryant, Billie Rogers, Peggy Gilbet and Viola Smith, Vi Red, Melba Liston and others all grew up around music and wanted to pursue it professionally but were barred from all-male bands.  Many of these women formed or joined all female groups and the film tells their poignant stories.  And the proof of their talent is in their music clips, which roar.  (Screens: Friday April 13, 2:30 pm, Sebastiani Theatre, and Sunday, April 15, 3:30 pm, Sebastiani Windery Barrel Room. Judy Chaiken will be in attendance.)

Violinist Kenji Williams has collaborated with some of the most respected artists and scientists of our times and will perform live at the two screenings of “Bella Gaia,” which uses NASA shots of planet earth to create a stunning portrait of our planet. Image courtesy: Kenji Williams

Bella Gaia (Beautiful Earth) (2012, 50 minutes) is an awe-inspiring film and live music performance created by award winning filmmaker, composer, and violinist Kenji Williams.  The film incorporates stunning scientific visualizations by NASA and successfully simulates space flight, taking the audience on a spectacular journey around endangered planet Earth.  Bella Gaia showcases a thought-provoking stream of current scientific data about our changing ecosystems while also celebrating the amazing beauty and cultural heritage of humanity, delivering an unforgettable experience—all guided by the hypnotic, ecstatic music of Kenji Williams performed live. (Screens 6 p.m. Friday, April 13, 2012, at the Sonoma Community Center and 6 p.m. Saturday, April 14, 2012, at the Sebastiani Theatre.)

A native of Oaxaca, Mexico, Paulina Rodriguez, is featured in John Beck’s “Harvest.” Paulina was "la jefa" - the boss of a rare all-female picking crew that toiled through the soggy, challenging 2011 wine-grape harvest in Sonoma County. Photo: Charlie Gesell

Cinema Epicurea  Food and wine is where SIFF stakes its claim.  John Beck’s Harvest, a new wine documentary follows the 2011 wine grape harvest in Sonoma, picking up viewers and dropping them in the vineyards at 2 a.m. to see night picks orchestrated by tiny headlamps, 24/7 machine harvesting and how a few inches of rain can destroy a promising cluster of grapes.  Beck, who delighted audiences with Worst in Show (2011), has cast his intimate DSLR lens on five tight-knit family-owned wineries―Foppiano, Robledo, Rafanelli, Harvest Moon and Robert Hunter―along with an amateur home winemaker and a rare all-female picking crew from Mexico assembled by Bacchus Vineyard management, through what many would call “the toughest harvest” in their lifetime.  The pick, known as “La pisca” by the Mexican crews, involved long days and nights among the vines.  Stories that come to life under Beck’s direction, include that of Reynaldo Robledo of Robledo Family Winery, the first winery to be owned by a former migrant farm worker, and the all-female Mexican crew assembled by Bacchus Vineyard Management.  (Screens Friday, April 13, 2012 at 5 p.m. and Saturday, April 14, 2012 at 3 p.m. at Sebastiani Winery, 389 4th Street East.  Attendees at the Friday’s premiere will be served wine from the wineries in the film. )

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. This ambiance infuses SFIFF too.  “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.  To celebrate the festival’s opening on Thursday, April 12, 20120, Bistro Boudin of San Francisco will present gourmet cuisine with premium Sonoma Valley wines.  Click here to see a complete list of event, food & beverage and winery partners for SIFF15.

Closing Night Festivities: The festival closes on Sunday, April 10th, with an Awards Ceremony in the Backlot Tent at 8 pm.  Winners of the Jury Awards in all film categories including Features, Documentaries, World Cinema, Shorts, and Animation will be announced.

Festival Details: www.sonomafilmfest.org

Festival Passes and Tickets:

Star Pass $700 each/$1,325 for two.  Access to Festival Films and panels with “Fast Lane” entry for priority seating; access to all receptions and post-film parties; all Spotlight Tributes; “Big Night” Party; entry to special VIP Food & Wine area of Backlot.

 Premiere Pass $30/$625 for two. Access to all films and panels with priority film entry before Festival Pass holders; Opening Night Reception; entry to celebrity Spotlight Tributes; Closing Night 1st film screening and Awards Party

 Festival Pass $175 each/$320 for two.  Access to all regular films and panels & Closing Night Awards Party.

Weekend Pass: Saturday & Sunday ($110 each) Access to all films and panels on Saturday and Sunday

Two-Day Pass: Friday & Saturday ($100) Access to all films and panels on Friday and Saturday.

 Single Film Tickets:  $15 general entry tickets can be purchased at box office.  Arrive 30 minutes before screening and wait to be seated.

3 films for the Price of 2! $30:  good for entry to three single films, redeemable any time during the Film Festival.

Venue Locations:

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

April 9, 2012 Posted by | Film | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The 14th Sonoma International Film Festival opens this Wednesday with a stellar line-up of cinema, food, and wine in gorgeous Sonoma

In Wolfram Hissen's documentary "The Running Fence Revisited," screening Saturday and Sunday at the Sonoma International Film Festival, iconic footage of the Northern, CA coastline is the backdrop for a tender exploration of Christo and Jeanne-Claude's 1976 Running Fence. The film was made in conjunction with the Smithsonian American Art Musuem's 2010 exhibition and acquisition of The Running Fence's archival documentation from Christo. Photo courtesy Erin Van Rheenen

This Wednesday, the curtain rises on the 14th annual Sonoma International Film Festival pairing 5 nights and 4 days of nearly nonstop screenings of new independent films from around the world with great gourmet food and wine.  Highly anticipated by its loyal audience of over 18,000, this festival which takes place in eight venues within walking distance from Sonoma’s charming town square has a lot to offer both locals and destination visitors.   “Our audience is very informed and film-savvy,” said festival director Kevin McNeely on Friday. “What gives our festival a very personal feeling is the chance to mingle with filmmakers and actors in our Backlot tent and at screenings and we absolutely deliver on the best in the film, food and wine.”

Susan Sarandon Honored as Thelma and Louise turns 20 

Susan Sarandon will be present this weekend at the Sonoma International Film Festival to receive the prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award, given only twice in the festival’s 14 year history. Photo courtesy Sonoma International Film Festival.

 This year’s festival will honor acclaimed actress Susan Sarandon with its Lifetime Achievement Award on Saturday, April 9, 2011.  The award, given just twice in the festival’s 14 years honors a creative talent who, through the course of his or her career, has created a body of work which symbolizes the highest level of achievement in the motion picture art form. (Bruce Willis was the first recipient in 2009.)  Sarandon is most associated with her performances in The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) Thelma and Louise (1991) but won her Oscar for Best Actress in 1995 for Dead Man Walking.  She has been nominated for an Academy Award 34 times and has appeared in over 70 films.  “She is a remarkable talent with an amazing body of work,” said Kevin McNeely, “and she has conducted her private life admirably–doing responsibly cool things with her celebrity.”  Among her many activities, Sarandon is a spokesperson for UNICEF and the Endometriosis Foundation of America (EFA).

The tribute will start Saturday at 630 p.m. at the Sonoma Veteran’s Memorial Hall, with a montage of clips from Sarandon’s films and an on-stage discussion with Sarandon about her career and upcoming projects.  Immediately after the presentation of the Lifetime Achievement Award, there will be a reception in her honor and a screening of Thelma and Louise (which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year).  The evening will close with the festival’s annual gala, held this year at the Sebastiani Winery.  

The Line-Up

The festival kicks off on Wednesday evening at the Sonoma Valley Museum of Art with Marin filmmaker’s Fredrick Marx’s acclaimed documentary Journey from Zanskar and at the Sebastiani Theatre with Rob Hedden’s romantic feature film You May Not Kiss the Bride

Journey from Zanskar tells a moving and important story about the preservation of traditional Tibetan culture, which has survived in remote Zanskar with an untainted and continuous lineage dating back thousands of years.  The film tracks two monks who, with the blessing of the Dalai Lama, take 17 children through the Himalayan mountains to a near-by school to learn and thus preserve the future of their precious culture.  This inspirational film is also controversial.  Because it educates, it has been criticized (Zanskar Resource) for its role in creating a situation that may actually popularize remote Zanskar and thereby accelerate the destruction of its untainted culture and traditions.  You May Not Kiss the Bride tracks a Croatian mobster as he tries to arrange U.S. citizenship for his daughter by setting her up with an American photographer. (Journey From Zanskar, Wed. 6:30 p.m., Sonoma Valley Museum of Art) (You May Not Kiss the Bride, Wed. 6:30 p.m., Sebastiani Theatre)

Thursday’s evening line-up includes the French actor-turned-director Guillaume Canet’s Little White Lies, a drama about friendship which features Marion Cotillard (Oscar, Best Actress 2008, La Vie en Rose) and an ensemble cast.  Set at a beautiful vacation home, the film looks at the small cracks in the surface of relationships and pretenses that are hard to keep up in the face of an unexpected tragedy.  (6:30 p.m. and 9:15 p.m, Sebastiani Theatre (476 First St. East)

The weekend’s programming kicks into high gear Friday with concurrent screenings in all venues across town.   Among the 74 independent feature films, shorts, documentaries and other films screened will be Friday evening’s West Coast premiere of Jennifer Siebel Newsom’s Miss Representation, one of the most buzzed about films at this year’s Sundance festival.   The film explores the media’s deplorable impact on our society perception of women.  Through in-depth interviews with academics, newsmakers (including Katie Couric, Lisa Ling and Rachel Maddow) and politicians (Nancy Pelosi, Dianne Feinstein, Condoleezza Rice) and actors (Geena Davis, Jane Fonda, Margaret Cho) and youth—basically women in all walks of life—-Newsom shows that we are all being sold (year after year) dated, limited and detrimental stereotypes of what it means to be a powerful woman.  Oprah liked this important film so much that her OWN (Oprah Winfrey Network) snapped it up in February for their OWN Documentary Film Club that plans to do for film what Oprah has done for books.  Newsom will attend Friday’s 6 p.m. screening at the Sebastiani Theatre on the square.

Two additional documentaries that I consider essential viewing are German filmmaker Wolfram Hissen’s stunning The Running Fence Revisited and Suzan Beraza’s Bag It

The Running Fence Revisited celebrates Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s iconic Running Fence, the 24 mile white fabric fence that ran through Marin and Sonoma Counties for two weeks in 1976, that profoundly changed the way we all think about art.  This documentary contains precious footage of Jeanne-Claude’s last visit to Northern California in the fall of 2009 and provides a riveting snapshot of the couple’s intense and highly creative style of communicating.   There are numerous interviews with the farmers and community members who supported the controversial project and look back at it with humor and pride.  It also contains some of the most gorgeous aerial footage of our coastline to be seen.   If you’re looking for a film that celebrates life, nature, and art, this is it.  Saturday, 6:00 p.m., Sonoma Valley Museum of Art and Sunday, 6:45 p.m., Woman’s Club)

Bag It follows Jeb Barrier, an earnest guy who greatly resembles Jason Alexander a.k.a. George Castanza on Seinfield, as he explores the proliferation of plastic in our society, particularly single use disposable plastic bags. (link to trailer) After watching this film, you likely cringe every time you see a plastic bag.  Each year, Americans throw out an astounding 100 billion plastic bags, which will never break down because of their non-biodegradable makeup. As they sit in landfills for thousands of years, they merely break up into tiny pieces that absorb toxic chemicals, only to be fed into the soil and water supply or ingested by animals, particularly marine life. With landfill space running out, plastic bags are also likely to be burned at waste-to-energy plants where toxic chemicals seep into the atmosphere.  On March 28, 2011, the subject made the Wall Street Journal when journalist Vauhini Vara profiled Stephen Joseph, the lawyer who sued Kraft Foods to eliminate transfat in Oreos and is now suing several California cities trying ban plastic bags.  Joseph claims that paper bags are even worse for the environment.  Bag It debunks this and makes a compelling case for imposing a ban on plastic bags and is an educational must-see for everyone. (Saturday, April 9, 9:15 a.m., Mia’s Kitchen at Vintage House)

The festival frequently pairs a music documentary with a live music event. Following Saturday’s 3:30 p.m. screening of From Gershwin to Garland: A Musical Journey with Richard Glazier, Richard Glazier will give a 30 minute piano concert of some of the classics from the golden age of American song. (Saturday, 3:30 p.m, New Belgium Lounge at the Community Center)

And if you are fascinated with jazz, you won’t want to miss the artfully shot The Anatomy of Vince Guaraldi, a tribute to the Bay Area jazz composer who pioneered the crossover of jazz into pop and did the unforgettable scores for Charles Schultz’s Peanuts animations.  Who can forget “A Charlie Brown Christmas” or the stellar hit “Cast Your Fate to the Wind”?  George Winston calls Vince Guaraldi and his music “a part of the deep heart and soul of San Francisco and of the experience of childhood and beyond.” Guaraldi’s daughter Dia, and the members of his original jazz trio, will all be at the Saturday screening.  (Friday, 9:30 p.m., New Belgium Lounge at the Community Center and Saturday, 3:45 p.m., Women’s Club)   

Nabil Elderkin’s Bouncing Cats is another inspiring musical documentary that explores hip-hop with a focus on b-boy culture and breakdancing as a tool for positive social change in Uganda where 49 percent of the population is under the age of 14.  The film tells the story of Abraham Tekya, a Ugandan–boy and A.I.D.S. orphan who created the Breakdance Project Uganda that is helping to rehabilitate the war-ravaged nation, child by child.  (Friday, 6:45 p.. and Saturday 12:45 p.m. at Women’s Club)  

Seattleite Karen Stanton’s documentary debut film A Not So Still Life, profiles Ginny Ruffner, one of the major artists of the modern glass/conceptual crafts movement whose fans include Dale Chihuly and Tony Robbins and most likely anyone who watches this film.  In 1991, at age 39, Ruffner, already a well-established artist, was struck by a car and the accident nearly killed her but didn’t put a dent in her spirit.  Glass is forged with fire and so is Ginny Ruffner.  An early party scene at Ruffner’s sprawling home, itself an artwork, is not to be missed. (Friday, 6:15 p.m. and Saturday, 8:15 p.m., Sonoma Valley Museum of Art)



Cinema Epicurea

Food is an area where the Sonoma International Film Festival stakes its claim.  Let’s cover their food films first.  Sally Rowe’s A Matter of Taste tracks British chef Paul Liebrandt, the force behind the legendary haute Tribeca restaurant Croton.  What’s great about this film is that she follows him on a hellish roller coaster ride in the elite food world.  In 2000, at age 24, at Atlas restaurant (on Central Park South), he earned three stars from the erudite New York Times food critic Williams Grimes (1998-2003) who praised his daring style and described him as a “pianist who seems to have found a couple of dozen extra keys.”  In the less flamboyant post-9/11 climate, however, he’s unable to repeat his success and has a rough patch that lasts 8 years until he hits his stride again with Croton, where is both chef and owner.  There’s mesmerizing kitchen action, with scintillating porn of him painstakingly creating his mind-warping masterpieces like chocolate covered scallops.  There’s a romance too.  And there’s lots of commentary from his colleagues in the world of elite food including our own Thomas Keller who built an empire from his legendary French Laundry Restaurant in Yountville and then went on to found the more urban Per Se in New York and who remains the only American chef to have been awarded simultaneous three star Michelin ratings for two different restaurants. (Screens Saturday 12:15 p.m., Mia’s Kitchen at Vintage House and Sunday, 12:30 p.m., New Belgium Lounge at the Community Center)

San Francisco-based food journalist Stett Holbrook and Marin documentary filmmaker Greg Roden made a late hour direct appeal to Kevin McNeely to screen “Food Forward,” their pilot for the upcoming PBS food series “Food Forward.”  The compelling film makes its world premiere at the festival on Thursday and shies away from food celebrities to tell compelling stories about committed people across America who are changing the way people eat.  “It’s all about people in Oakland and Manhattan who have rejected industrial food and are growing their own healthy sustainable food in urban settings.” said McNeely. “There are rooftop gardens in Manhattan that are producing enough food for the local farmers’ markets and beekeepers who are producing honey —it’s very cool.”  (Thursday 7 pm at Sonoma Valley Museum of Art).

Also making its world premiere is Robert Lemon’s ¿Tacos or Tacos? a short documentary inspired by the taco trucks of Fruitvale, in Oakland.  The film examines the genesis and metamorphosis of food truck culture into the upscale sensation that we are now experiencing nationwide.  Concentrates on the Bay Area and Austin, Texas, where Lemon is a doctoral candidate at UT.  (Saturday, 9:30 a.m., New Belgium Lounge at the Community Center and Sunday, 3:15 p.m. Mia’s Kitchen at Vintage House) 

“JoyRide” is a favorite of SIFF director Kevin McNeely. Alex Petrovitch and Katherine Randolph (Markwood Films) are what film festivals love to roll their dice on. The Los Angeles couple’s first feature film is written, directed, acted, and edited by them. "JoyRide" is about a couple that needs cash fast and decides to make a reality film about her brother’s drug dealing…they hit the road and are soon in over their heads. Screens Saturday and Sunday. Image: Markwood Films.

 

 Wine, Food and “Backlot”
In 2009, Sonoma was the first U.S. city to receive the distinctive “cittaslow”  (“slow city”) classification that includes not only slow food and a rich agricultural bounty, but a community attitude that savors life along with the finest food and wine.  This special ambiance infuses the festival too whose culinary center is “The Backlot,” 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 and have lively discussions in a chic lounge environment while enjoying the best of wine country vintages and culinary delights provided by Wine Country Party and Events.  Wine and beer will be available for purchase with $5 tickets available at the box office. Sushi by Ed Metcalfe of Shiso Sushi will be served on Friday and Sunday in the Backlot. 

Over 23 wineries and the Sonoma Valley Vintners and Growers Alliance will be represented throughout the festival including Sebastiani, Gundlach Bundschu, Muscardini Cellars, Eric Ross, Banshee Wines, Haraszthy Cellars, Highway 12, Gloria Ferrer, Roessler Cellars, and Nicholson Ranch. A New Belgium Beer Garden and a Gloria Ferrer Bubble Lounge will be located in the Sonoma Plaza. Each screening venue will either offer full dining options or feature a sampling of snacks and treats provided by festival sponsors and partners. (Full description of the wine and food options at various venues.)

Closing Night Festivities: The festival closes on Sunday, April 10th, with an Awards Ceremony in the Backlot Tent at 8 pm.  Winners of the Jury Awards in all film categories including Features, Documentaries, World Cinema, Shorts, and Animation will be announced.  

Festival Details: www.sonomafilmfest.org
Star Pass $750 individual/$1,400 couple (Includes Monthly Cinema Series Hosted by Sonoma Film Society)

* All Access to Festival Films and Events at SIFF Including: pre-Opening Party at the Sonoma Valley Museum of Art, Opening Reception at MacArthur Place, Festival Gala, Filmmakers Lunches and Dinners, VIP and After Parties, Opening and Closing Night Film Screenings, Spotlight Tribute, Awards Party, and Filmmaker Reception

* Fast Lane Entry to all Festival Events for priority seating

*All-Inclusive Food and Wine at the Hospitality Tent in our Back Lot

 Premiere Pass $300/$550

*Guaranteed Access to Festival Films and Programs during the SIFF including: Opening Night Film Screening and After Party, Festival Gala, Spotlight Tribute, Closing Night Film Screening and Awards Party.

* Four Food and Wine Tickets for the Hospitality Tent in our Back Lot

 Festival Pass $150/$275

*Access to Films and Programs including: Film Screenings, Panels and Discussions, and Closing Night Film Screening & Awards Ceremony.

 Day Pass $60

*Access to Film Screenings for Day Purchased

 

Single Film Tickets:  $15 general entry tickets can be purchased at box office.  Arrive 30 minutes before screening and wait to be seated.    

 

Venue Locations:

Sebastiani Theatre – 476 First St. East
Sonoma Valley Woman’s Club – 574 First St. East
New Belgium Lounge at Sonoma Community Center – 276 E. Napa St.
Mia’s Kitchen at Vintage House – 246 First St. East
Sebastiani Winery Barrel Room – 389 Fourth St. East
Sonoma Valley Museum of Art – 551 Broadway
Murphy’s Irish Pub – 464 First St. East
Sonoma Veteran’s Memorial Hall – 126 First St. West

April 3, 2011 Posted by | Film | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment