Sonoma International Film Festival — A festival featuring film, food, wine and spirits in Sonoma, California

UPCOMING 22ND ANNUAL SONOMA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL

Festival to Open with LADIES IN BLACK; SIR is Closing Night Film

Wednesday, March 27 – Sunday, March 31

Sonoma, CA (March 11, 2019) – The 2019 Sonoma International Film Festival (SIFF) is celebrating 22 years of film, food, wine, and spiritsWednesday, March 27 to Sunday, March 31, 2019. All films are shown at intimate venues within walking distance of Sonoma’s historic plaza. In total, 123 films from around the world, from over 28 countries and 200 filmmakers, will be showcased as all eyes turn to Sonoma for a Festival that consistently attracts the most prominent names in the film industry and has become a marquee destination for film lovers, as well as lovers of world class food and wine!

The film festival guide has all films and events by day, times, venues, and includes film trailers when available. Some of the films highlighted this year include MIKE WALLACE IS HERE, ART PAUL OF PLAYBOY: THE MAN BEHIND THE BUNNY, FIRE ON THE HILL, GIRL ON WAVE, CHARGED, and the Oscar® winning animated short BAO.

The Opening Night Gala is Wednesday, March 27 from 5pm to 7pm in the Diageo Backlot Tent and features music from The Rich Little Band. The Opening Night Film, LADIES IN BLACK to follow at Sebastiani Theater (7:15pm) and Meyer Sound & Dolby Hall at Vets 1 (7:45pm). From Academy Award nominated director Bruce Beresford (Driving Miss Daisy, Mao’s Last Dancer), LADIES IN BLACKis set in the summer of 1959 when the impact of European migration and the rise of women’s liberation is about to change Australia forever. Sixteen-year-old Lisa takes a holiday job at the prestigious Sydney department store, Goode’s. There she meets the “ladies in black.” Beguiled and influenced by Magda, the vivacious manager and assisting sales ladies Patty and Fay, Lisa is awakened to a world of possibilities. As she grows from a bookish schoolgirl into a glamorous and positive young woman, the impact they have on each other will change all their lives. Julia Ormond (Actor),Rachael Taylor (Actor) and Allanah Zitserman (Producer) will all be on hand to walk the red carpet in support of the film, which is the largest grossing film in Australia’s history.  Jennifer Brown of Flagstar Bank and Tina DeMartini of DeMartini Electric, Inc., are the presenting sponsors of the Opening Night Film.

The sellout SIFF/Devour! Chefs & Shorts is back! This year’s event features highly regarded culinary luminaries who will each prepare a dish inspired by short food-focused films from around the world. Michael Howell and Lia Rinaldo, founders of DEVOUR!—the world’s largest food and film festival in Nova Scotia, Canada—curate the chefs and the films. Each course, paired with a select wine, creates a multi-sensory dining experience. This unique event will appeal to all foodie, film and wine buffs. The evening starts with a reception of passed appetizers, Gloria Ferrer bubbles and a SIFF signature cocktail from Ketel One Botanical. The wine pairings feature Huge Bear Wines, Deerfield Ranch Winery, Bee Hunter Wine, and Landmark Vineyards. The featured chefs include Michael Howell (Founder and Executive Director of Devour!), Chef Marcellus Coleman (Executive Chef at Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa), Chef Cole Dickinson (Executive Chef at MacArthur Place Hotel & Spa), Pastry Chef Michelle Gayer (Owner Salty Tart bakery), Chef Della Gossett (Pastry Chef at Spago) and Chef Eduardo Garcia (Co-founder Montana Mex). Adding to the night’s experience Chef Tyler Florence will screen his trailer for UNCRUSHABLE, showing twice at SIFF22. The event takes place on Thursday, March 28 at 6pm at host Ramekins Culinary School, Events & Inn located at 450 W. Spain Street, Sonoma. Tickets are $250 with Soirée, $275 with Cinema Pass, $300 General Public, $500 for seat at Tyler Florence’s hosted table (only five seats available) and are available at http://www.sonomafilmfest.org/page464.html.

The list of accomplished jury members for this year’s festival includes casting director Ferne Cassel (DIE HARD, COMING TO AMERICA, ROADHOUSE, DICK TRACY), Courtney Sexton (Vice President of CNN Films), powerhouse film distributor Adeline Monzier, Michele Maheux (Executive Director and Chief Operating Officer of the Toronto International Film Festival), Bart Walker (partner at ICM Partners), cinematographer John Bailey (GROUNDHOG DAY, AS GOOD AS IT GETS, HOW TO LOSE A GUY IN 10 DAYS, MUST LOVE DOGS), Bill Keith (Deputy Editor of Entertainment Weekly), award winning producer Tom Davia (ARE WE NOT CATS, LA GRANJA), and actress Angela Sarafyan (THE INFORMERS, A BEAUTIFUL LIFE, THE TWILIGHT SAGA: BREAKING DAWN – PART 2, WESTWORLD).

New to SIFF this year is The UNCRUSHABLE Dinner with Tyler Florence. On Friday, March 29 join celebrated Chef Tyler Florence for a one-of-a-kind “Dinner and a Movie” event. View Tyler’s documentary, UNCRUSHABLE, and after the film, savor a four-course dinner paired with wines from SIMI, Ravenswood, Robert Mondavi and The Prisoner Wine Company. The dinner begins at 5pm at Ramekins Culinary School, Events & Inn located at 450 W. Spain Street, Sonoma. Tickets are $250 with Soirée Pass, $275 with Cinema Pass, $300 General Public and $500 for a seat at Tyler Florence’s hosted table (only five seats available) and are available for purchase at http://www.sonomafilmfest.org/page464.html.

Saturday, March 30 SIFF will host two Industry Panel Discussions in the Diageo Backlot Tent. Panel #1 at 9:30am “Representation: A Look Into The Business of Agents and Managers” will feature Bill Keith, Deputy Editor of Entertainment Weekly), Bart Walker (ICM), Beth Holden Garland (Talent Manager), and Melissa Hirschenson (Agent at Innovative Artists). Panel #2 at 10am “Destination Filming: The Practicalities of Filming Outside the ‘Hollywood Zone’” will feature Mark Walker (Cinelease Director of Studio Development and General Manager, Film Mare Island).

Sunday, March 31 is the Closing Night Film and Wrap Party, presented by Daniel Casabonne of Sotheby’s International Realty. The Closing Night Film is SIR directed by Rohena Gera, starring Ahmareen Anjum, Vivek Gomber, and Geetanjali Kulkarni, will show at 7:15pm at the Sebastiani Theatre and at 7:30pm at Meyer Sound & Dolby Hall at Vets 1. SIR is the story of worlds and classes colliding – of human connection across the invisible, oppressive barriers of society. A live-in domestic worker, Ratna is an impoverished but determined woman dedicated to her dreams. While working, she meets affluent Ashwin who, despite his riches, seems to have given up on his dreams and lost himself in the process. As the connection between them grows and their disparate worlds are irreparably intertwined, the social barriers that seek to separate them only appear to grow more insurmountable.

Pass Information

The 22nd Annual Sonoma International Film Festival runs from Wednesday, March 27 through Sunday, March 31. The best way to experience the festival and have access to all films is by getting a SIFF pass. SIFF can be enjoyed at different levels. Currently Cinema Passes are $325, $950 for Soirée, and $2,500 for Patron. All Cinema pass holders will have day access to the Diageo Backlot Tent. Soirée pass holders will have day VIP area and evening parties access. For information about tickets, festival passes, prices, and benefits visit www.sonomafilmfest.org.

About the Sonoma International Film Festival

The Sonoma International Film Festival, an entirely walkable festival, is a 501(c)3 corporation dedicated to promoting independent film and filmmakers from around the world, inspiring film lovers, and introducing the power of film to student filmmakers. SIFF’s signature initiative—the Media Arts Program started at Sonoma Valley High School in 2002—introduces students to the process of storytelling and provides the resources for them to create films, many of which are shown annually at The Student Showcase.  This “only in SONOMAWOOD” five-day event features screening venues in and around Sonoma Plaza, offers world-class cuisine from local artisans and exceptional wines from Wine Country vintners. Renowned filmmakers, industry leaders and celebrities such as Bruce Willis, Susan Sarandon, Robin Williams, John Lasseter, Danny Glover, Demián Bichir, Mary-Louise Parker, Ray Liotta, Michael Keaton, and Meg Ryan have walked the SIFF red carpet and enjoyed its intimate ambiance.

Over the past 22 years, the Sonoma International Film Festival continues to promote independent film and filmmakers from around the world with the support of incredible sponsors who include but are not limited to: Manitou Fund, Diageo, Sonoma Magazine, Tito’s Handmade Vodka, Arrowood, Bank of Marin, Dolby, Sonoma Market, Sophienwald, Stor-It-All, WildFire Web, Spritz, Don Julio, Johnnie Walker, Ketel One Botanical, San Francisco Chronicle, Landmark Vineyards, Brew Dr., Huge Bear Wines, OHM Coffee Roasters, Farm Fresh To You, Rodney Strong, Gloria Ferrer, and Lake Sonoma Winery.

For more information, please visit www.sonomafilmfest.org

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Media contact: Allison Coats, allison@coatspr.com or (707) 935-6203

Concussion—-Lesbian sex, it’s so HOT right now!!

Concussion headlined many Queer film festivals this year.  With it’s high-production values, pretty star and fantasy plot of a lesbian who decides to become a high-priced call girl after a knock on the head; it’s easy to see why it is a popular film.  The sets are all beautifully-furnished suburban homes or artfully-decorated city apartments that our star spends all her time and money upgrading.  It’s a sex-film for upper-middle class lesbians who may be finding marriage, kids and a house in the suburbs more bland and less-fulfilling then they anticipated.

If it’s seems a tad unrealistic to think that there might be a market for Abby’s (Robin Weigert) services, or that leading a double-life would be so easy to keep from the kids and the wife…well, at least it’s an interesting film.  And don’t we all need a little wish fulfillment now a days? The fact that Abby’s escapades involve parading around in expensive lingerie, mentoring a young college student with feminist literature as well as sexual gratification and rough sex with another suburban housewife is about as reasonable as the assumption that getting hit by a baseball would lead to this new lifestyle.

Having won a Teddy Jury award at the Berlin Film Festival for writer/director Stacie Passon and a Best First Feature award at Frameline Film Festival in San Francisco, I wish this director and this film continued success.  The many soft-core porn sex scenes are pretty and not exploitative, and if they feel unrealistic; at least they were directed by a woman from a screenplay written by the same woman.  Thus dodging the controversy surrounding the OTHER lesbian film currently playing in LA and New York….

Concussion

Blue is the Warmest Color is generating controversy and discussion of female sexuality and male gaze.   A three-hour film about a young girl’s coming-of-age journey, “La vie d’Adèle” was directed by Abdellatif Kechiche and stars the two young actresses, Léa Seydoux and Adèle Exarchopoulos.  In an unusual and remarkable move, the Cannes jury awarded the Palm d’Or to not just the director, but also, for the first time ever, the actors as well!  Having not seen the film myself, I can easily predict that the length of the film will be more of an issue for me personally, than the six and a half minute-long sex scene.  Rarely do I find that the bloated Hollywood films need their 2-hour running time and though I tend to be more forgiving of non-traditional films from independent filmmakers, three hours speaks to a director who is too precious with his or her work.

I do enjoy reading all the press that this film is inspiring.  Any film that can incite writers to discuss female sexuality and representation is a winner in my book!   Here’s a quote from Matthew Hammett Knott that I rather liked:

“It all comes back to Robert Bresson’s inspiring maxim – “make visible that which, without you, might never be seen”.  In this respect, Manohla Dargis’s criticism that Kechiche “seems so unaware or maybe just uninterested in the tough questions about the representation of the female body that feminists have engaged for decades” seems less pertinent to “Blue is the Warmest Color” than with regard to the wider picture. All perspectives are limited, including Dargis’, including Kechiche’s, including mine. It doesn’t mean we have to reject any in particular. That is our prerogative. What is essential is to recognize the limitations of each, and most importantly, recognize those that are missing entirely from our cultural landscape, and seek them out. ”

Blue is the Warmest Color

http://whttp://www.indiewire.com/article/heroines-of-cinema-blue-is-the-warmest-color-and-the-real-problem-with-male-filmmakers-and-female-sexuality

So seek out queer cinema if you can!  Support all films that support women-driven narratives because they are few and far between!

http://www.indiewire.com/article/what-do-we-expect-from-lesbian-films

Rating: 3 soy lattes in an arty cafe while scheduling play dates, a Pilates session and waiting for your paid date to arrive…

Fond Farewell to the Bay Area

drinks with filmsYes, the time has come for me to take a hiatus from my beloved Bay Area and continue my job search somewhere less distracting…look out Boulder, CO!

Big thanks to my friends in the publicity biz who’ve been big supporters: Steve Indig at Landmark Theatres and Karen Larsen and staff at Larsen and Associates.  And to all the gals at Bay Area Women in Film and Media — thank you for your friendship and keep up the good work!

I’m really going to miss living in a city that has such a wealth of art-house and foreign films screening in so many theaters, often opening here right after New York and Los Angeles!  San Francisco has more film festivals than any other city–and I’ve attended or worked at most of them!!  I’ll miss all my dear film festival friends.   A big hug of gratitude to the staffs at Frameline and CAAMFest and SF Green Film Festival, cheers to Jeff Ross for his dedication to independent film and music in the Bay Area with Indiefest, Docfest and Another Hole in the Head and to my dear friends at the SF Film Society presenting fabulous programming and events while struggling with a lack of leadership.  Hurrah for fabulous film curation all around the Bay Area!  To all my festival gypsy friends traveling from festival to festival, I salute you!  I’m there in spirit even if I’m not working at your side!

Here’s what I’d recommend you see in San Francisco this weekend:

The World’s End–This is what I’m most excited to see because I’m a huge fan of Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz and it looks like more of the same wackiness!

20 Feet From Stardom–Yes, it’s still playing (at Stonestown, but still…).  This is a great documentary about back-up singers that even non-musicians would enjoy.

Frances Ha–Again, yes, it’s still playing.  It’s at the Roxie (9pm) and is a must-see for fans of Indie films.  Written with Greta Gerwig, Noah Baumbach’s film is like a more-hip and funnier Woody Allen film!

Two coming of age films that I reviewed earlier: The Way Way Back and The Spectacular Now should also not be missed.   Both charming and with great performances; they are small films with big hearts!

Unknown Cutie and The Boxer–If there was one film that I’d encourage everyone to see, it’s this wonderful documentary!  A well-crafted first film by Zachary Heinzerling, this is an intimate portrait of an eccentric painter and sculptor, Ushio Shinohara and his supportive wife and fellow artist, Noriko Shinohara.   Ushio lives life large with a big presence and big work, while his wife, Noriko steps out of his shadow to present her own work and begins to finds her own voice.  As they struggle to find an audience (and buyers!) for their creations: towering papier mache motorcycles, paintings created by “boxing” the canvas and graphic novels depicting their own troubled relationship, we also see their struggles to be true to their art and each other.  It’s both tender and poignant.

Don’t let this one get out of town before you get to see it!!

And a quick update on this lovely film: http://www.indiewire.com/article/critics-picks-the-top-10-documentaries-released-in-2013-according-to-indiewires-film-critic

Until we meet again, I’ll be at the movies…let’s have a drink and you can tell me what YOU think!

San Francisco International Film Festival 56: Four Fun Features!

Staff BadgeA film festivals is like a river.  Where you “ford” the river; where you step into the stream, is unique.  Your experience of the same events will often differ drastically from everyone around you.

Are you anticipating a film because you’re familiar with the director’s previous work?  Do you adore the lead actor and are you excited to spend some quality time in their presence?  Did you have to stand in the cold in a long line before you were admitted into the theater or was it nearly impossible to find parking? All of these personal concerns and anticipations will color your view.

For me, having worked in this field for so long, film festivals are almost like coming home.  I know the staff, I’ve worked the venues, and I love the thrill of seeing a film with filmmakers present!  My film-going experience is bound to be a positive one.  This year at SFIFF 56, I worked more than usual, both at the theaters and away from them.  So I had very limited opportunities to actually watch films.  Fortunately, the four features I did manage to see, were all very good.

“What Maisie Knew” — Divorce, Hollywood-style

SFIFF opened with this tale of self-centered parents battling for their child’s affections.  Based on a short story by Henry James penned 100 years ago, the damage inflicted by neglect is brought to life by the marvelous performance of the young lead, Onata Aprile.  As the pawn fought over by Julianne Moore’s aging rock star mother and the traveling philandering father, played by Steve Coogan, Onata is refreshingly open in her natural reactions.  Her joy at spending time with the actors who play her surrogate parents is a delight.  Alexander Skarsgard elevates every scene he’s in as the party boy who becomes the affectionate companion.  The story stretches credability and reason at points, (even wealthy people can’t get away with this level of neglect) and the ending is pure fairytale but there’s a level of charm here that’s hard to deny.  Rating: 3 glasses of expensive red wine

“Cutie and the Boxer” — Eccentric and Wonderful

Zachary Heinzerling’s directorial debut is the winning documentary about an eccentric painter and sculptor, Ushio Shinohara and his supportive wife and fellow artist, Noriko Shinohara.  This intimate portrait of two talented Japanese artists struggling to find an audience (and buyers!) for their creations: towering papier mache motorcycles, paintings created by “boxing” the canvas and graphic novels depicting their own troubled relationship, is both tender and finely-crafted.  Rating: 3 shots of sake

“Byzantium”–Irish Goth with some serious teeth

In one week, I found myself viewing two vampire films!  Both closer in spirit to “The Hunger” or “Let The Right One In” than “Buffy” or “Twilight”; “Kiss of the Damned” is a campy affair by a first-time filmmaker but “Byzantium” is a classy, Gothic drama helmed by Neil Jordan.  Outstanding performances by the female leads, the beautiful and very sexy, Gemma Arterton and the other-worldly, wiser-than-her-years, Saoirse Ronan bring this British Turn of the Century vampire tale to life.

Period costumes, a unique creation story and the always excellent, Sam Riley, add to this dark story of teen angst.  What to do when your mother turns your home into a house of ill repute  to support you?  When your boyfriend already looks like a vampire (Caleb Landry Jones) but your writing teacher suspects that your creative writing assignment might cut too close to the truth?  Rating: 4 glasses of red, red wine

“Ernest et Celestine”–Can a Bear and a Mouse be friends?

This delightful French 2-D animation has lovely water-color painted backdrops and a sweet story of two unlikely friends trying to survive in a world where creatures  keep to their own kind.  A small misstep in an over-long central bit spent in the mouse dental office but the drawings are so charming that it’s easily forgiven.  One of my favorite films of the festival, “Ernest et Celestine” is a charming film suited for all ages.

Rating: 4 cups of cocoa