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Sonoma Film Festival ramping up for 20th annual

Posted on March 15, 2017 by Sonoma Valley Sun

The 20th annual Sonoma International Film Festival opens March 29 with the new Christian Bale movie “The Promise” and closes April 2 with “Cook Up A Storm,” the story of dueling professional chefs. In between, of course, come the parties and after-parties, 100 more films and documentaries, wine and food, awards, and schmoozing with industry insiders.

12816923_1740374876209780_1576288754_n“We’re excited for an unprecedented number of filmmakers and festival attendees to come to Sonoma and experience the very best in film, food, wine and spirits,” said Executive Director Kevin McNeely.

The five-day event will feature more than 130 hand-selected films including independent features, documentaries, world cinema and short films. All films are shown at seven venues within walking distance of Sonoma’s historic plaza.

With its Back Lot Tent, the festival’s hospitality hub will again be the SIFF Village, in the Veterans Building parking lot on First Street East. New to Village this year is the Celebrity Cruises Mobile Cinema, a pop-up mobile theater featuring a high definition projector and sound system. This screening venue will feature truffle popcorn, beverages, great prizes, a special preview of Celebrity EdgeSM as well as feature films, shorts, and documentaries.


Opening night is Wednesday, March 29, with a 5 p.m. reception in the Back Lot Tent, with sips and samples from some of Sonoma’s finest restaurants and wineries. “The Promise,” (above) starring Christian Bale and Angela Sarafyan, will air at the Sebastiani Theatre at 7 p.m. Set during the last days of the Ottoman Empire, film explores a love triangle between a brilliant medical student, a beautiful, sophisticated woman, and a renowned American journalist based in Paris. “Piper,” a Pixar animated film, will be shown before each screening.

Thursday, March 30 is a full day of screenings. Highlights include the Student Showcases from 8am-12pm at the Sebastiani Theatre. Peter Hansen, the director of the Media Arts Program at Sonoma Valley High School has selected Owen Summers’ stop-action claymation film “Magic Beans” to be accepted into the Sonoma International Film Festival. Owen is a senior at Sonoma Valley High School.

Kiara Ramirez will be awarded the inaugural SIFF Emerging Artist Award. This award has been selected for post-high school filmmakers who exemplify the spirit of independent filmmakers with career aspiration in the film arts. Kiara is a 2016 graduate from Mendocino High School. Her first film, which she has produced and directed, is the “mini-doc” “Behind the Wall.”

A big bash on Thursday, March 30 celebrates 20th anniversaries for the event, Sondra Bernstein’s the girl and the fig, and Tito’s Vodka. Instant party! The roll continues at The Starling for signature craft cocktails and music with Ten Foot Tone.

On Friday, March 31, the Back Lot Tent is transformed into a lively Night Market, courtesy of the Taiwan Tourism Bureau. Saturday, April 1, brings the Juried Awards Ceremony, complete with wine, beer, food and live music with Loosely Covered.


The film “Cook Up A Storm” (above) will close out the festival on Sunday, April 2, in which an international culinary competition becomes a battleground between rival cooks, one famous for his Cantonese street food and the other a Michelin-starred chef trained in France.

In all, the festival will feature 130 films, including indies, documentaries, world cinema and shorts. Filmmakers and producers will be in attendance for many of the screenings and events.

The five-day whirlwind closes with, what else, another bash: the informal Wine Down Wrap Party, from 8 to 10 p.m.

For a full list of films, including screening times and locations, visit

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 $275 and include all films and day access to the Backlot Tent in SIFF Village. The $725 Soiree pass have day VIP area and evening party access. Tickets for single films are also available. For information about tickets, festival passes, prices, and benefits visit

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