Sonoma Valley Sun


2023 Sonoma Film Fest, opening sequence

Posted on March 19, 2023 by Sonoma Valley Sun

The 26th annual Sonoma International Film Festival opens March 22 with the world premiere of Jules, starring Ben Kingsley, who is expected to attend, and closes five days later with the West Coast premier of The Eight Mountains, a Cannes jury prize-winner (above). In between, 110 films from 32 countries, more than 100 filmmakers and distinguished industry guests in full mingle mode, themed parties, wine, movie-food events with chefs Martin Yan and Joanne Weir, an insiders’ gossip sesh, awards brunch, surprise guests, and lots more. 

When the director says “Action,” she means it. Like, say, the GAY-LA Disco Party on the 23rd.

The World Premiere of Jules starring Ben Kingsley (with hair), Harriet Sansom Harris and Jane Curtin opens the Festival on Wednesday, March 22. Kingsley, Sansom Harris, Zoe Winters, Jade Quon, and director Marc Turtletaub are expected to attend.

“Artistic Director Carl Spence’s deep festival experience and longtime relationships give the Festival access to new films, industry decision-makers, and talent,” said Executive Director Ginny Krieger. “Sonoma as a destination festival also provides a welcoming and entertaining experience for filmmakers and industry guests; and festival goers are astute, enthusiastic cinephiles, and provide vital audience feedback for our visiting filmmakers.” 

The Eight Mountains closes the festival on March 26. Visually stunning, this Cannes jury prize-winning film is an epic exploration of the lifelong friendship of two men against the backdrop of a remote valley in Italy.

Adds Spence, “For my first edition at the Sonoma International Film Festival, with a new curatorial team in place, we aimed to find films from around the world that excite us and that we love,” said Artistic Director Carl Spence. “In our search, we found both the awe-inspiring and sublime, as well as entertaining box office hits from other countries.”

With Melissa Barrera and Paul Mescal, Carmen re-imagines Bizet’s opera Carmen as a gritty musical drama. It makes its West Coast premiere on March 25.

Absent from the marquee is Kevin McNeely, longtime festival impresario. Other changes: the films will play at four venues including Prime Cinemas in Fiesta Plaza; shows will go on there despite Saturday’s announcement that the multiplex will close on April 2. 

There won’t be a tented festival-slash-party headquarters this year. The Sonoma Veterans Building on First Street West will serve that function, along with, for the first time, a retail box office in a downtown storefront location on West Napa Street. 

Karen Allen, a festival alum expected to return this year, stars with William Sadler in Stage of Twilight. Director Sarah T. Schwab to attend as well.

Individual tickets and festival passes available. Find all info at



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