'Immigrant Experience Festival' launches
"BORDER GATHERING (Reunión Fronteriza)" examines family life cut in half by the fence that separates Mexico and America.
Sonoma is a Valley rich with cultural experiences, from film festivals to world-class concerts and artistic exhibitions of all types. This weekend, a new event joins the line-up, filling a niche that has not yet been explored in Sonoma.
The inaugural "Immigrant Experiences in Film, Dance and Stories Festival" begins Friday, Aug. 19, at the Sonoma Community Center and continues all day Saturday, Aug. 20. The event includes a medley of award-winning short and feature length films selected by Romulo Hernandez, producer of the San Francisco Immigrant Film Festival, which is hosting the event in association with Nuestra Voz, the Sonoma Theatre Alliance and the Sonoma Community Center.
"We were all for the idea of working together," said Gabriel Sánchez-Navarro, associate director of Nuestra Voz, who added that proceeds from the event would be split between the various organizations. "We're working together to make the event benefit each of us."
The Sonoma Theatre Alliance, which rents out Andrews Hall for three months for its Summer Theatre Season, was looking to round out its line-up with something that would showcase the Latino community. Additionally, Sánchez-Navarro said he and Hernandez had discussed working together on a project that provides the Valley's immigrant population with an artistic activity they could connect to.
"You have all these passionate people working together on a cultural event," Sánchez-Navarro said. "It's a wonderful experience to share."
In addition to films from Mexico, Spain and Italy, (see the full schedule in the sidebar), the event will include Mexican folkloric dancing from the students at Flowery Elementary School. A variety of speakers will share their stories as immigrants or read short stories aloud, including Lizbeth Cabrera, a junior at Sonoma Valley High School.
"I'm glad these teens are getting involved," Sánchez-Navarro said. "Not just in the festival but in their community."
Attendees can chose from a variety of ticket prices. A one-day pass is $10, $20 will provide access to all events both days, and for $30 attendees can take part in the dinner and wines being served.
"It will be a very traditional Mexican meal," Sánchez-Navarro said, explaining that it includes freshly made tamales, salads, horchata and watermelon water. "There's also some delicious wines from Don Sebastiani and Sons."
Sánchez-Navarro said Nuestra Voz will use the money raised from the film festival to continue offering cultural programs and health and exercise classes at its clubhouse.
"Anyone is invited, but our programs are mostly for low-income people," he said.
Tickets can be purchased in advance at Readers' Books, Sonoma Materials or the Nuestra Voz Center at 200 Fuente Lane. Tickets can also be purchased at the door of the Community Center, 276 E. Napa St.