A beautiful dream
The backlot tent is gone, along with the 50-foot-long SONOMAWOOD sign that went up and came down like Christo’s “Running Fence,” an ephemeral presence, like a dream that disappears with no trace of it’s having been – not so much as a single grassy divot (we checked).
And while a few complained – some bitterly – that the giant 10-foot-tall white letters blasphemed the sacred Plaza, most of us loved their provocative presence because they called attention to something special happening in our midst, they evoked a sense of excitement and anticipation, and they helped establish the mood of welcome illusion that is at the heart of making movies.
They also showcased the creative talents of a group of students at the continuation high school who built the sign and now have a permanent reason to be proud of themselves, along with a sense of investment in their community.
We didn’t love everything about the 15th annual Sonoma International Film Festival – the much-anticipated animated feature, “Sir Billi,” was a baffling bomb, as was the food at the John Waters supper club dinner – but so much was right about the event, so much was uplifting, inspiring and fun, that we need to express our appreciation for the opportunity to be a part of it.
Among the film events that touched and moved us:
Signe Taylor’s “Circus Dreams,” celebrated the extraordinary experience of kids – 12-to-18-years-old – who get to live the dream of running away to join a circus and perform from town-to-town in five states. Preceded with a live performance by Bay Area circus students, and presented to an audience packed with local kids at the Sebastiani Theatre, “Circus Dreams” turned the community into a family.
“Derby, Baby” was another collective experience, as a joyous mob of female skaters descended on the Sebastiani to watch themselves collide on the big screen in the documentary that celebrates what is said to be the fastest-growing sport in the world.
We are also compelled to pay tribute to “The Lady,” the festival’s opening night film that chronicles the extraordinary life – and love affair – of Burmese heroine and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi. It should be judged one of the most important films of the year and Sonoma was honored to have it shown here.
Perhaps the most inspired addition to this year’s festival was the addition of a festival-within-a-festival with the presentation of La Quinceañera Film Fiesta which screened (surprise) 15 Spanish language films, but also hosted a real-life Quinceañera for two local Hispanic girls.
In donated dresses their families could not have afforded, Lupita Ayala and Janeth Cabrera had an extended royal moment, dancing with their dads to a mariachi band and feted by an adoring crowd.
As their mothers said in a letter to festival executive director Kevin McNeely, “The girls in the beautiful dresses made us cry with emotion. We cannot afford dresses so beautiful, and they looked like princesses; people ask in the Plaza if they were princesses. Like a dream!”
To McNeely, and to La Quinceañera coordinator Claudia Mendoza-Carruth, we can only agree. Al igual que un hermoso sueño.