Cinema in Sonoma
Hollywood is 400 miles away, and for most of the year that’s just the way Sonoma likes it. But for one week in April, an invasion of independent filmmakers—with some real Hollywood stars—receives an open-arms welcome, and a lot of free wine.
It’s the Sonoma International Film Festival, this year celebrating its 15th anniversary with more than 90 independent films from all over the world and, in keeping with its birthday, a special Quinceañera theme with a festival-within-the-festival showing Spanish-language films from Cuba, Puerto Rico, Guatemala, Mexico, Colombia and beyond. Those films, like the Academy Award-nominated Chico and Rita, will be screened for just $1. Rumor has it there will be mojitos and margaritas being poured all over town.
The lavish, yet somehow unpretentious, festival runs from April 11 to 15, with a special guest appearance—nd performance—from the trash-compacting filmmaker (Pink Flamingos, Cry Baby, Pecker), author, artist and renaissance cultural terrorist John Waters, who will present a version of his one-man spoken-word act, This Filthy World.
Waters will also be on hand for a VIP dinner and an after-party with live music.
The films themselves range from documentaries like Teached, exploring the many holes in America’s education system, to comedic features such as Starbuck, about an immature man who’s fathered 533 children as a sperm donor and then finds out his girlfriend is pregnant. All films are screened in venues around the Plaza to create a walk-able festival, and the hub of everything is the lavish Backlot Tent, where filmmakers and patrons can hang out in a lounge environment between screenings, sample gourmet Wine Country food and guzzle fermented grape juice. It’s like a cocktail party that never ends—it just takes occasional cat naps.
Festival-goers should keep an eye out for Fraser Heston, son of legendary actor Charlton Heston, who will be there with his documentary Charlton Heston and Ben Hur: A Personal Journey. The film follows the elder Heston’s experience making William Wyler’s 1959 epic Ben Hur, which won 11 Academy Awards, including Best Actor for Charlton Heston.
The festival is also peppered with panels, from making the perfect movie pitch to financing your film.
For complete details and ticket information, visit sonomafilmfest.org.