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KEVIN MCNEELY has been involved with the film festival for 10 years and has been the executive director since 2008. Robbi Pengelly/Index-Tribune

Being Kevin McNeely

Kevin McNeely reclines on a worn blue couch in the Sonoma International Film Festival’s headquarters, located in sunny, stone-walled office space on the southeast corner of the Plaza. He wears khaki pants and a yellow cashmere sweater with the sleeves pushed up. Luki, a fluffy poodle-shih tzu mix, jumps up onto his lap.

CUCU DIAMANTES hefts a Cubano robusto and exemplifies the sophisticated Latin songstress on “Amor Cronico.”

Vamos al Cine spotlights Latino films

A common complaint overheard in Cuba during confidential conversations, chiefly among young professionals armed with college degrees and restless ambition, goes like this: “I love this country. I really do. But there’s no future here.”

Water worries prompt Monday meeting

With recent rains, it’s easy to forget California is still facing a drought. Yet in Sonoma County, this has been one of the driest years on record, with diminished reservoir levels driving voluntary water conservation, with the possibility of mandatory cutbacks looming.

Sonoma Valley High juniors and seniors experienced the “Every 15 Minutes” program Thursday and Friday. Robbi Pengelly/Index-Tribune

‘Every 15 Minutes’

Sonoma Valley High juniors and seniors experienced the “Every 15 Minutes” program Thursday and Friday.

Plastic bag ban takes effect

One year ago, the Sonoma City Council gave its unanimous support to a countywide ban on plastic bags, joining neighboring cities in an effort to keep the things out of landfills, waterways and, crucially, the Pacific Ocean.

A Sonoma woman was arrested on charges of driving under the influence of prescription medication and two probation violations – including one for DUI – after she flipped the van she was driving Tuesday afternoon. Bill Hoban/Index-Tribune

Flipped van

A Sonoma woman was arrested on charges of driving under the influence of prescription medication and two probation violations – including one for DUI – after she flipped the van she was driving Tuesday afternoon.

WHETHER YOU PREFER light or dark roast coffee, you’ll get a fabulous jolt when you’re wearing this Blue Coffee Dress designed by our talented Margaret Hatcher. Margaret chose Emeryville’s McLaughlin Coffee bags for their vibrant color and enlisted her wired friends to collect them over the years. She also covered an old bridesmaid dress and constructed the hoop skirt from reeds tied together with old sheets. Model Caitlin Denny will have no trouble staying up all night when she’s wearing this stimulating gown. Robbi Pengelly/Index-Tribune

‘Trashion’ rules the runway

Forget Project Runway. Tim Gunn has nothing on Margaret Hatcher who Saturday orchestrated another spectacular display of junk chic with the fourth annual Trashion Fashion show, in which stunning couture was created from coffee bags, hand-strung book pages, vinyl records, bottle caps, bubble wrap, returned homework assignments, tin cans, bullet casings, discarded 16-mm film from a martial arts movie, metal wine barrel hoops, canning jar lids, playing cards, Girl Scout cookie boxes, Mylar party balloons, caution tape and Solo cups, and every kind of recycled plastic bag.

A family of mountain lions has been killing sheep in Diamond A.

Mountain lions dine on Diamond A sheep

A family of mountain lions is suspected of killing and partially consuming as many as seven or eight domestic sheep in the Diamond A subdivision located along Grove Street on the southern flank of Sonoma Mountain.

LYNETTE LYONS holds a four-day-old fennec fox. Robbi Pengelly/Index-Tribune

Fennec: The little fox with huge ears

The smallest species of canine in the world happens to inhabit one of the harshest environments on the planet. The fennec fox is a highly specialized member of the dog family that is found in the Sahara desert in Africa.

SVVGA names Scott Black as marketing head

The Sonoma Valley Vintners & Growers Alliance a nonprofit trade association representing more than 100 wineries and 140 grape growers, has named Scott Black as the organization’s new marketing director.

Sonoma Raceway seeks use permit for music festivals

Sonoma Raceway, until recently known as Infineon Raceway, and before that as Sears Point, announced Monday it will seek changes in its Sonoma County use permit that would allow it to host non-racing activities at the facility, including a proposed four-day, outdoor music festival.

Uninsured get final chance to sign up for coverage

There will be one last push to help uninsured Valley residents get insurance through either Covered California or Medi-Cal, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, March 29, at the Sonoma Valley Community Health Center, 464 W. Napa St., Suite A, in Sonoma.

MENUKA THAPA (center back) and her organization, Rahksha Nepal (Protection Nepal) helps children born into brothels and gives them housing and a new life.

Teaming up for humanitarian work

Destination Races and the Wine Country Half Marathon Series, has expanded its footprint around the globe through an innovative partnership with Climbers for Peace and Bob Guglielmino of Humanitarian Adventure Treks.

Film festival volunteer training set Thursday

The Sonoma International Film Festival is seeking several hundred volunteers to greet visitors, work the parties and screenings, provide hospitality for filmmakers, and help with pre-festival production.

CHERYL YTREEIDE, left, and Pat Benfer opened the Savory Spice Shop in the Sonoma Marketplace in November. Robbi Pengelly/Index-Tribune

Savory spices enhance sensory delights

If you’ve only tasted supermarket cinnamon, you’ll be wowed by a whiff of organic cinnamon from Ceylon, and tempted by the extra sweetness when the spice hails from Saigon. Chinese cinnamon is citrusy and Indonesian, the least intense, is the familiar one found in grocery aisles.