Sonoma gears up for 17th film festival

In three weeks, Sonoma’s historic Plaza will be bustling with at least a partial who’s who in the film industry – from promising new filmmakers and award-winning directors to veteran producers and renowned actors – and thousands of eager event attendees. The Plaza park will transform into Sonomawood as the Sonoma International Film Festival kicks off its 17th year with opening activities starting on Wednesday, April 2, and closing events slated for Sunday, April 6.

This year, according to Claudia Mendoza-Carruth, SIFF programming and public relations manager, the festival received 497 film submissions that a team of screeners and SIFF staff have narrowed down to 100 films from 22 countries to feature at the festival. There will be films from the United States, Cuba, Venezuela, Mexico, Tehran, Germany, France and Canada, ranging from independent features to documentaries to shorts, SIFF Executive Director Kevin McNeely said.

The films are chosen based on what McNeely, his staff and their screeners see as “welcoming, entertaining and inspiring.” McNeely and Mendoza-Carruth explained that, when selecting the films, they look to feature those that are uplifting.

“We try not to baffle the audience,” McNeely said.

“Filmmakers now see Sonoma and this film festival as a great window to their audience,” McNeely said, adding that films featured in the festival vary from those that are very distinguished, winning Oscars and other international recognition, to those that are premiering at the festival and begging for first-look feedback.

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