The banners are up around the Plaza and the Sonomawood sign will be installed on Wednesday morning. The 21st annual Sonoma International Film Festival is back and, according to executive director Kevin McNeely, bigger and better than ever.
The festival runs Wednesday through March 25 and its primary venues are the Sebastiani Theatre (ST), Vintage House (VH), Sonoma Valley Museum of Art (SVMA), Andrews Hall (AH), Burlingame Hall (BH) and the Veterans Memorial Building (VB). With more than 100 films to choose from, we’ve taken a crack at highlighting some of the most highly anticipated entries this year.
The festival opens on Wednesday night with two choices of opening films. The French drama “Back to Burgundy” at 7:15 p.m. (ST) centers on three siblings who reunite at their home in Burgundy to save the family vineyard. The Swedish drama “Borg vs. McEnroe” focuses on the famous tennis rivalry, and it screens at 7:45 p.m. (VH)
Filmgoers who are raring to go on the first full day of screenings can catch the timely American comedy “Life Hack” about digital privacy... or lack thereof. Thursday at 9 a.m. and Saturday at 2:30 p.m. (AH).
Tied with “Life Hack” in advance buzz is “The Rockstar of Real Estate” featuring TEDx, speaker Ken DeLeon. DeLeon has led the pack of Silicon Valley realtors for over a decade, despite major tragedies and heartbreaking loss. Thursday at 2 p.m. (SB) and Saturday at 11:30 a.m. (VB).
“In the Orchard” is a powerful American drama that centers on a grief-stricken woman who befriends a Marine veteran with PTSD, and the relationship which may lead them toward tragic consequences. Thursday at 2 p.m. (AH) and Friday at 8:30 p.m. (VH).
If light-hearted comedy is more your thing, “Funny Story” will fit the bill. After years of being a neglectful father, a womanizing TV star decides to crash his estranged daughter’s vacation in Big Sur. Thursday at 11:30 a.m. and Saturday at 11:45 a.m. (VH).
Sweden’s Oscar submission is perhaps the feel-good film of the festival. “The Square” is set in a renowned museum where an artist exhibits an installation meant to promote altruism. Thursday at 5 p.m. (ST) and Saturday at 6:30 p.m. (SVMA).
Perhaps the most highly anticipated documentary is “Wilder than Wild: Fire, Forests and the Future” by local filmmaker Kevin White. Thursday at 11:45 a.m. and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. (AH).
But it wouldn’t be SIFF without a film about weed. “Mary Janes: The Women of Weed” uncovers the women who are changing the face of today’s fastest growing industry – cannabis. Thursday at 2:15 p.m. (VH) and Saturday at 9 a.m. (VB).
Two of McNelly’s two top picks for hot documentaries are “Coyote: The Mike Plant Story” about the American adventurer, and “Becoming Cary Grant” about a different side to the iconic actor.
“Cancer Can Be Killed” is expected to draw a crowd. The director seeks to figure out why and how his wife was cured of her cancer in 30 days. A Stage IV cancer survivor will be in attendance to discuss new treatment. Thursday at 4:45 p.m. (AH) and Saturday at 4:45 p.m. (VH).
Film Festival staff predicts that “The Invisibles” will be Germany’s 2019 Oscar submission. Young Jews survive the Third Reich in the middle of Berlin by living so recklessly that they become “invisible.” These real-life survivors learned that sometimes the best place to hide is in plain sight. Friday at 11:15 a.m. (ST) and Sunday at noon (VB).
Symbols of screening locations
ST= Sebastiani Theatre at 476 First Street East
VB= Veteran’s Memorial Building, rooms I or II at 126 First Street West
AH= Andrew’s Hall at the Sonoma Community Center at 276 East Napa Street
SVMA= Sonoma Valley Museum of Art at 551 Broadway
VH= Vintage House at 264 Frist Street East
BH= Burlingame Hall at 253 W. Spain