Celebrate food, wine and film at Sonoma International Film Festival
Dinner and a movie may have never had it so good. Especially for five straight days in spring, in Wine Country, with world-class wines and farm-to-table fare.
That’s the promise of the Sonoma International Film Festival, running March 27-31, where independent and provocative films are the heart of the festival, and exceptional local wines and extraordinary food are the soul.
“We celebrate food, film and wine,” said SIFF director Kevin McNeely, adding that the festival showcases work that’s “motivating, stimulating and thought-provoking.”
McNeely wants “people to come away thinking: I never would have seen that on Netflix or in a theater.”
In its 22nd year, the festival includes screenings of more than 90 films from around the world, live-band dance parties, wine tastings and epicurean delights, all within a “walkable” few blocks in downtown Sonoma, McNeely said.
The marquee event is a 150-seat dinner featuring Food Network chef Tyler Florence at Ramekins Culinary School in Sonoma on Friday, March 29 at 5:30 p.m.
Known for his restaurants, including Wayfare Tavern in San Francisco and El Paseo in Mill Valley, the charismatic chef will screen his film “Uncrushable” about the North Bay’s path to recovery after the October 2017 fires.
The film will also be shown in Andrews Hall at the Sonoma Community Center, Saturday, March 30, at 7:30 p.m.
A passionate advocate for action to reduce the effects of climate change, Florence said he’s “honored” to be invited to the festival and to show his film in the region affected by horrific fires in 2017.
“I feel like I’ve done a lot of really cool stuff in my career, but I think hands down this is the most important thing I’ve ever done,” Florence said in a phone interview.
“Most of the film takes place in Santa Rosa in the neighborhoods of Fountaingrove and Coffey Park, so it’s incredibly touching to get an opportunity and go back and tell the story with the neighbors and our community,” he said.
While the fires were still burning, Florence, who lives in Corte Madera, and a crew of volunteers organized to feed firefighters and other first responders.
“It was such a devastating thing that we had to jump in, we had to help,” he said. “We wanted to tell the story of what was left behind after the news trucks left, so we started to document the stories of the recovery efforts.”
The film includes scenes of fire and ash that turned the landscape gray, but it doesn’t end there.
“Uncrushable” recounts stories of resilience and rebuilding, showing vineyards bursting with the vibrant greens of spring and the burgundy and golden hues of summer.
The film got a rousing reception in Napa and has been screened in New York, Toronto and Palm Springs.
With “Uncrushable,” Florence sought to do more than document fire recovery in the North Bay. He hoped to convey a message about climate change.
“People need to see the damage that is being done with our climate spiraling out of control,” he said.
“We were screening the film at the Napa Valley Film Festival the same day that the fires in Paradise broke out” last November, Florence said.