I’ve lived in Sonoma County for nearly twenty years, but I’ve never had the opportunity to attend the Sonoma International Film Festival. I was thrilled to win tickets and was there every chance I had for the duration of the festival.
First stop was at the VIP house where I picked up my badges and gift bag filled with all kinds of treats. I started out with the filmmaker’s mixer at HopMonk Tavern to chat with other filmmakers and members of the media. We swapped cards, project ideas, and of course had some great micro-brewery drinks.
It’s not uncommon to hear a variety of different accents and languages in Sonoma’s downtown area, even more so during the International Film Festival. People come from all over the world to visit just for the wine; but the festival also made sure to highlight local filmmakers and movies specifically about California. Nonetheless, I don’t think I’ve ever tasted so much wine in my life. There were glasses offered at short film screenings, after parties, and organized tastings.
During one wine-filled shorts screening, I watched a short that interviewed micro-brewers up and down the state, featuring brewers from Sonoma County like Russian River Brewery and Lagunitas IPA. Another was how actress and activist Tippi Hedren helped female refugees from Vietnam in California, which lead to the proliferation of Vietnamese-American owned nail salons there is today.
During the day I strolled around the square, checking out the shops. Saturday night was my first party, Out in the Vineyard, which was preceded by the documentary Queens and Cowboys. A DJ and dance floor was set up under a big white tent in the center of the plaza. Guests came in cowboy gear and danced until closing!
On the last day, I saw Sonoma filmmaker, Casey Beck’s film, The Organic Life. She documented a year in the life of of her boyfriend who decides to become an organic farmer. He still works at a family farm in Sonoma, and the film recently was picked up to be shown on Hulu Plus. Even though it was the festival’s second screening of The Organic Life, the venue was completely sold out.
Closing night of the festival I saw the film Belle, soon to be released in theaters. It’s the fascinating story of a mixed-race noblewoman in England. With the proliferation of on-demand digital viewing, it’s nice that events like this remind us how fun sitting with a group of people in the dark in front of a large screen can be.