Setting the scene…

Posted on March 19, 2019 by Sonoma Valley Sun

More than a hundred films from 22 countries shown at eight venues over five days, intercut with food, wine, parties, live music, a touch of Hollywood glamour, mingling with directors and industry types, and intermittent schmoozing. The Sonoma International Film Festival is one long, fabulous take.

Lights, camera, corkscrew!

The scene is set, says Executive Director Kevin McNeely, for a “unique, entirely walk-able festival located in one of the most beautiful places in the world: Sonoma Valley.”

Now in its 22nd year, the 2019 edition runs March 27 through March 31, opening with a the new Julia Ormond film Ladies in Black (she’ll be there in person) and closing with SIR, a story of women’s empowerment from female Indian director Rohena Gera. And each followed by a party, of course.

Along the way, a range of films – features, shorts, and documentaries, with food and wine being a well-explored topic — will be screened in the various downtown Sonoma venues, with the festival hub once again the Backlot Tent on the grounds of the Veterans Building on First Street East. The weekend includes programs of short film, industry panels, and the annual UFO Symposium, a perennial favorite that is to the festival what Area 51 is to UFO buffs.

The Venues

LANDMARK VINEYARDS AT ANDREWS HALL — Sonoma Community Center, 276 East Napa Street

DIAGEO BACKLOT TENT – 166 First Street East

BURLINGAME HALL – 252 West Spain Street

SEBASTIANI THEATRE – 476 First Street East


MEYER SOUND & DOLBY HALL AT VETS – 126 First Street West


VINTAGE HOUSE 264 – First Street East

Opening Night

Ladies in Black stars Julia Ormond and Rachel Taylor, who will both be on hand to walk the Sebastiani Theatre’s red carpet.  From Academy Award nominated director Bruce Beresford (Driving Miss Daisy, Mao’s Last Dancer), this story of a girl maturing into a confident young woman is the largest grossing flick in Australia’s history. Film at 7 p.m. preceded by the Opening Night Gala in the Diageo Backlot Tent, with music from The Rich Little Band.


Chefs & Shorts & Tyler Florence

A cinema-flavored dinner, as six chefs, including local stars and Dalle Gossett of Spago, each create a different course inspired by a short food-focused film. Adding to the night’s experience (along with the paired wines) will be Chef Tyler Florence, screening his trailer for Uncrushable, which shows twice during the festival. The event is Thursday, March 28,  6 p.m. at Ramekins Culinary School, Events & Inn. Tickets start at $250; sit with Tyler for $500.


Blue Note Records: Beyond the Notes

A full-length documentary that looks into the heart and history of jazz music: Blue Note Records, the pioneering label that gave voice to some of the finest jazz artists of all time. Friday, March 29, 4:15 p.m., Burlingame Hall.

From Bollywood to Sonomawood

Inspired by the film T For Taj Mahal, a themed bash of Hindi-inspired music, food, and a performance from the Mona Khan Company, a dance troupe with extensive experience working with Bollywood singers and actors. A DJ gets the dance floor going before a transition to the  The Ray Charles Project, featuring Santana lead singer Tony Lindsay. Friday. March 29, 7 p.m. Backlot Tent.

Closing Night Film and Wrap Party

The festival fades to black, but not without another big film and final party. SIR, directed by Rohena Gera, explores social and economic barriers through a relationship between a domestic worker and her rich, aimless employer. Sunday, March 31.  Film at 7:15 p.m. at two venues, followed by the ‘see you next year’ bash at Murphy’s Irish Pub & Restaurant.



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