Film Buffs Prepare for Sonoma Festival

    Thirteen will be the Sonoma International Film Society’s lucky number as it holds its 13th annual Sonoma International Film Festival, April 15-18.

     The festival is scheduled to screen more than 65 films – including features, documentaries and shorts – in four locations within walking distance of the Sonoma town square.

     Passes and information are available at and 707-933-2600.

     The Festival will lead off April 15 at the Sebastiani Theatre with the world premiere of “Coals to Newcastle,” a documentary on one of the British music scene’s cutting-edge funk bands, the New Mastersounds.

     Friday night will feature the world premiere sneak peek of the documentary, “The Singularity Is Near,” by Raymond Kurzweil, one of the most creative scientific minds of the past 50 years. He is the primary creator of current optical scanning technology, Kurzweil music synthesizers, and artificial intelligence research.

     The film examines the near future, in which artificial intelligence transcends biology and genetics and creates an entirely new world. It features interviews with modern thinkers as diverse as legal scholar Alan Dershowitz, Electronic Freedom Foundation founder Mitch Kapor, environmentalist Bill McKibben and “Future Shock” author Alvin Toffler.

     The film is described as fascinating, inspiring and thought-provoking. It will be followed by an equally thought-provoking panel discussion led by Kurzweil, and featuring participants from the film.

     Documentaries have seemingly become one of Sonoma’s specialties, having previously shown the groundbreaking “Food Inc.” and this year’s Academy Award winner, “The Cove.”

     “The Joneses,” starring Demi Moore, David Duchovny and Lauren Hutton, has been chosen as the closing night film and will screen on the 18th. “The Joneses” focuses on the perfect American couple, which moves into a suburban neighborhood. With their conspicuous good looks, perfect marriage and financial achievement, they’re the ideal… until the truth starts oozing out.

     The Festival is – being in Sonoma, after all – about more than just the worship of celluloid. Food and wine also will be the order of the day.

     The premiere venue will remain the historic Sebastiani Theater, and the newest venue, Ramekins, will feature gourmet food and wine, elegant cafe seating and culinary themed films.

     Presentations will include “Eating Alaska” (the Alaska Wilderness League is providing the salmon), and the locally produced “Pinot Escape from Wall Street.”

     A classic Fred MacMurray film will be followed by a Q&A with his daughter, Kate, and a tasting of MacMurray Ranch wines.

     The New Belgium Indie Lounge will be housed at the Sonoma Community Center. The SCC venue will feature New Belgium beers and truly independent movies.

     The Sonoma Valley Woman’s Club will once again become the House of Docs, showing world-premiere documentaries as well as high-profile documentaries from around the world.

     Behind City Hall on the Plaza will be The Back Lot, a large enclosure with a living room environment featuring great local food and wine. The wine was arranged by the Sonoma Valley Grapes & Wine Association, and the wine country cuisine is being curated by local food maven Kathleen Hill.

     A serious festival brings not only films but filmmakers to its audience. “From Script to Screen” will feature a lively panel discussion by experts on all aspects of filmmaking. There also will be a panel sponsored by Dolby in conjunction with the student filmmaker showcase. Dolby Labs will award an internship to the most promising film student.

     The festival’s educational outreach helps support the state-of-the-art film program at Sonoma Valley High School.

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