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Top 9 Film Festivals in Sonoma County

The historic town of Sonoma becomes Sonomawood each spring for the Sonoma International Film Festival.

Sonoma County's diverse and distinctive scenery and its mild climate make it an attractive location to make movies, but it's also a great place to watch them, with a growing number of film festivals scheduled throughout the year. Ranging from a half-dozen screenings on a single day to multiple-day schedules with showings of 70 to 90 movies or more, these festivals let film aficionados indulge their passion while enjoying the beautiful Sonoma Wine Country. There should be plenty of popcorn available, and many of these events also offer a chance to taste some of the farm-to-table delights of Sonoma County.

Here's a short overview of Sonoma County's film festivals, in the order they will occur.

Hitchcock Film Festival
March 12, 2016, Bodega Bay
Thriller movie master Alfred Hitchcock loved Bodega Bay — his masterpiece "The Birds" was filmed there and in the nearby small town of Bodega — and Bodega Bay returns the appreciation with its fourth annual Hitchcock Film Festival. The event raises money for Bodega Bay and Tomales elementary schools.

Two films will be shown for the 2016 festival — "The Birds" and "North by Northwest" — with introductions by Hitchcock enthusiast Dan Sneed. Concessions will be offered throughout the day, including clam chowder from the Spud Point Crab Company.
Bodega Bay Grange Hall, 1370 Bodega Ave., Bodega Bay; $10 per movie or $18 for both. Sponsored by Bodega Bay Area Chamber of Commerce, 707-347-9645.

Sonoma International Film Festival
March 30 to April 3, 2016, Sonoma
Held over five days in the eastern Sonoma County town of Sonoma, the Sonoma International Film Festival is an intimate celebration of unforgettable cinema, world-class food, and fine wine. The 2016 line-up features more than 100 hand-selected films, including independent features, documentaries, world cinema, and shorts.

All movies are shown in intimate venues within walking distance of the town's historic central plaza. The festival is dedicated to promoting independent film, supporting filmmakers around the world, and inspiring film lovers.
Presented by the Sonoma International Film Society. Cinema Pass $275; Soiree Pass $550; Patron Pass $5,000; 707-206-4480.

Sebastopol Documentary Film Festival
March 17 to 20, 2016, Sebastopol
Each year the Sebastopol Center for the Arts strives to bring the best documentaries and filmmakers from around the world to Sonoma County for its ninth annual award-winning Sebastopol Documentary Film Festival.

Twice named "One of the Coolest Film Festivals" by MovieMaker Magazine, the Sebstopol event has become one of the important and special stops on the documentary festival circuit. Films will be screened at the Rialto Cinemas (6868 McKinley St., Sebastopol) and the Sebastopol Center for the Arts (282 S. High St., Sebastopol, 707-829-4797). 
All access pass $250; Saturday only $50; $50 punch card; and$10 for regular screenings.

Wine Country Film Festival
September 2016, Glen Ellen
This eclectic five-day celebration of cinema, the arts, and culture screens films in various venues, both indoors and out, in the heart of the Sonoma Valley. This annual showcase provides a cinematic window to the world through films, with presentations by filmmakers, producers, and actors.
Various locations throughout the Sonoma Valley; 707-935-3456.

Sonoma County Jewish Film Festival
Fall 2016, Sebastopol
Each year the film festival committee at the Jewish Community Center in Santa Rosa screens more than 100 dramas, comedies, and documentaries to pick six that will be shown during the annual festival in October and November. The goal is to present a slice of Jewish life from around the world, and the festival's tagline is that you don't have to be Jewish to enjoy these movies. The movies are typically held in a local movie theater.
Jewish Community Center Sonoma County, 1301 Farmers Lane, Santa Rosa, 707-528-4222.

Alexander Valley Film Festival
Oct. 20 to 23, 2016, Cloverdale and Healdsburg
This second annual four-day celebration of film, food, music, wine, heritage, and hospitality will be held in two theaters in the Alexander Valley, one in the town of Cloverdale and the other in Healdsburg. The goal is to showcase new and emerging talents worldwide. In addition to a curated selection of films, the festival will feature student films from throughout the region.
Alexander Film Society, 707-893-7105.

Petaluma International Film Festival
Oct. 28 to 30, 2016, Petaluma
Now in its eighth year, the Petaluma International Film Festival showcases independent and feature films from around the world. Screenings are scheduled over three full days, from noon to midnight. All films are in English or with English subtitles.
Boulevard Cinemas, 200 C St., Petaluma, 415-251-8433.

OutWatch Film Festival
November 2016, Sebastopol
Billed as the "wine country's LGBTQI film festival,” OutWatch is committed to presenting Sonoma County with the best lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, and intersex films. Now in its fifth year, OutWatch typically hosts a gala reception and movie screening on Friday night, followed by a day of movies on Saturday.
Sebastopol Center for the Arts, Brent Auditorium, 282 High St., Sebastopol, 707-829-4797. 

Windsor Independent Film Festival
January 13 and 14, 2017, Windsor
The Sonoma Wine Country town of Windsor hosted its inaugural Windsor Independent Film Festival in May 2015. However, with the closing of the Raven Theater Windsor, the second festival has been bumped forward to January 2017, with screenings at the beautiful, 350-seat Windsor High School theater.

As a grassroots, nonprofit event created by Windsor residents, the festival aims to feature the films of local filmmakers, encourage young Sonoma County residents to get involved in filmmaking, and to present films — both local and international — in a range of styles and themes. Although the emphasis is on locally made films, the festival showcases and promotes independent filmmakers worldwide.
Windsor High Theater, 8695 Windsor Road, Windsor. Full festival pass $80.

Written by Sonoma Insider Patricia Lynn Henley.