The pink facade of the Sebastiani Theatre rises against a blue sky backdrop in Sonoma Plaza
Sebastiani Theatre, Sonoma Plaza

Guide to Film Festivals in Sonoma County

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As spring blossoms in Sonoma County, so too does our film festival season. There's no more picturesque place than Wine Country in which to mingle with film makers and movie stars with local wine in hand. Festival organizers know this and have woven an array of iconic silver screen celebrations into the fabric of Sonoma County.

Ranging from small venues showing a half-dozen screenings on a single day, to multiple-day schedules celebrating some 100 movies all across downtown Sonoma, these festivals showcase international talents and attract people from all over the world. What's more elegant, after all, than an afternoon in an artsy movie theater, nibbling West County charcuterie and sipping local wines?

2021 Update: During the current COVID-19 pandemic, many Sonoma County activities are still available and ready for you to enjoy.  However, certain indoor activities such as museums and large gatherings such as nightlife and live music as well as performing arts are temporarily restricted or unavailable. See What's Open

Sonoma International Film Festival, March

Normally, 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 line-up typically features more than 90 hand-selected films, including independent features, documentaries, world cinema, and shorts. This year the festival has gone virtual. The festival is dedicated to promoting independent film, supporting filmmakers around the world, and inspiring film lovers. Details: sonomafilmfest.org

Three women in bathing suits on a beach
Mrs. G (Documentary)

Israeli Film Festival, March

Founded in 2016 and hosted by the Jewish Community Center, the Israeli Film Festival features handpicked films from Israel. The festival seeks to nurture an appreciation of Israeli culture, exploring the human stories and important issues facing Israeli society, and the larger world. The films focus on issues of gender identity, love at old age, the pull between secular and orthodox, and the Palestinian and Israeli conflict. The film festival will continue virtually in 2021 for three weeks, with flexible access throughout to watch the films online. Details: jccsoco.org

Alexander Valley Film Festival, April

The Alexander valley Film Festival regularly showcases and hosts new and emerging talents from all over the world. This year will be no different; it will simply take place online! Leveraging virtual programming since the dawn of COVID, they will create opportunities for the community, students and adults alike, to meet, interact with, and learn from visiting artists. They will also offer deeply discounted tickets to students and neighbors in need so that no one will be turned away. AVFF features cutting-edge indie films – like 2018’s FREE SOLO and 2019’s PARASITE – and selections of diverse works from and about underrepresented artists and communities. They actively seek:

socially conscious films that depict characters in the richness of their culture and identities; works from directors of color; Latinx-, LGBTQ+-, and female-driven narratives; and youth-oriented stories.

Details: avfilmsociety.org

Film Fest Petaluma, May

Film Fest Petaluma showcases the best of new animated and live action short films from around the world, with filmmakers in attendance. Screening are at the Mystic Theatre in downtown Petaluma. Each program features post-screening discussions with filmmakers. 2021 fest yet to be determined.

Sebastopol Documentary Film Festival, June

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 annual award-winning Sebastopol Documentary Film Festival. Twice named "One of the Coolest Film Festivals" by MovieMaker Magazine, the Sebastopol event has become one of the important and special stops on the documentary festival circuit. The festival goes virtual for 2021. Details: sebastopolfilmfestival.org

Sonoma County Jewish Film Festival, October

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. 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 2021 festival will be screened virtually; see their website for more details.