Guide to Film Festivals in Sonoma County
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?
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. 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, 707-933-2600.
Founded in 2016 and hosted by the Jewish Community Center, the Israeli Film Festival features handpicked films from Israel. All screenings are typically held at Rialto Cinemas (6868 McKinley St., Sebastopol).
Jewish Community Center Sonoma County, 1301 Farmers Lane, Santa Rosa, 707-528-4222.
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. Films are typically screened at the Rialto Cinemas (6868 McKinley St., Sebastopol) and the Sebastopol Center for the Arts (282 S. High St., Sebastopol, 707-829-4797).
Postponed, 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 annual one-day Hitchcock Film Festival. The event raises money for Bodega Bay and Tomales elementary schools. Each year "The Birds" is shown twice, and one or two other Hitchcock films are screened once each. Special guest and Hitchcock enthusiast Dan Sneed opens each film with interesting facts and highlights.
Bodega Bay Grange Hall, 1370 Bodega Ave., Bodega Bay. Sponsored by Bodega Bay Area Chamber of Commerce, 707-347-9645.
May 2020, Petaluma
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.
Mystic Theatre, 21 Petaluma Blvd. N., Petaluma
Each year this four-day celebration of film, food, music, wine, heritage, and hospitality welcomes more than 2,000 patrons for a unique mix of independent cinema with a Hollywood flare. Held in The Clover Theater in Cloverdale, the Raven Film Center in Healdsburg, and other venues throughout northern Sonoma County, the festival features domestic and international narrative features, documentaries, and short films; the best in Sonoma County hospitality, chefs, cuisine, and wineries; a student film competition amplified by visiting professional filmmakers; community events and screenings in the vineyards; and more.
The Clover Theater, 121 E. First St., Cloverdale
Raven Film Center, 415 Center St., Healdsburg
Alexander Valley Film Society, 707-893-7150.
October 2020, 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. 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 2020 films will be announced in the summer; tickets will go on sale in September. Screenings are typically held at Rialto Cinemas (6868 McKinley St., Sebastopol).