Many parts of Sonoma County are so picturesque they look like they belong on a movie screen, and indeed, Wine Country attracts an array of actors, film makers, and film festival organizers.
The festivals, in particular, keep growing more popular, with new ones popping up each year. 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.
Because we’re in Sonoma County, the festivals usually include food and wine, too. What’s more elegant, after all, than an afternoon in an artsy movie theater, nibbling West County charcuterie and sipping local wines?
Oct. 9, 17, 24, and 30, and Nov. 13 and 27, 2018, 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. Screenings are typically held at Rialto Cinemas (6868 McKinley St., Sebastopol).
October 2018, Cloverdale and Healdsburg
This annual four-day celebration of film, food, music, wine, heritage, and hospitality is typically 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, including student films from throughout the region. The festival includes domestic and international narrative features, documentaries, short films, special programs, winners from the Student Film Competition, community events and screenings, an opening night celebration, and more.
Alexander Film Society, 707-893-7105.
Fall 2018, Sonoma County
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. OutWatch typically hosts three days of films and parties, Friday to Saturday.
3rd Street Cinema, 620 3rd St., Santa Rosa
On Hold in 2018, Sonoma Valley
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. The festival's office and equipment burned in the October 2017 wildfires in Sonoma County, so there will be no festival in 2018; it's "on hold" until 2019.
Various locations throughout the Sonoma Valley; 707-933-6177.
March 2019, Sebastopol
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.
March 2019, 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. The 2019 festival dates and films will be announced in fall 2018.
Bodega Bay Grange Hall, 1370 Bodega Ave., Bodega Bay. Sponsored by Bodega Bay Area Chamber of Commerce, 707-347-9645.
March 27-31, 2019, 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 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.
March 28-31, 2019, 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 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 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).
May 2019, Petaluma
Film Fest Petaluma showcases the best of new animated and live action short films from around the world, with filmmakers in attendance. The 10th annual event will be hosted at the Mystic Theatre in downtown Petaluma. Each program features post-screening discussions with filmmakers.
Mystic Theatre, 21 Petaluma Blvd. N., Petaluma