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Guide to Film Festivals in Sonoma County

The historic Sebastiani Theatre in the town of Sonoma is one of several distinctive venues for the annual Sonoma International Film Festival.

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?

Wine Country Film Festival
Sept. 20 to 25, 2017, 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. 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
October/November 2017, 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).
Jewish Community Center Sonoma County, 1301 Farmers Lane, Santa Rosa, 707-528-4222.

Alexander Valley Film Festival
Oct. 19-22, 2017, 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.

Petaluma International Film Festival
October, 2017, Petaluma
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 2017, 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. 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 2018, Windsor
Founded in 2015, this grassroots, nonprofit event created by Windsor residents 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 Independent Film Festival, 148 Johnson St., Windsor, 707-687-0819.

Israeli Film Festival
March 2018, 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.

Hitchcock Film Festival
March 2018, 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 Hitchcock Film Festival. The event raises money for Bodega Bay and Tomales elementary schools. Two films were shown at the 2017 festival — "The Birds" and "Rear Window" — with introductions by Hitchcock enthusiast Dan Sneed. The 2018 films will be announced.
Bodega Bay Grange Hall, 1370 Bodega Ave., Bodega Bay. Sponsored by Bodega Bay Area Chamber of Commerce, 707-347-9645.

Sonoma International Film Festival
March 2018, 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, 707-206-4480.

Sebastopol Documentary Film Festival
March 22 to 25, 2018, 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). 

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