Sonoma County’s annual film festivals entice viewers with vibrant, thoughtful cinema that reflect both the state of the world and the heart of Sonoma County.
The Sebastopol Documentary Film Festival is celebrating 10 years running. “The festival brings some of the world’s best independent filmmakers to Sonoma County, and they will be recognized at the festival,” said SDFF Director Randy Hall. The festival takes place March 23-26 at the Sebastopol Center for the Arts.

“I’m very humbled to be the custodian of this festival during its 10th year,” Hall continued.  “The library of films that have been showcased, and the filmmakers who have passed through this city with their projects, represent an amazing array of talent and commitment to the documentary form.”

Hall is enthusiastic about this year’s festival. “Our spotlight this year is on the filmmakers: past, present and, hopefully, future. We will be presenting several films from the previous 10 years, including “I Am Sarah Maple,” “School Play,” “Miss Shade Is Missing” and “Waiting for Women.” In several cases, we’ve also programmed new films from these same filmmakers for this year’s festival, allowing audiences to see how the filmmaker’s craft has evolved over time.”

Hall said, “We have brought together a really special selection of films for this March. There’s always a balance that needs to be struck between “issue-related” or “cause-related” documentaries… Sebastopol’s audience ‘gets’ documentary and cares about the subjects and stories portrayed in there.”

Cynthi Stefenoni, chairperson of SDFF, added, “This year, SDFF 2017 is proud to screen a total of six LGBTQI-themed films… “The Freedom to Marry,” directed by Eddie Rosenstein, and “Out Run,” directed by Leo Chiang, are both films made by filmmakers who have screened at SDFF in the past.
“Since the main focus of SDFF 2017 is to recognize and honor the past, present and future work of all filmmakers who screen at SDFF, we are thrilled to have these two well-crafted documentaries included in the program,” said Stefenoni. “We are also screening “Real Boy,” an incredibly well-crafted story whose main character, a transgender musician, has lived in Sonoma County. Given the current climate in America, it is certain to engender engaged and lively Q & A sessions after these films.”

Another Sonoma County favorite, the 5th Annual Hitchcock Film Festival, is set in scenic Bodega Bay on March 18. The festival hosts a fun day of events in the town where Hitchcock filmed “The Birds.”

Shona Weir, chairperson for this year’s festival, says it’s a great day to see the town and to have fun viewing the mini-museum of memorabilia, getting a photo taken in front of a “surprise” Hitchcock backdrop and enjoying classic Hitchcock films. Food, wine, snacks and soda will be sold and all the proceeds will go to support the two local elementary schools’ art programs. Weir says this year they’ll be showing “The Birds” and “Rear Window.” The films are shown in Bodega Bay’s Grange Hall.

The Alexander Valley Film Society offers year-round educational and cultural enrichment programs, including the Alexander Valley Film Lab, which works with school districts and youth leaders to provide programs that create access and opportunities for students in public schools. The Society recently wrapped up its Red Carpet evening fundraiser in February. It will announce October dates for the Alexander Valley Film Festival, as well as events held throughout the year, on its website.

Celebrating its 20th year, the Sonoma International Film Festival, from March 29 to April 2, will feature more than 90 hand-selected films. The Windsor Independent Film Festival—designed to showcase and promote independent filmmakers, with an emphasis on local talent—happens at the Windsor High School Theater, with January dates to be announced. Dates for the Sonoma County Jewish Film Festival will be announced later as well. The OUTwatch Film Festival will be held November 3-5 at 3rd Street Cinema in Santa Rosa.    SD

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