Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Specialty Box Office: 'Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck' Primes HBO Pump, Russell Crowe's 'Water Diviner' Is Spotty Specialty Box Office: 'Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck' Primes HBO Pump, Russell Crowe's 'Water Diviner' Is Spotty Friday Box Office: 'Adaline' Bumps 'Furious' for a Day; 'Kurt Cobain' Big in 3 Theaters Friday Box Office: 'Adaline' Bumps 'Furious' for a Day; 'Kurt Cobain' Big in 3 Theaters Remembering Film Critic Richard Corliss (1944-2015) Remembering Film Critic Richard Corliss (1944-2015) Cannes: Denis Villeneuve Says Drug War Film 'Sicario' Is "Very Dark" and "Quite Violent" Cannes: Denis Villeneuve Says Drug War Film 'Sicario' Is "Very Dark" and "Quite Violent" How Do You Solve a Problem Like Erika? Universal Hires Husband to Write 'Fifty Shades Darker' How Do You Solve a Problem Like Erika? Universal Hires Husband to Write 'Fifty Shades Darker' 'Age of Ultron' Director Joss Whedon on Self-Doubt and Why It's His 'Rio Bravo' 'Age of Ultron' Director Joss Whedon on Self-Doubt and Why It's His 'Rio Bravo' Watch: Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Tina Fey, Patricia Arquette and Amy Schumer Hilariously Slam Hollywood Sexism (NSFW) Watch: Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Tina Fey, Patricia Arquette and Amy Schumer Hilariously Slam Hollywood Sexism (NSFW) CinemaCon: How Tom Cruise Stole the Paramount Show CinemaCon: How Tom Cruise Stole the Paramount Show Meet the Director of 'Tangerines,' the 2015 Dark Horse Oscar Nominee You Missed (Exclusive Video) Meet the Director of 'Tangerines,' the 2015 Dark Horse Oscar Nominee You Missed (Exclusive Video) LA Film Fest Unveils Horror Slate, More World Premieres, Zoe Cassavetes Film LA Film Fest Unveils Horror Slate, More World Premieres, Zoe Cassavetes Film Cannes: Directors' Fortnight Lines Up Vet Auteurs and American Indies Cannes: Directors' Fortnight Lines Up Vet Auteurs and American Indies Joe Wright's 'Pan' Gets Fall Release Date: Good News or Bad News? Joe Wright's 'Pan' Gets Fall Release Date: Good News or Bad News? Seeing Ryan Gosling's 'Lost River' Through Composer Johnny Jewel's Eyes (STREAM SOUNDTRACK) Seeing Ryan Gosling's 'Lost River' Through Composer Johnny Jewel's Eyes (STREAM SOUNDTRACK) 3 Women Genre Directors Get SF Film Society Fellowships 3 Women Genre Directors Get SF Film Society Fellowships Here's Why Jon Stewart Quit 'The Daily Show' Here's Why Jon Stewart Quit 'The Daily Show' Watch: From Tarantino to Cronenberg, Great Directors Talk the Art and Anxiety of Filmmaking Watch: From Tarantino to Cronenberg, Great Directors Talk the Art and Anxiety of Filmmaking Specialty Box Office: 'True Story' and 'Child 44' Flop as 'Ex Machina' Lures Audiences Specialty Box Office: 'True Story' and 'Child 44' Flop as 'Ex Machina' Lures Audiences 10 Films Booed at Cannes That Every Cinephile Should See 10 Films Booed at Cannes That Every Cinephile Should See 5 Things You Didn't Know About Lars von Trier, Who's Going Back to Work 5 Things You Didn't Know About Lars von Trier, Who's Going Back to Work 7 Things to Learn from 'Mad Men' Creator Matthew Weiner About Compelling Storytelling (EXCLUSIVE VIDEO) 7 Things to Learn from 'Mad Men' Creator Matthew Weiner About Compelling Storytelling (EXCLUSIVE VIDEO)

The 17th Sonoma International Film Festival: Wine, Docs and Food Films (Award-Winners)

Thompson on Hollywood By Meredith Brody | Thompson on Hollywood April 9, 2014 at 6:40PM

Walking around Sonoma, I remembered that last year I named it "the town of good smells": jasmine, roses, citrus, sometimes briefly overwhelmed by garlic, grilled meat, beer.
2
Sonoma Film Festival
Sonoma Film Festival

The Sonoma International Film Festival is an essential rite of spring.  

One of the attractions of this five-day festival-- where you do spend the better part of your day in the dark-- is its beautiful setting. If you have to stroll from venue to venue (all but one within a block or two of the parklike town square, the Plaza), it might as well be past tempting restaurants, wine and chocolate tasting bars, interesting retailers, and historic buildings -- under sunny skies. Walking around Sonoma, I remembered that last year I named it "the town of good smells": jasmine, roses, citrus, sometimes briefly overwhelmed by garlic, grilled meat, beer. 

Within seemingly minutes after leaving the East Bay, you're driving through exquisitely-staked fields of grapevines, climbing up the gentle slopes of the echt-California landscape of golden hills dotted with green oaks. Many of the Sonoma festivalgoers are local, but over the years, the festival has attracted a host of wordly regulars. A pair of festival friends I met last year were making their eleventh annual visit, from Chicago.

Tony Servillo in "The Great Beauty."
Tony Servillo in "The Great Beauty."

This Little Film Festival that Could can change me from a humorless scold who demands perfect screening conditions to a more relaxed one who is happy to perch in a 30-seat pub while those around me consume chicken wings, or a rec room with uncomfortable folding seats, as long as I'm surrounded by an enthusiastic audience and watching something interesting.  

At Sonoma, whose logo features a wine glass and grapes as well as a film can and celluloid, there is the added perk of free wine and food (ranging from popcorn through assorted pastries, fresh fruit, and even pasta topped with one of the sponsor's sauces) at almost every venue. And wine and food tastings are on offer all day long in the Backlot Tent on the Square.  At one screening, I was delighted to overhear the ticket taker offer filmgoers a glass of wine even before he asked if they had a ticket. Ebullient and omnipresent festival director Kevin McNeely sets the relaxed and hedonistic tone -- his BMW and profile, along with a glass of wine, were featured in the short animated logo film that introduced each screening.

Every film festival needs an identity. Sonoma, with its over 110 films from 22 different countries, does try to be all things to all people. There's a smattering of world cinema titles, this year including "The Great Beauty," this year's foreign film Oscar winner, from Italy; Bertrand Tavernier's "The French Minister," aka "Quai d'Orsay;" "Everything is Fine Here," about a gang-rape in Tehran, Iran; "Siddharth," about a father who fears his son has been taken by child-traffickers, and "Butterfly's Dream," a poetic period piece from Turkey. 

Also, a focus on American independent cinema, some of it local -- "Neon Sky," following carnies and shot in Northern California; "Along the Roadside," a buddy comedy also largely shot in the Bay Area; "Roxie," a rueful midlife-crisis story shot in San Francisco -- as well as "I'm Obsessed With You (but you've got to leave me alone)," a quirky coming-of-age story set in NYC and Long Island), and the somewhat-starrier "Brahmin Bulls," with Roshan Seth, the gorgeous Sendhil Ramamurthy, Mary Steenburgen, and Michael Lerner, set in Southern California.  

This article is related to: Festivals, Sonoma International Film Festival


E-Mail Updates