The 14th annual Sonoma International Film Festival, all 90 short and feature films of it, is underway. The works will be shown at a variety of venues centered around the Plaza, with the marquee events – a tribute night for Susan Sarandon tops that bill – at the Sebastiani Theatre.
As usual, wine and food plays a major role in the event; this year’s twist is the addition of food trucks outside the screenings. Live music has become part of the long weekend as well. According to Kevin McNeely, the executive director, “The Beatles’ tribute band, The Sun Kings, will play at the opening night party, our local band Crossfire will blow the roof off at the Gala, and talented musicians like Chi McClean and Rich Little will fill the Backlot Tent with cool sounds.”
Program Director Cevin Cathell feels this year’s lineup is the strongest and perhaps most diverse yet – going beyond indie, there’s even a ‘Very Independent’ category. Short films are another Sonoma signature. “We’ve become famous for shorts among filmmakers,” she said. “The work is suprising, provocative. It will make some of these directors famous.”
A few Sun picks are highlighted below. For the complete schedule go to sonomafilmfest.org.
Text by Val Robichaud * Programmer’s Notes by Festival Program Director Cevin Cathell
Good Day for It
The blurb: A thriller that balances intensity, tenderness, and occasional humor, this film has nuanced performances from leading-man-in-waiting, Robert (“Terminator 2”) Patrick, Hal Halbrook and Kathy Baker. It follows a man, forced to abandon his wife and daughter many years before, now risking his life to settle an old score and reunite his family.
Star alert: Attending the screening will be the Hal Halbrook and Robert Englund, best known, for better or worse, as Freddie Krueger.
Local angle: The script was co-written by Petaluma local James Canfield Wolf
Programmer’s note: “Patrick has been in everything, but hasn’t broken out as a leading man. He’s a natural. In five years, everybody will know his name.”
The blurb: A risk-happy couple on the run from a tattooed loan shark decide to video-tape their adventure in hopes of selling their ‘reality movie’ to Hollywood for a quick buck. When their misguided foray into drug dealing goes awry, and they face dangers even their vintage Camaro can’t out run.
Auteur alert: A reality show within an indie film, the movie was written, directed and acted by Alex Petrovitch and Katherine Randolph.
Programmer’s notes: “Wild and inventive, with lots of crazy characters. The acting is great — you’d never know they were amateurs.”
The blurb: The chemistry between the two young-20’s leads, who communicate in the clumsy, inarticulate and exasperatingly charming way of the young adult, transcends the low budget and frayed premise. The day before his brain surgery, the guy is befriended by a girl who takes him on an intimate, exhilarating journey through the city. But the going gets dramatic as she learns of his condition and the magic of the evening unravels.
Backstory: Because the rights to the soundtrack songs they wanted would bust the “micro-budget,” the production team scoured websites and Myspace pages, plus calendars of small music venues in towns like L.A., New York and Austin, to find talented bands to provide (affordable) tunes.
Programmer’s notes: “Very impressed by the two actors. Their on-screen presence, the chemistry, is just amazing. It’s a nice story.”
Anatomy of Vince Guaraldi
The blurb: A musical journey through the brief life and times of the Bay Area pianist/composer who pioneered the crossover of jazz and pop music — from his celebrated and beloved scores for the “Peanuts” TV specials, to his mega-hit “Cast Your Fate To The Wind,” his nights in San Francisco’s North Beach at the hungry i, and his groundbreaking Jazz Mass at Grace Cathedral.
Bonus material: The documentary features recently discovered and restored footage of Guaraldi’s appearances and recording sessions (captured legendary music writer Ralph J. Gleason), plus new performances and insights from Dave Brubeck, Dick Gregory, George Winston, Paul Krassner, and many more.
Programmer’s notes: “You get to see an artist create, on film. Just brilliant. And it’s scored from tapes discovered during the making of the film, which will be heard for the first time.”
The blurb: A woman and her sister begin to link a mysterious tunnel to a series of disappearances, including that of her own husband, missing for seven years. Directed by Mike Flanagan, parlaying indie film fame for the low-budget horror short “Oculus.”
Unheeded stage direction: Don’t look behind the poster!
Director quote: “I love Creepy. One of the beautiful things about the horror genre is that Creepy can actually be the star of the movie. If you nail that part, you can sell a low-budget horror film. The same can’t be said of indie relationship dramas.”
Star power: That’s Doug Jones, out from under the latex of his cult classic turn in “Hellboy.”
Programmer’s notes: “This is our very first horror film. The ensemble acting is off the charts – you really believe the spooky stuff is happening. A psychological thriller, it’s the perfect film to introduce this genre.”