Currently in its 19th year, the acclaimed Sonoma International Film Festival opens on March 30, 2016 and runs through April 3, 2016 in an annual Northern California celebration of film, food, wine and spirits. This year, SIFF will honor actor and director Meg Ryan with a Sonoma Salute Award at a tribute event and special screening of “Ithaca.”
Meg Ryan in the spotlight
Ryan’s directorial feature film debut starring Meg Ryan, Tom Hanks, Jack Quaid, and Sam Shepard, is based on a heart-rendering and uplifting Pulitzer Prize-winning William Saroyan 1943 novel, “The Human Comedy.” The “Ithaca” screening and event in her honor is held at Sonoma’s Sebastiani Theatre on Thursday, March 31, 2016, and includes a conversation with Eliot Kotek, filmmaker and publisher of Beyond Cinema magazine.
SIFF has pizzazz
Nearly 200 filmmakers descend on the historic town plaza as one of the nation’s top destination film festivals gets underway.“Every year we set out to bring unique films with new, provocative and inspiring ideas, accompanied by their filmmakers which add a certain pizzazz to our five-day festival,” said Executive Director Kevin McNeely. “We are thrilled to present fresh films that have not been seen at many of the world’s festivals, unique entertainment and celebrities, all adding to the mix of our welcoming and entertaining festival.”
There’s something for everyone in the lineup, with curated films and documentaries centered on wide-ranging topics from LGBT to UFOs, and plenty of awards up for grabs in categories such as American Indie Feature, World Feature and three Audience Features. A full list of films is found here.
Visitors can count on no shortage of highly acclaimed local food and drink in the heart of wine country. As SIFF presents 100-plus films at six venues, downtown Sonoma is turned into SIFF Village for the duration of the festival. Nightly theme parties at Backlot Tent to salute feature films include Hemingway & Havana, Gypsies, Tramps & Thieves, and Old Hollywood.
Between the Opening Night Reception at Backlot Tent in the middle of Sonoma Plaza and Closing Night Party featuring music by the Grateful Bluegrass Boys, there’s an action-packed five days and nights. Film highlights include Sonoma Valley High School Student Films, presented on Thursday, March 31; a Sonoma Salute Award to Sonoma resident winemaker, producer/screenwriter Robert Mark Kamen, in honor of his dedication and support of the festival; and on April 2, Kamen (film credits: “Taps,” “The 5th Element,” “The Karate Kid,” “The Transporter,” “Kiss of the Dragon,” “Taken” and more) speaks at a Screenwriting Master Class. Also on April 2, it’s Family Program day prior to the 5 p.m. Awards Ceremony at the Sebastiani Theatre.
Tickets and more
Visit Sonoma International Film Festival for all-festival passes, tickets for individual screenings, a program guide and map, and more about what’s happening. Sonoma is easily accessible from San Francisco, and for overnight stays, lodging partners are listed here. A shout out goes to sponsors Celebrity Cruises, Dolby, Stella Artois and others, as well as a host of winery, epicurean, beverage partners and many more.