Fourteen years after its foundation as a small, intimate, supremely "local" celebration of film, the Sonoma International Film Festival—the "International" added just two years ago—has blossomed into an ambitious but still decidedly home-spun event that annually draws thousands from all over the region.
According to director of programming Cevin Cathell, this year's collection of over 90 films, running April 6-10 in numerous venues within walking distance of Sonoma's town square, is among the festival's best—and in some cases its spaciest—ever.
"This year, we are trying several new things," says Cathell. "We're branching out, and we've actually increased the number of films we're screening. We're adding some unusual additional events, too. For example, we've added a 'UFO side barn,' which we've never done before, certainly—and which I've never seen at any film festival I've ever been to!"
Clearly, Cathell has never been to the Roswell UFO Film Festival in New Mexico, but then, few confirmed humans have. The "side barn" will be host to two extraterrestrial-themed documentaries and a symposium on UFOs featuring a number of leading experts in the field. Out of the Blue (Saturday, April 9, 6:30 pm, at Sonoma Community Center) takes a look at potential U.S. government cover-ups of alien visitations, while Crop Circles: Crossovers from Another Dimension (Saturday, April 9, 12:30pm), is what it sounds like—an examination of the perplexing crop circle phenomenon that's been messing with farmers' agricultural efforts for decades.
Several films feature serious subject matters and local connections. Leave Them Laughing (Friday, April 8, 3:45pm, and Sunday, April 10, 9:45am, at the Women's Club) is an inspirational documentary that looks at the final days of Marin County teacher-comedian Carla Zilbersmith, who continued performing and writing about theater up to her death from ALS last year. The Anatomy of Vince Guaraldi (Friday, April 8, 9:30pm, at the Community Center and Saturday, April 9, 3:45pm at the Women's Club), looks at the early days of the jazz musician best known for his musical contributions to the Peanuts TV specials.
"I really love that film," says Cathell. "The music is fabulous! Of course, I couldn't pick just one film as my favorite. This year, they're pretty much all my favorites!"
And hey, Susan Sarandon's gonna be there! (Saturday, April 9, at the Veterans Memorial Building, 6:30pm). For a full lineup of films and events, visit www.siff.com.