The Sonoma International Film Festival (SIFF) begins their 16th annual event on April 10, bringing movie aficionados to the North Bay for a week of film, food, and wine. This year, there’s a strong LGBT component included in the lineup.
The festival was founded in 1997 by Carol Stolman, and is now run by Executive Director Kevin McNeely, who began on the board before transitioning to the leadership position.
“What started as a good reason to have a big party on Saturday night has grown into a festival that has 34 sponsors, 216 filmmakers from 14 countries, industry mixers, distribution panels for the filmmakers, and 12 special events including after-parties,” said McNeely in an interview with 429Magazine.
McNeely himself embodies the Sonoma lifestyle of wine and good living with his own R2 Wine Company, also known as R Squared.
When choosing what films to show, the screening committee strives for diversity and inclusion.
“Sonoma has a very active, vibrant gay community that loves films,” said McNeely. To celebrate that fact, the festival is showing four LGBT films from around the world.
“As an international film festival, we try to show diversity in our voices that speak to different cultures and different ideologies. This year’s LGBT films come from Europe, South America and of course the USA,” said McNeely.
Over 500 films were submitted for consideration to the festival, and some were actively pursued by the staff. McNeely says of the four LGBT films, “‘MIA’ comes from Argentina, ‘Laurence Anyways’ from the Vancouver Film Festival. ‘I Do’ was a submission, and ‘The Secret Disco Revolution’ came from Screen Media Pictures (NYC) who are friends.”
The reason why they were chosen was because, “all of these films caused an emotional reaction, and that’s what is great about the motion pictures,” said McNeely. Find synopsis of the four films and links to trailers below.
SIFF is known for its intimate venues, all within walking distance on Sonoma’s historic plaza. Celebrities such as Bruce Willis, Susan Sarandon, Robin Williams, and Danny Glover have walked the festival’s red carpet.
This year’s Spotlight Tribute Award given on Saturday night of the festival goes to actress Mary-Louise Parker and Demian Bichir.
The festival will also include a special party on Saturday night, called the “LGBT Secret Disco” held at the Backlot tent from 7pm-10pm.
Tickets are available for individual screenings, day passes, and full festival passes. dot429 members and friends can recieve a 15% discount on tickets. Just enter “SFEVENTS” at purchase.
A romantic drama highlighting the impact of the Defense Of Marriage Act (DOMA). British fashion photographer Jack’s work visa is denied after a decade of living illegally in New York. Faced with deportation, he persuades his lesbian friend to marry him. Things get messy when Jack falls for a sexy Spanish-American architect. His commitment to his brother’s widow and her daughter ultimately forces Jack to make the most painful decision of his life: move to Europe with the man he loves, or stay in America with the only family he knows. Ultimately Jack has to decide whose life he’s living.
Mia (no website)
In a marginalized Buenos Aires neighborhood, Ali is a transgender woman who works as a cartonera – eking out a living by collecting cardboard to sell for recycling. Mia is a young woman who has recently died, leaving only her husband and young daughter. One evening while collectiong cardboard, Ali finds Mia’s diary, hastily discarded by her grieving husband. Reading about her life, Ali is transported to another world and decides she must return the diary to Mia’s motherless daughter. Thus begins a moving drama exploring the marginalization of the transgendered and the universal desire to love and be loved.
When Laurence tells his girlfriend that he wants to become a woman, they embark on an epic journey. Despite all the odds and in spite of each other, they confront the prejudices of their friends, ignore the advice of their families and brave societal phobias. For 10 years they try to live through this transition. But will it cost them their love? Canada’s Xavier Dolan wrote and directed his first film, I KILLED MY MOTHER, at the age of 19, and the now-23-year-old kicks any doubters to the curb with his third feature – his most mature take yet.
The disco era – long dismissed as a time of hedonistic excess – has been gravely misunderstood and was actually an important time of protest. This cheeky documentary juxtaposes disco revisionists against revealing new interviews with the era’s biggest stars: The Village People, Gloria Gaynor, Kool & The Gang and Thelma Houston. A goldmine of rarely-seen glitter-era footage, this quietly hilarious doc-satire features an unreliable Nabokovian narrator, “reenactments” that are speculative to the point of fantasy, and a tone of sustained irony that presents a fresh look at a well-known era while compelling audiences to question what’s real and what’s satire.