Five Movies to Check Out at the Sonoma International Film Festival

Named “One of the 25 Coolest Festivals” by MovieMaker Magazine and one of America’s Top Ten Destination Film Festivals by USA Today, the Sonoma International Film Festival (SIFF) presents a mix of live and virtual film screenings this month, March 24-28.

This year’s program features full-length feature films starring Hollywood icons as well as new documentary films and short films covering the gamut of animation, comedy, culinary, documentary, dramatic and international categories. Here’s five films to put on your watchlist this year.

Presented in coordination with the Sonoma Valley Authors Festival, SIFF’s opening night film is Six Minutes to Midnight. Based on true events, the dramatic thriller takes place in the weeks leading up to WWII and stars Dame Judi Dench and Eddie Izzard, who also co-wrote he script. Six Minutes to Midnight will be available to watch online beginning March 24, and it screens live at SIFF’s Opening Night Drive-In at the Sonoma Skypark (21870 Eighth Street East, Sonoma).

One of the many full-length documentaries screening as part of SIFF, Chasing Childhood is a timely and thought-provoking look at parenting. The film follows the ways in which parents and professionals try to foster confident, independent young people; a subject of particular interest during a time when kids are at home more than ever over the last year. Following a world premiere at DOC NYC, Chasing Childhood makes its West Coast premiere at SIFF, and the virtual screening includes a recorded Q&A with filmmakers Margaret Munzer Loeb and Eden Wurmfield.

Another film screening live at the Drive-In, the Russian-made 2017 historical drama Spacewalker features amazing visuals and real-life drama when it screens on Friday, March 26, at the Sonoma Skypark. The out-of-this-world adventure is part of a spacey lineup of films at the drive-in, preceded by short films The Lost Astronaut and Cosmonaut. Spacewalker is also available to watch online as part of SIFF’s virtual programming.

One of the shortest films screening as part of this year’s SIFF is also one of the most striking submissions to the festival. Chun Chun Chang’s animated short Aura tells the story of a man who comes across a goddess during a deadly storm. This animated short has already screened at many film festivals including the Oscar-qualifying Encounters Film Festival. It also recently won the 2020 Award of Excellence the South Shorts Awards. Aura is available to watch online throughout SIFF, March 24–28, individually and as part of festival’s short-film program bundles.

Finally, familiar faces show up for lots of fun in SIFF’s Closing Night film selection, The Comeback Trail. The film stars Robert De Niro as a Hollywood producer in the ’70s who enlists an aging movie star–played by Tommy Lee Jones–for an insurance scam that leads to more than anyone bargained for. The Comeback Trail screens at the Drive-In on Saturday, March 27, at the Sonoma Skypark as well as online.

Whether online or in-person, SIFF is committed to the 50/50 gender parity industry initiative, as well as films that cover environmental, LGBTQI+, social justice and other diverse viewpoints. Find more details, including the full list of films screening at this year’s SIFF, here.

Charlie Swanson
Charlie Swanson is a North Bay native and an arts and music writer and editor who has covered the local scene since 2014.
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