.Visual Feasts: Women, Cinema and Food Honored in Sonoma

The Sonoma International Film Festival (SIFF) celebrates a quarter of a century spent promoting independent films and inspiring film lovers during its 25th annual event, running March 23–27.

Presenting live events in the heart of Sonoma Valley, the festival features a slate of more than 120 film screenings—including 79 premieres—during the five-day affair, and it welcomes stars of both the cinematic and culinary world.

“This landmark festival is designed to showcase the best in new films from around the world, unbelievable culinary events, local favorite free public events and a whole lot of fun for festival-goers in between,” Kevin W. McNeely, SIFF artistic director, says in a statement.

Topping the schedule, actress Jacqueline Bisset­–who has appeared in over 100 films and television shows–will accept the SIFF Cinematic Excellence Award for her body of work, in conjunction with the screening of her most recent role in Loren & Rose, at Sebastiani Theatre on Friday, March 25.

Loren & Rose tells the story of a bond forged between a young filmmaker and an iconic actress during a single meal.

“I am thrilled to be seeing ‘Loren & Rose’ in this environment after such difficult years of waiting for genuine cinema screens,” Bisset says in a statement.

Film star Karen Allen–best known as Marion Ravenwood in Raiders of the Lost Ark–will also appear at SIFF. She will speak at the first of two screenings with Sonoma Valley High School filmmaking students at this year’s Media Arts Program Student Showcase.

“I shot a film in Sonoma in 1982 with Alan Parker directing, and Diane Keaton and Albert Finney, titled ‘Shoot the Moon,’ and have been in love with Sonoma ever since,” Allen says in a statement. “My week at the festival a few years ago was filled with wonderful films, meeting extraordinary people and delicious food and wine!”

Speaking of food and wine, SIFF includes a new culinary headliner this year when it presents Joanne Weir, the James Beard Award-winning chef, in “Joanne Weir’s Plates & Places” lunch on Friday, March 25. 

This new event features Weir introducing select segments from her award-winning television series, paired with a three-course meal she has curated representing those places.

“Filmmakers open our eyes to worlds beyond any borders,” Weir says in a statement. “Their films can inspire curiosity and conversation–not unlike a delicious meal–and it’s an honor to be part of this incredible festival.”

The 25th annual Sonoma International Film Festival takes place Wednesday to Sunday, March 23-27, throughout downtown Sonoma. All information about the festival’s films, special events, passes and tickets can be found at sonomafilmfest.org.
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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