Since its inception three years ago, the Alexander Valley Film Society and its annual film festival, led by executive director Kathryn Hecht, has dedicated itself to community engagement and cultural enrichment.
This year’s third annual Alexander Valley Film Festival was set to be the largest festival yet for the film society, with diverse films and documentaries scheduled to screen in Cloverdale, Geyserville and Healdsburg beginning from Oct. 19 to Oct. 22.
Those plans drastically changed last week when the Pocket fire tore through the North Bay, engulfed a large part of Geyserville and sent people in those northern Sonoma County communities scrambling, including Hecht.
Through the smoke and the panic, Hecht remained focused on the festival and announced this week that the society has shifted plans and will now host Movies to Benefit Fire Relief & Healing, adapting the film festival to serve as a fundraiser for relief and recovery from the fires.
“It was a decision we made very carefully, very thoughtfully,” says Hecht. “We knew it was important to show up for the community with the strengths we had to offer.”
Hecht says all proceeds from the event will support the Community Foundation of Sonoma County’s Resilience Fund, and the Alexander Valley Film Society is seeding the donation effort with over $44,000 in contributions from the society’s board of directors, sponsors and local donors.
Originally slated to feature some 40 screenings, the new schedule is slightly pared down but will still include several of the festival’s film selections offered with a “pay what you can” option.
“We know movies provide an escape, we know there is incredible comfort in gathering with the community in time of crisis,” says Hecht. “We can provide a physical space and a spiritual space for people to connect with one another, to spend time with their community and help their community by doing so.”
Movies to Benefit Fire Relief & Healing opens on Thursday, Oct. 19, with the biographical documentary Dolores screening at Alexander Valley Hall in Geyserville. The film, about farmworker union organizer Dolores Huerta, is an inspiring look at an often under-recognized activist who persisted through police beatings and gender bias in the 1950s. The screening includes dinner from Carrie Brown of Healdsburg’s Jimtown Store and potluck dessert.
“It’s a real privilege to turn this festival around and make this into an event for the people,” says Hecht.