Sonoma International Film Festival, April 11-15

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SIFF_2012_logo.jpgby Courtney Cochran

In its impressive 15th iteration, the Sonoma International Film Festival (né Sonoma Valley Film Festival) brings some 120 independent films to wine country, plus a diverting mix of pre- and après-film activities.  Here's the scoop:

Film Highlights

This year, a diverse lineup of films allows for exploration of topics as varied as romance, politics, pop culture, the environment and sci-fi.  Some of this festival's anticipated films:

In the romance category and featuring actor Jackson Rathbone of Twilight fame, feature-length Girlfriend explores a romance between a boy with Down's Syndrome and a small-town single mom (Shannon Woodward). 

SIFF_2012_hamburger.jpgTeenagers push the envelope of blind tasting by attacking the topic of burgers -- and teenage obsessions like video games, natch - in the short film The Great Hamburg Challenge (just 12 minutes). 

On the more serious side of things, director Luc Besson tells the story of celebrated leader Aung San Suu Kyi as she becomes the core of Burma's democracy movement in the feature film The Lady, while the documentary Nothing Like Chocolate explores an American entrepreneur's efforts to build a sustainable chocolate operation in Grenada. 
SIFF_2012_harvest.jpgOur Picks
Sure to be a key draw (and pop culture highlight of the festival), Lady Gaga's Secret World screens Friday in the choice 8pm slot and scores our vote for one of the most compelling festival's offerings.  We also look forward to the documentary Harvest, which chronicles the annual grape harvest via five family wineries - including bold names like Foppiano and Rafanelli - through what some call the "the toughest harvest" in their lifetime."  Sounds like excellent wine country viewing. (CLICK HERE to read press release).

Locations, Timing
Visitors can expect a food-, wine- and film-splashed weekend with no shortage of stardust in the mix. Extra-film events include pre-screening panels, celebrity spotlight tributes - including a special evening dedicated to director/actor/author John Waters - plus a closing night screening and awards party.  Numerous key events will be held at the Sebastiani Theater on the Sonoma Square, with additional viewing venues within walking distance. 

Passes are available online, $175 apiece or $320 for two, or by calling (707) 933-2600.  Full details can be found at the SIFF website.

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