Photography by Robert Redfield, Cristian Isbrandtsen, and Kerrick Martin
Once in a blue moon, the interwoven worlds of film, fashion, luxury, wine and food will come together in perfect harmony in Northern California. For dwellers of the Bay Area and beyond, those worlds converged at the 18th annual Sonoma International Film Festival (SIFF). The five-day affair, which took place from March 25-29 in the quaint wine country destination affectionately known as “Sonomawood,” drew attention from Bay Area socialites, filmmakers, actors and filmgoers who all had access to range of global films, local wine and gourmet cuisine that made for a bountiful cinematic feast.
The SIFF is considered one of the nation’s top destination film festivals for good reason: over 100 films are shown at eight venues, all within walking distance of Sonoma’s historic plaza. This year, one of the main draws of the festival was the Northern California premiere of Dior and I, sponsored by Celebrity Cruises.
Sold-out screenings were presented on March 24 and March 26, and those lucky enough to score a seat had an inside look into the storied world of the Christian Dior fashion house and the creation of Raf Simons’ first haute couture collection. Directed by Frédéric Tcheng, the film was a colorful homage to the iconic brand’s past and the pressure-filled components of high fashion.
The San Francisco social scene was in full effect for the Saturday evening event – a group that included Brenda Zarate, Director of Christian Dior San Francisco, as well as city notables Sonya Molodetskaya, Rada Katz, Natalia Urrutia, Ivan Bekichev, Fati Farmanfarmaian, Aubrey Brewster, Sophie Azouaou and Clara and Sergey Shayevich. Guests breezed into the doors for the pre-screening party and were greeted with glasses of sparkling wine from Sonoma’s Breathless Wines along with Celebrity Cruise gift bags.
Throughout the five days, festival goers had carte blanche to an array of films including the U.S. premiere of A Little Chaos, starring Kate Winslet and Alan Rickman in his directorial debut. Party-goers gathered and mingled in a festive atmosphere at the Backlot Tent filled daily with music, home-made cuisine and the finest local wines. In the evening, the tent was lavishly transformed for nightly film-themed parties: Whisky A-Go-Go, LGBT Prom Night, and the Vamos al Cine Fiesta.
At the heart of the festival was the Sonoma Valley High School Media Arts Program when students screened their short films on the big screen. Under the direction of teacher Peter Hansen, these kids wrote, shot and edited films that focused on every aspect of their lives. In its 12th year, the Media Arts Program, supported by SIFF’s net proceeds, is not only graduating students into the nation’s top colleges/universities that specialize in filmmaking, it is also becoming a launch pad for their eventual careers.