Sonoma, CA (April 14, 2013) - The Sonoma International Film Festival truly came of age as their 16th edition came to a close Sunday night following five spectacular days that featured a wide variety of films from around the world, infused with gourmet food and phenomenal wine, serving up a bountiful cinematic feast.

“This has been an extraordinary year,” said SIFF Executive Director Kevin McNeely. “We are energized by the talent we’ve seen by both emerging and established filmmakers and we’ve enjoyed introducing them to our vibrant community.”

This year’s festival kicked off with the Opening Night screening of the The Iceman. Director Ariel Vromen and cast member Ray Liotta were in attendance and participated in a Q&A for the packed house at the Sebastiani Theatre. The two extended their stay in Sonoma in order to participate in the Sonoma Valley High School Media Arts Program where they answered questions from over 300 local aspiring filmmakers, as well as to attend a dinner that evening by presenting sponsor Netflix DVD.

Sonoma Spotlight Award recipients Demián Bichir and Mary-Louise Parker were honored together at a Saturday evening tribute event reflecting on each of their noteworthy careers in film. The two engaged in playful conversation with moderators Elliot Kotek and Claudia Mendoza-Carruth with respect to each of their bodies of work, as well as their time spent together on the series Weeds. Festival Executive Director Kevin McNeely presented the actors with their awards, which in true Sonoma fashion were crystal ice buckets from Tiffany & Co.

Festival attendees were treated to a weekend full of food and fun, with daily wine tastings in the Backlot Tent, a Latin Fiesta with Mexican food by Rancho Viejo and music by the Carlos Herrera Band, a special beer dinner and film tour from premiere sponsor New Belgium, as well as an LGBT Secret Disco Party and Festival Gala, complete with music from local U2 cover band Unforgettable Fire.

Continuing the festival’s program of Latin films, this year’s Vamos Al Cine (Cinema en Español) celebrated the contributions, culture and values of the town’s vibrant Latino community. The program offered cinema from Argentina, Colombia, Venezuela, Spain and Mexico. Highlights included Hecho en China (Made in China), starring Odiseo Bichir and audiences were treated to an introduction of the film by his brother Demián Bichir. Acorazado tells the hilarious tale of a failed Mexican trade unionist from Veracruz, by Director Álvaro Curiel de Icaza, as well as the US premiere of Carlos Osuna’s animated feature Fat, Bald, Short Man.

Jury members for SIFF this year included screenwriting guru Syd Field, talent manager Beth Holden-Garland and USA Today film critic Claudia Puig for the Narrative Features. Tom Davia, Director of Festivals & Alternative Theatrical Distribution for Shoreline Entertainment, writer-producer Darryl Ponicsan, and Susannah Greason Robbins, Executive Director of the San Francisco Film Commission made up the jury for Documentary Features. The Short Film jury included Mari Aixalá Dawson, founder of Animari Films, Bears Fonté, Director of Programming for the Austin Film Festival, and Elliot Kotek, Editor-in-Chief of Beyond Cinema.

The jury agreed they had a tough decision this year with such high quality films, which were interesting, unique and tremendously diverse. A common theme of the program was media manipulation and invasion of privacy, which was reflected in the winning films Blackbird and Terms and Conditions. In the end, the jury emerged confident that the next generation of films is in good shape.



Best American Independent Feature:

As High As The Sky, directed by Nikki Braendlin. Margaret has always been a little...particular. But since being jilted by her fiancé, her obsessive-compulsive behaviors are in overdrive. The last thing she needs is company showing up on her doorstep unannounced, Margaret's nomadic older sister Josephine, with ten-year-old daughter Hannah in tow, is initially an unwanted jolt to her carefully regulated life. But their playfulness eventually wins Margaret over and she begins to loosen her neurotic control on life. When Margaret discovers the real reason for her sister's visit, however, she's forced to confront the betrayal...and the long-suppressed grief at the root of her fastidious behaviors.


Honorable Mention for American Independent Feature:

Favor, directed by Paul Osborne. A friend helps you move, but a good friend helps you move a body. Kip has everything he's ever wanted — a thriving career, a beautiful wife, and an affluent lifestyle — all of which is put in jeopardy when the waitress with whom he's having an affair is accidentally killed in their motel room. Desperate, he asks his childhood friend Marvin for a huge favor: help him get rid of the body. This gruesome circumstance begins a series of events which unravel Kip and Marvin's lifelong friendship, leading both men to murderous acts neither had ever suspected themselves capable of.


Best World Feature:

Blackbird, directed by Jason Buxton Rising star Connor Jessup portrays an alienated teen accused of planning a Columbine-style massacre. When his online posturing ignites a firestorm of fear, he endures one of the toughest youth prisons in the country. Faced with escalating abuse, he pleads guilty in exchange for his freedom, but soon discovers the lengths a small town will go to exclude him. Exploring the power and danger of social media, Blackbird received the Claude Jutra Award for Best Canadian First Feature and was named Best Canadian First Feature at the Toronto International Film Festival and Best Canadian Feature at the Vancouver International Film Festival.


Best Documentary Feature:

Terms and Conditions May Apply, directed by Cullen Hoback This documentary exposes the outrageous and downright scary things that happen to your personal info when you click “Yes” without reading the fine print, featuring interviews with musician Moby, futurist Ray Kurzweil and science-fiction author Orson Scott Card, as well as a privacy-invading ambush of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.

Best Narrative Short:

Chance of Rain, directed by Philipp C. Wolter When Jason ducks into a psychic parlor to escape the pouring rain, little does he know that he will have to make a choice which determines the rest of his life. Based on the play by Chisa Hutchinson, starring Philipp C. Wolter, award-winning director of The Bridge, which was screened in Sonoma in 2011.


Best Documentary Short:

The Flogsta Roar, directed by Johan Palmgren When Sartre said "Hell is other people" he might have been describing the shabby student ghetto in Uppsala. The imposing, densely-populate student dorms also house a number of aging loners. In a nightly ritual, they open their windows and shout their anguish to an uncaring world. Who can blame them?




The Stolman Audience Award of $1000 for Best American Independent Feature:

As High As The Sky, directed by Nikki Braendlin and star Caroline Fogarty, who was there to receive the award.


A³ Audience Award of $1000 for Best Documentary:

Living on One Dollar, directed by Zach Ingrasci, Sean Leonard and Chris Temple, who were on hand to receive the award.


Audience Award of $1000 for Best World Feature:

Jackie, (The Netherlands), directed by Antoinette Beumer.


Festival attendees partied on into the night following the Closing Night screening of A Monkey on My Shoulder (Á Coeur ouvert) directed by Marion Laine and starring Juliette Binoche and Edgar Ramirez.

About the Sonoma International Film Festival:

Now in its 16th year, the Sonoma International Film Festival (April 10-14, 2013) takes place in the heart of Northern California’s Wine Country and features more than 100 hand-selected films including independent features, documentaries, world cinema, shorts and a showcase of Spanish language films. All films are shown at intimate venues within walking distance on Sonoma’s historic plaza. The Festival is dedicated to promoting independent film, supporting filmmakers around the world, and inspiring film lovers. This unique 5-day event offers world-class cuisine from local artisans and exceptional wine from Sonoma vintners. Renowned filmmakers, industry leaders and celebrities such as Bruce Willis, Susan Sarandon, Robin Williams and Danny Glover have walked the festival red carpet and enjoyed its intimate ambiance.