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SIFF 2020: Feature, Documentary And Short Film Lineup


The 23rd edition of the Sonoma International Film Festival (SIFF), offering independent cinema from around the world, announces a lineup of 131 features, documentaries and short films that includes a selection of World, North American, US and Northern California premieres from 30 countries.

Blending a program of world-class film, food and wine, SIFF2020 is presented by United MileagePlus Cards from Chase, and takes place from March 25 – 29 in Sonoma, Northern California, the world renowned wine growing capital of the US.

This year’s celebrity guests will include award-winning director Lasse Halstrom (My Life as a  Dog, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, The Cider House Rules), acclaimed Swedish actor Lena Olin (The Artist’s Wife, Alias, The Unbearable Lightness of Being), SIFF alumni director/actor Karen Allen (Colewell, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Starman) and Oscar and Golden Globe-winner Louis Gossett Jr. (The Cuban, An Officer and a Gentleman),  each of whom will receive SIFF’s Award for Cinema Excellence.

Iconic American rock singer-songwriter-bass player-author-actor Suzi Quatro will receive SIFF’s 2020 Appreciation Award for the titular music documentary on her life, Suzi Q (Closing Night Film).  Quatro will also give a live performance at SIFF along with music luminaries Cherie Currie (The Runaways), Laurie Lewis (The New Mamas and the Papas) and famed keyboard player Robby Robinson.

Other Appreciation Award recipients will be director Edward James Olmos, actors David Strathairn, Haley Joel Osment, Martin Sheen, actress Kate Bosworth (The Devil Has A Name) and documentarians Jennifer Siebel Newsom (The Great American Lie) and Robert Kennedy Jr. (Vaxxed II – The People’s Truth).

Image from Daffodils
Image from the film Daffodils

Highlights of SIFF’s female-driven themes and female directed films include Tom Dolby’s The Artist’s Wife which premiered at The Hamptons starring Lena Olin, Bruce Dern, Juliet Rylance (Strand Releasing); Unjoo Moon’s  I Am Woman, the story of 1970’s Australian musician and activist Helen Reddy which premiered at Toronto International Film Festival; Richard Hobert’s The Birdcatcher’s Son which recently won the Audience Choice Award at the Santa Barbara Film Festival; Claudia Sparrow’s award-winning documentary Maxima about a fearless Indigenous woman  which won the Best of the Fest at Palm Springs and the coveted Audience Award at Canada’s HotDocs.

Irish director Mary McGuckian’s A Girl From Mogadishu which premiered at Dublin Film Festival; Tom Quinn’s award-winning Colewell starring SIFF alumni Karen Allen; Eliza Schroeder’s British bakery drama Love, Sarah; Rahat Kazmi’s The Quilt based on the celebrated Urdu short story by Ismat Chughtai in its US premiere; Maria Peters’ The Conducter about a young woman’s dream of becoming a conductor; Sabrina Aman’s Eastern Sudan refugee camp documentary The Forgotten and the US premieres of Liam Firmager’s documentary Suzi Q, which shares Closing Night Film status with Tom Waller’s Thai cave rescue drama The Cave.

Image from the film The Birdcatchers Son
Image from the film The Birdcatcher’s Son

As part of its curation for the 23rd edition, SIFF has included a selection of international films by award-winning auteurs, many of whom have represented their respective countries at the Oscars, including:  AgustÌ Villaronga (-Born A King– UK/Spain – Opening Night Film), Espen Sandberg (Amundsen – Norway/Sweden/Czech Republic), Samir (Bagdad In My Shadow – Switzerland/UK/Germany), Euros Lyn (Dreamhorse – UK), Pietro Marcello (Martin Eden – Italy), Mika Kaurismaki (-Master Cheng – Finland/UK/China), Peter Cattaneno (Military Wives – UK), Vladimir Khotinenko (The Lenin Factor – Russia) and Rodrigo Bellott (Tu Me Manques – Bolivia).

SIFF is also presenting a raft of films from around the globe that includes narrative dramas and comedies, documentaries and a smorgasbord of short films.  For the third year in a row, SIFF|Devour! Chefs & Shorts Dinner program on Thursday, March 26, offers pairings of food-focused short films with noted chefs and top wines in a culinary extravaganza curated by Devour’s Michael Howell and Lia Rinaldo of Wolfvillle, Nova Scotia.

On Friday, March 27, the instant cult film Fantastic Fungi will screen as part of SIFF’s Screen & Cuisine Lunch program , and further highlighting the best that SIFF has to offer, the new SIFF “Sip Trips” will give participants a private excursion to notable wineries between screenings taking place Thursday through Sunday.

SIFF will bestow juried awards for Best American Independent Feature, Best Documentary Feature, Best Foreign Feature, Best Animated Short, Best Comedy Short, Best Documentary Short, Best Dramatic Short and Best Foreign Short.  Audience Awards with cash prizes will be handed out for Best Documentary, Best World Feature and Best American Independent Feature.

The list of prestigious judges at this year’s SIFF includes renowned cinematographer John Bailey, former President of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences; Elisabeth Costa deBeauregard, President of Global Sales and Distribution of Storyboard Media; Nigel Daly O.B.E, former Chairman of the British Academy of Film and Television Arts-Los Angeles and President of industry trade magazine Screen International;  Joe Della Rosa, an agent in the Media Finance department at leading entertainment and sports agency Creative Artists Agency (CAA); Britta Erickson, Denver Film Festival Director and Interim Executive Director for Denver Film; Gabrielle Kelly, screenwriter, producer and film lecturer; Hunt Lowry, CEO/President of Roserock Films and former CEO & President of Gaylord Films/Pandora and  Yumi Yokoo, CEO/President of Ponycanyon Music Publishing Inc. and Global Sales General Manager of Ponycanyon Inc., one of the leading companies of Fuji Media Holdings, Inc.

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