Sonoma International Film Festival

Press Contacts:
Claudia Mendoza-Carruth
Carol Marshall


Sonoma, CA (April 6, 2014)
- The Sonoma International Film Festival’s 17th edition came to a rousing close Sunday night following five spectacular days that featured capacity audiences for 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.”

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 and Latin rhythms, as well as the LGBT Queens & Cowboys party, inspired by the film of the same name, complete with music and dancing.  Festival audiences were treated to a special concert following the screening of Born in Chicago, featuring musicians from the film, including blues greats Elvin Bishop and Charlie Musselwhite, Nick Gravenites, Harvey Mandel and Barry Goldberg.

And in between all the fun…there were movies!   The audiences ate (and drank?) them up, as did the jury, who were struck by the quality of the filmmaking and storytelling.

Jury members for SIFF this year included talent manager at Untitled Entertainment Beth Holden-Garland, Ted Hope, film producer and CEO of Fandor, and Kate McEdwards, head of non-theatrical booking for independent distributor Oscilloscope for the Narrative Features. Entertainment attorney E. Barry Haldeman, independent producer and festival programmer Helen du Toit, and Emily Verellen, director of programs and communications for Fledgling, made up the jury for Documentary Features.  The Short Film jury included Elliot Kotek, Editor-in-Chief of Beyond Cinema, film producer Lloyd A. Silverman and managing editor of IMDb, Keith Simanton.


Best American Independent Feature:

Brahmin Bulls, directed by Mahesh Pailoor
A disillusioned architect and his distant father come together after many years, but when a woman from the past resurfaces, old wounds threaten to break their new-found relationship.  The film stars Mary Steenburgen, Justin Bartha and Michael Lerner.

The jury chose this film for it’s universal recognition of the father-son relationship told through the specificity of a cultural lens.

Best World Feature:

Siddharth, directed by Richie Metha, who won this award several years ago for his film Amal, and produced by David Miller, who won last year’s award with his film Blackbird.
After sending away his 12-year-old son Siddharth for work, Mahendra (a chain-wallah who fixes broken zippers on the streets) is relieved his financial burdens will be alleviated.  But when Siddharth fails to return home, Mahendra learns he may have been taken by child-traffickers.  With little resources and no connections, he travels across India with the hope that whatever force arbitrarily took his child away will return him unharmed.

The jury selected this film for its tremendous heart and humanity in a quickly changing time.  It is classic storytelling with a fresh perspective.  

Honorable Mention: 

Everything Is Fine Here, directed by Pourya Azarbayjani
An engaged girl is gang raped in a desert area of Teheran. In a strict conservative society the crime of the assailants is the catastrophe of the victim. Overwhelmed by rumors her life turns into a nightmare.

The jury awarded this with an honorable mention for its courageous approach to narrative storytelling.

Best Documentary Feature:

The Human Experiment, directed by Donald Hardy, Jr.
Narrated and executive-produced by Oscar winner Sean Penn, the film lifts the veil on the shocking reality that thousands of untested chemicals are in our products, our homes and in us. The result: Rising rates of everything from cancer to autism to infertility. The film follows a band of unlikely activists who are fighting back. Ranging from a conservative businessman to a teenage radical, they are staking their lives on this battle to protect our health. They go head-to-head with the powerful and well-funded chemical industry to uncover a system that's been hidden from consumers, where science is for sale and million-dollar PR campaigns keep dangerous products on the shelves. What will it take to stop this vast human experiment before it's too late for our health?

The jury felt the quality of the documentaries this year was amazing and they were all quite impressed.  They felt the film they picked not only told an important story that needed to be told but was equally entertaining.

Best Narrative Short:

Door God, directed by Yulin Liu
On Chinese New Year, a little girl learns reality is not what it seems as she discovers how betrayal can be done out of love.  A 7-year-old girl, Lingli, has been waiting two years for her mother to come home. When her family finally puts up the Door God on Chinese New Year, her mother finally returns, but brings irreversible change to Lingli and her family.

The jury was affected by this tale of a small girl and her father learning to exist in a new normal following the mother’s abandonment.   It is a story of hope and stoicism.  

Best Documentary Short:

Happy Hands, directed by Honey Lauren
1975. Saigon was falling and the lives of thousands of Vietnamese would change forever... Displaced... a new country, a new language, America.  Opportunity...but not a home and not a job. A dream. Hollywood icon, Tippi Hedren, gave her time and heart on the South China Sea, bravely helping Vietnamese refugees and eventually becoming a fixture in the camp known as Hope Village. There, Miss Hedren personally conceived and provided the means for twenty of the first refugees to establish themselves as manicurists. Together, they brought beauty to the masses, and established a new industry that became a Vietnamese American Dream for a people whose language has no word to describe it. This is the story of the Vietnamese 'nail worker.'

The jury was struck by this revealing introduction of how South Vietnamese immigrants earned a living and gained a sense of self via an unlikely route…nail salons.


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

The Fourth Noble Truth, directed by Gary T. McDonald
After being convicted of road rage, playboy movie star Aaron Redmond is sentenced to individual mediation lessons with an enlightened Buddhist teacher named Rachel who frowns upon his bad boy lifestyle. In each of their encounters, Rachel teaches Aaron one essential truth, and avoids his patterned flirtations. But soon their mutual attraction forces both Aaron and Rachel to rethink their life choices, or risk losing love.  Film stars Harry Hamlin, Richard Portnow, Kristen Kerr

A³ Audience Award of $1000 for Best Documentary:

Taking My Parents to Burning Man, directed by Joel Ashton McCarthy and Bryant H. Boesen
Burning Man is a controversial arts festival in the Nevada desert that is notorious for dust, destruction, and debauchery.  Needless to say, it's not your average place for a family vacation...that is until Bry decides to rip his parents from their day to day office jobs and throw them into an adventure of a lifetime.  Featuring Bryant H. Boesen, Charles Boesen, Lilice Boesen.

Audience Award of $1000 for Best World Feature:

Butterfly’s Dream
, directed by Yilmaz Erdogan
In a small Turkish town, two young tuberculous poets try to survive while publishing their poems. As they both fall in love, their life would never be the same.

Festival attendees partied on into the night following the Closing Night screening of Belle directed by Amma Asante and starring Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Tom Wilkinson, Miranda Richardson and Emily Watson.
About the Sonoma International Film Festival:

Now in its 17th year, the Sonoma International Film Festival (April 2-6, 2014) takes place in the heart of Northern California’s Wine Country and features more than 110 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. Most films screened at the Festival have attending filmmakers and actors making for spirited Q&As.  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, Demián Bichir and Mary-Louise Parker have walked the festival red carpet and enjoyed its intimate ambiance.

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