— John Lasseter Honored —


2007 Program Guide coverSonoma, Calif., April 16, 2007 – The Sonoma Valley Film Festival presented nine awards at this past weekend’s awards ceremony in beautiful Sonoma, California. The special 10th anniversary Festival screened 75 films from around the globe, including a blend of some of the year’s finest and critically acclaimed feature films, documentaries, short films, epicurean-themed films and student films. The festival also honored Pixar & Disney’s John Lasseter in a special tribute that included featured guests Bonnie Hunt, legendary animator Glen Kean, Cheech Marin, John Ratzenberger, Tony Shalhoub, director Andrew Stanton and Robin Williams.

“This special 10th anniversary festival was the perfect celebration of food, wine and, of course, some of the year’s very best film,” said Marc Lhormer, President of the Sonoma Valley Film Festival and Executive Director of the Sonoma Valley Film Festival. “We are extremely proud of the 2007 film line-up, as well as the filmmakers who joined us this weekend, who remind us why independent film is so important and continue to challenge us with their brilliant work.” 

The festival honored John Lasseter on Saturday evening for his legendary career at a special tribute event. Hosted by John Ratzenberger, the tribute also featured stories and guest appearances from Bonnie Hunt, legendary animator Glen Kean, Cheech Marin, Tony Shalhoub, director Andrew Stanton and Robin Williams.

Mr. Lasseter, Chief Creative Officer, Disney and Pixar Animation Studios and Principal Creative Advisor, Walt Disney Imagineering, directed the innovative and critically acclaimed box office sensations TOY STORY, A BUG'S LIFE and TOY STORY 2.

Additionally, he executive produced MONSTERS, INC., FINDING NEMO and THE INCREDIBLES. Mr. Lasseter returned to the director’s chair in 2006 with the release of the Disney·Pixar film, CARS. Under his supervision, Pixar’s animated feature and short films have received a multitude of critical accolades and film industry honors. Mr. Lasseter received a Special Achievement Oscar® in 1995 for his inspired leadership of the TOY STORY team. His work on TOY STORY also resulted in an Academy Award®-nomination for “Best Original Screenplay,” the first time an animated feature had been recognized in that category. FINDING NEMO, released spring 2003, became the highest grossing animated feature of all time, and won the Oscar® for “Best Animated Feature Film.”

Mr. Lasseter has also written, directed and animated a number of highly renowned short films and television commercials for Pixar, including LUXO JR. (1986 Academy Award® nominee); RED'S DREAM (1987); TIN TOY (1988 Academy Award® winner); and KNICKKNACK (1989), which was produced as a 3D stereoscopic film. Pixar’s TIN TOY became the first computer animated film to win an Oscar® when it received the 1988 Academy Award® for Best Animated Short Film.


The following films were presented awards in their categories at the 2007 Sonoma Valley Film Festival:

The award for Best Feature Film was presented to JOHNNY SLADE'S GREATEST HITS, directed by Larry Blamire. In the film, Dean Martin wannabe Johnny Slade just can not catch a break. Things start to look up when he is hired by a mystery man to open a hot new club. Of course, there is a catch. Each night, Johnny is given terrible (and unintentionally hilarious) new songs to perform. But when major crimes occur correlating to the lyrics, Johnny realizes he is a stooge being used to pass secret orders to the mob. Starring: John Fiore, Vincent Curatola, Richard Portnow, Frank Santorelli and Red Peters.

The award for Best Documentary Film was presented to two films this year:

  1. SHOOT DOWN, directed by Cristina Khuly, which examines the changing face of Cuban-American foreign policy as it relates to the February 24, 1996 incident when three tine Cessnas flown by Brothers to the Rescue, a Miami-based organization formed to rescue Cuban raft refugees, were shot down.
  2. RAIN IN A DRY LAND, directed by Anne Makepeace, follows Somali Bantu refugees. After arriving to the United States in 2004, these refugees now live in fifty cities across the country, and have become the largest African group from a single community to settle in the United States at one time. The film chronicles the lives of two Somali Bantu families as they leave behind a 200-year legacy of oppression in South Africa to face new challenges in a strange new land.

The award for Best Lounge Feature was presented to THE LATHER EFFECT, directed by Sarah Kelly. On the eve of the sale of her parents’ home, Valinda throws a wild 80’s themed party reuniting high school friends for a last chance to relive their youth and the hangovers that went with it. The film is a comedy about remembering the past and facing the future, backed by an amazing soundtrack of 80’s hits. Starring: Eric Stoltz, Connie Britton, Ione Skye, Chris Eigerman, Peter Facinelli.

The award for Best Narrative Short was presented to MONSOON, directed by Shyam Balsé. Govinda, a hotshot Californian cardiologist and atheist, is forced to return to his motherland in India when his estranged father falls ill. When Govinda tries to care for his father, he discovers his father has other plans, plans that send them on a journey into their pasts to reconcile their broken relationship before time runs out. Starring: Bhanu Uday, Ravi Baswani, Sulabha Deshpande, Imogen Cole-Butler.

The award for Best Documentary Short was presented to RECYCLED LIFE, directed by Leslie Iwerks. The film follows the inhabitants of the Guatemala City Garbage Dump, the largest, most toxic and dangerous area of all of Central America from which thousands of families have thrived. The inhabitants, who recycle the city’s trash, have been shunned by society and ignored by the government until a disastrous event in January 2005 that forever changed the face of this landfill and the dignified people who call it home. The film was also nominated for a 2007 Academy Award® for Best Documentary Short.

The award for Best Lounge Short was presented to HORNY, a cleverly animated list of various amorous stimulants, directed by Lev Yilmaz.

The award for Best Animated Short was presented to ONE RAT SHORT, directed by Alex Weil. The piece tells a tale of a subway rat who is led by the mesmerizing ballet of a discarded food wrapper into an adventure of love and loss on a dark Manhattan night.

DER OSTWIND, a short directed by Kohl Glass, also received a special mention for most creative short. The story is told through the perspective of two archrival dare devil pilots, a German and an American, who battle it out in the skies above World War II.

Audience awards were also announced during the special awards ceremony. The Grey Goose Audience Award for Favorite Narrative Feature went to PARK, directed by Kurt Voelker. The quirky and uproarious comedy is set in a secluded park overlooking Los Angeles, where a dozen characters converge for very different and conflicting reasons.

The Grey Goose Audience Award for Best Documentary Feature went to STEAL A PENCIL FOR ME. The film, from Netlix’s Red Envelope division and Academy Award® nominated filmmaker Michele Ohayon who served as director, chronicles a surprisingly true story about a love triangle in a concentration camp between a man, his wife and his mistress as they find themselves incarcerated in the same barracks in the same death camp.

Unique, colorful glass decanters, each handmade by master glass-blower Ryan Blythe, were presented to the well-deserved winners.


About the Jury:

The 2007 Feature Film Competition Jury was comprised of actor Ernie Hudson, producer Steve Shor and Variety Magazine Features Editor, Steve Chagollan.

The 2007 Documentary Competition Jury members included Emmy®-winning director Katie Carpenter, Sundance Documentary Program Funding Group Member Kristin Feeley and producer, writer and publicist Marla Lewin Halperin.

The 2007 Lounge Jurors included Micromedia International and Black Chair Collection Founder Joel Bachar, Film Threat Founder Chris Gore and My Date with Drew filmmakers Kerry David and Brian Herzlinger.

The 2007 Shorts Jurors included Sundance Film Festival Programmer, Filmmaker and Theatrical Distributor Kevin Lau, Jackson Hole Film Festival Program Director Melanie Miller and producer J. Todd Harris.


About Sonoma Valley Film Festival:

2007 marked the 10th anniversary of the Sonoma Valley Film Festival. Set amidst the unparalleled beauty of the Sonoma Valley wine country, this unique festival welcomed filmmakers and film lovers to an intimate and luxurious extended weekend from April 11 – 15, 2007, pairing great food, fine wine and over 75 new independent films from around the world, including feature length narratives, documentaries, shorts, and student films.

Top sponsors of the Sonoma Valley Film Festival include Entertainment Weekly, Food & Wine, WineCountry.com, Comcast, Independent Film Channel, Sonoma Sun, Starbucks, Netflix, and Grey Goose Vodka.

For more information about the festival, visit www.sonomafilmfest.org or call 707-933-2600.

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