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The Sonoma International Film Festival turns 25 this week, and my, oh my, how the organizers are pulling out all the stops to celebrate that milestone.

Festivities kick off Wednesday with a bang, a special screening of the Sandra Bullock/Channing Tatum screwball comedy adventure “The Lost City” at the Sebastiani Theatre in Sonoma. Directors Aaron and Adam Nee are slated to attend the well-reviewed film, opening Friday in area theaters.

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The program is so tempting that the SIFF offerings top our weekly list of cinematic pleasures, along with a sports documentary from a Bay Area native and other special screenings, including Richard Linklater’s latest YA-friendly animated feature “Apollo 10½: A Space Age Childhood.”

We now let’s just “lift off” on what to see.


“Loren & Rose” stars Jacqueline Bisset, who is receiving the Cinematic Excellence Award. She plans on attending the festival. (Photo courtesy the Sonoma International Film Festival)

With a jam-packed schedule of 120 screenings, food events, parties and live music, the Sonoma International Film Festival fills its plate with numerous events, screenings and activities, from Wednesday through Sunday. 

The appetizing spread includes a special tribute to the divine Jacqueline Bisset, who Friday receives the SIFF Cinematic Excellence Award at a screening of Russell Brown’s “Loren & Rose,” a drama about a relationship between an up-and-coming director and a revered actress. The closing night feature on Sunday is “The Butcher’s Daughter,” a French drama following a fashion magazine editor as she deals with inheriting the family butcher’s business.

Karen Allen will be speaking to Sonoma Valley High School film students. (Photo courtesy the Sonoma International Film Festival)

A cluster of world premieres include: “Children of the Vine,” a documentary from Brian Lilla about the need to use alternatives instead of one of the most commonly used herbicides; “Fair Play,” Jennifer Siebel Newsom’s investigation into domestic inequity; “Mixtape Trilogy: Stories of the Power of Music,” a look at how musical performers such as the Indigo Girls engage with fans; and “The Cheaters,” a dark narrative comedy from France that’s pegged to a golf game that takes an unexpected turn when a stranger joins in.

One of the other celebrity sightings happens when “Raiders of the Lost Ark’s” Karen Allen appears to share tips and inspire aspiring film students. That takes place at 9 a.m. Wednesday as part of the Sonoma Valley High Media Arts Program Showcase.

“Pretty Problems” skewers the uber-rich lifestyles and trappings of the Sonoma/Napa Wine Country. (Photo courtesy the Sonoma International Film Festival)

Should you be pressed for time and can only make one film? I wholeheartedly recommend it be saucy Sonoma County-shot “Pretty Problems,” a frisky Wine Country comedy set around one wild weekend that a floundering couple, he with a fragile male ego (co-writer Michael Tennant) and she (Britt Rentschler) longing for a little sizzle in her life, spend with a rich-as-sin couple (J.J. Nolan and Graham Outerbridge) and their chums near Windsor.

The cast shines in this frothy skewering of Wine Country trappings and excess. It premiered at SXSW and is guaranteed to make you laugh. Screens 2:30 p.m. Thursday at the Vintage House and 5 p.m. March 26 at Andrews Hall, both in Sonoma. 

For the SIFF program and tickets, visit https://sonomafilmfest.org/.


The San Francisco Greek Film Festival is a couple weeks off, but you can get into the spirit by watching the stand-up-and-cheer sports documentary “King Otto,” screening Friday at the Vogue Theater in San Francisco. Bay Area native and director Christopher André Marks plans to attend the 7 p.m. screening of his heralded doc, which chronicles the underdog victory of the Greek national soccer team and its unforgettable German coach Otto Rehhagel. In addition to the screening (https://www.voguemovies.com/calendar-of-events/king-otto), the film will be available to rent starting Friday. 


Director Richard Linklater’s animated “Apollo 10½: A Space Age Childhood” receives an advance screening at the Smith Rafael Film Center. It lifts off there Friday and lands April 1 on Netflix. (Photo courtesy Netflix)

Multitalented filmmaker Richard Linklater launches back into animation (2006’s “A Scanner Darkly”) with “Apollo 10½: A Space Age Childhood.” His bold mission is to relate the first lunar landing (1969) and also frame the scientific achievement from the perspective of a boy watching with eyes wide open from Houston. The film Friday orbits the Smith Rafael Film Center (https://rafaelfilm.cafilm.org/apollo-10-1-2/) and lands Thursday (https://drafthouse.com/sf/show/apollo-10-1-2-a-space-age-childhood?cinemaId=0801) at San Francisco’s Alamo Drafthouse before it touches down April 1 on Netflix. 


James McAvoy gives another searing performance in “Cyrano de Bergerac,” a screening of a National Theater Live stage production. Watch him electrify Thursday at the Elmwood in Berkeley. (Photo courtesy Marc Brenner)

If you feel that you haven’t seen enough incarnations of the Cyrano de Bergerac sad-sack story, including Joe Wright’s musical with an expert Peter Dinklage, you’re in luck. The Elmwood in Berkeley will be offering two screenings Thursday of the highly praised West End stage performance “Cyrano de Bergerac” featuring the ever-game James McAvoy as literature’s poetic soul who helps another woo his true heart, Roxanne. The Jamie Lloyd production is part of the National Theatre Live series. Showtimes at the Elmwood are at 1 and 7 p.m. For tickets, visit https://www.rialtocinemas.com/index.php?location=elmwood&film=2022_cyrano_elm.


And if none of those options work, how about revisiting the classics? Francis Ford Coppola’s timely-as-ever 1974 San Francisco thriller “The Conversation” starring Gene Hackman instills paranoia still, and is one of my all-time favorites. It has a one-week engagement starting Friday at the Rialto Cinemas Cerrito in El Cerrito:  https://www.rialtocinemas.com/index.php?location=cerrito&film=2022_conversation_cer.


Another durable classic — and also one of my all-time favorite films — is Akira Kurosawa’s highly influential and beloved samurai epic, “Seven Samurai.” The 35mm 1954 feature screens at 7 p.m. Thursday, 3 p.m. Saturday and 7 p.m. March 29 at the Roxie: https://www.roxie.com/ai1ec_event/seven-samurai/?instance_id=45599.


Giulietta Masina gives a timeless performance in Fellini’s classic “Nights of Cabiria.” (Photo courtesy BAMPFA)

And over at the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, the Federico Fellini 100th year celebration continues with a screening of “Nights of Cabiria,” another exclamation point in the filmmaker’s illustrious career. It follows a Rome sex worker as she overcomes obstacles — including bad men. The digital restoration of the 1956 classic shows at 7 p.m. Friday: https://bampfa.org/event/nights-cabiria.


Those should all help tide you over till next week.