Fall brings us three things every year like clockwork; Daylight Savings Time, pumpkin spice lattes and film festivals. It seems that new festivals pop up every year, elbowing and angling for space in the crowded realm, be it big cities or small towns that want to offer their denizens first looks and fantastic cinema.
Nestled in the Sonoma County side of Northern California wine country, the Alexander Valley Film Festival is now in its 4th year and this year the AVFS Screening Team (of which I am a member) reviewed more than 150 films to create the following slate of 13 Narrative Features, 13 Documentary Features, 6 Short Films, and 5 Special Events.
Behind everything is festival founder and Cloverdale resident Kathryn Hecht, who looked to the Mill Valley Film Festival as a model, and especially to the nonprofit California Film Institute, which founded the festival in 1977. “A nonprofit can take chances with showing an art house film for a couple of nights,” she says. Hecht also runs the wildly successful Clover Theater with her husband Ryan and starting a non-profit in order to create the festival was a no-brainer for the former New York City actress, who fell in love with Sonoma County in 2013 and remodeled the classic theater.
“This festival is designed to engage, provoke, excite and reflect both the diversity and commonality within our community and beyond,” Hecht says. “Film is the easiest point of entry for people to connect, because it’s visual and accessible. There’s no experience like being in a darkened theater with other people.”
The festival’s mission statement: “The Alexander Valley Film Society (AVFS) strengthens our community by captivating and engaging audiences, cultivating new fans of film, providing access and educational opportunities in the media arts, and celebrating our collective humanity through year-round educational and cultural enrichment programs and the annual Alexander Valley Film Festival.”
Despite being a small festival of only a few days, the Alexander Valley Film Festival packs a punch with its incredibly diverse lineups of films that give focus to LGBTQI films and filmmakers, Latin-American filmmakers and stories (Sonoma County has a significant Latin-American and Hispanic population) along with classic films and indie fare. There is also a Youth Filmmaker Workshop and Student Film Competition. Beginning this year, the student film competition will be part of the curriculum in the local public schools of Cloverdale, Geyserville, and Healdsburg.
More than just a film festival, the Alexander Valley Film Society also offers several year-round series such as the Monthly Community Screening Series and family-friendly fare over the summer in the Drive-In Series in Cloverdale and the Outdoor Movie Series in Healdsburg plus educational programming year-round.
The 4th Alexander Valley Film Festival features official Foreign Language Film Oscar submissions like The Guilty (Denmark), The Heiresses (Paraguay), Shoplifters (Japan), Border (Sweden) and Supa Modo (Kenya) and runs October 19-21st with a special “Neighbor” screening of Chef Flynn on October 18th. If you live in Sonoma County or plan to visit during that time, I highly encourage this great little local festival.
BIRDS OF PASSAGE
C’EST LA VIE
MONSTERS AND MEN
WILD NIGHTS WITH EMILY
WOMAN AT WAR
DYKES, CAMERA, ACTION
THE LAST RACE
MAKING MONTGOMERY CLIFT
ON HER SHOULDERS
RODENTS OF UNUSUAL SIZE*
*indicates filmmaker or guest in attendance
Where: Venues include The Clover in Cloverdale, The Raven Film Center in Healdsburg, The Oddfellows Hall, and The Alexander Valley Hall.