This Ocean Film Festival Does More Than See the Sea

By Nancy Friedman

April 1, 2022

Here’s what you can expect at any film festival: new films, fun swag, revealing Q&A sessions with filmmakers, stimulating conversations in the lobby or in the line for the restrooms. At the International Ocean Film Festival—North America’s oldest and largest ocean film festival–you can expect all that and something more: a call to action.

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MAMA BEARS RISING

By C.J. Hirschfield

March 30, 2022

Last month, Texas Governor Greg Abbott issued a letter calling on professionals, including teachers and doctors, to report parents who give their trans children gender-affirming care. And even though the ACLU says it’s not legally binding, it is just another in a long line of assaults on trans and LGBTQ rights in that state.

But look out, Abbott. Texas trans kindergartner Kai and her mom—actually, lots of moms like her—are uniting and fighting for the rights of their LGBTQ kids. And guess what? They’re all devout and conservative Christians whose Mama Bears network of private Facebook groups exist in every state, numbering over 30,000 members at last count. Continue reading

BAD AXE

By C.J. Hirschfield

March 30, 2022

There is a serious discussion that takes place in the superb new documentary Bad Axe about whether the film is or is not a love letter to the eponymous town—or will its coverage of some of the town’s less savory Trumpian residents cause people to hate it? Not to worry, Bad Axe. Any town that can boast having raised a family like the one featured in the film has got to have a whole lot going for it.

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CLEANING TRAUMA

By C.J. Hirschfield

March 30, 2022

I don’t know if a film completely focused on the business of trauma cleaning, or a film wholly centered on the complicated life of Sandra Pankhurst would work on its own, but when these themes are combined, the result is a compelling and compassionate Australian documentary that embodies the phrases “There but for the grace of God go I,” and “It’s a dirty job, but somebody’s gotta do it.” Clean just had its world premiere March 12 at SXSW 2022 Film Festival, and focuses not only on Pankhurst’s successful enterprises– her cleaning business, her book, her inspirational public speaking—but on the painful journey that led her to each.

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Devour! Chefs & Shorts: Food, Film & Wine

By Geneva Anderson

Jetting out of Halifax is rarely simple for Devour! The Film Food Fest co-founders, Lia Rinaldo and Chef Michael Howell.  As they headed for the 25th edition of the Sonoma International Film Festival, they were schlepping 400 Sober Island Oysters and several bottles of Domaine de Grand Pré’s prized sparkling Champlain Brut.  The special cargo was for Chef Howell as he organized his own appetizer while juggling the details of numerous other participants in the eagerly-awaited SIFF | Devour! “Chefs & Shorts Culinary” Event Honoring Chef Jacques Pépin.

Michael Howell and Lia Renaldo. Photo courtesy Devour!

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Interview: Sonoma International Film Festival’s Kevin McNeely on SIFF’s 25th Edition—March 23-27, 2022

By Geneva Anderson

Long before “festing” was a trend, Sonoma International Film Festival’s Executive Director, Kevin McNeely, and his team began holding lively soirees in a tent pitched on Sonoma Plaza.  High-level passholders, filmmakers and celebrities made a beeline to this little hub to mingle and enjoy the crème of Sonoma Valley’s wine, spirits and food.  The concept evolved and the tent became the legendary “backlot.”  With its roaring theme parties, live music, dancing, food and wine, SIFF sealed its reputation as the high-end/good time festival.

This year, SIFF celebrates its 25th anniversary March 23-28, and film programming that challenges its wonderful parties.  It all unfolds within the radius of Sonoma’s historic town square or “SONOMAWOOD.”

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