Festival celebrates diversity

The Third Annual Alexander Valley Film Festival, presented by the Alexander Valley Film Society, takes place Thursday, Oct. 19 through Sunday, Oct. 22 at venues in Healdsburg, Geyserville and Cloverdale. The festival is expected to attract thousands of film lovers from near and far for four days of screenings, industry panels, opening and closing night parties, awards ceremonies and more.

“This year, the festival embraces a theme of discovery,” said Kathryn Hecht, executive director of the Alexander Valley Film Society. “The programming reflects our community and the world we want to live in as well as the organization’s enhanced focus on student engagement and educational opportunities.”

Hecht said the theme emerged from the submissions the film society received.

“We viewed more than 150 films,” she said. “From them, we were able to find commonalities and themes that fit with our community. These films showcase the best of humanity.”

‘Discovery’ ties into the film society’s dedication to education, which will be showcased in this year’s film festival. According to Hecht, Saturday’s schedule in Cloverdale will give students the opportunity to hear and participate in panels with screenwriters, eat lunch and watch a hand-drawn animated film.

“It’ll be a day where parents can give their kids 20 bucks and leave them in Cloverdale for the day, knowing they’re doing age-appropriate stuff,” Hecht said.

Other student-centered activities include a student jury, student-only screenings, student internships, volunteering through the Jr. Film Society and a student film competition.

This year’s festival will cover a wide swath of today’s culture with dedicated programming tracks focused on Latin America, LGBTQI, female directors and social justice. Films include the breezy and surreal feature debut from Samir Oliveros, “Bad Lucky Goat,” “The Untold Tales of Armistead Maupin,” an up-close-and-personal look at one of the heroes from the front lines of American culture and “Dolores,” the examination of Dolores Huerta’s legacy of community activism.

“All of our content will be relatable to the community in one way or another,” Hecht said.

Program highlights include:

Oct. 19, 6 p.m. — Alexander Valley Hall: Participate in a traditional Mexican dinner followed by a screening of “Dolores,” a documentary on the life of activist Dolores Huerta. Dolores’ daughter, community organizer Camila Chavez, prominently featured in the film and co-creator and executive director of the Dolores Huerta Foundation, is expected to be in attendance along with outreach partners from Los Cien, Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Sonoma County, and Corazón Healdsburg.

Oct. 20, 6 p.m. — Opening night and 1st Street block party at The Clover Theater and 1st Street in Cloverdale. The Opening Night Film, “The Ballad of Lefty Brown,” a big-sky Western featuring an Oscar-worthy turn by Bill Pullman as Lefty Brown. The film is followed by a Q&A with director Jared Moshé, and the lively 1st Street Block Party featuring local food, wine and music.

Oct. 21, 9 a.m. — Cloverdale Performing Arts Center: Screenwriter panel and educational track. Professional screenwriters from across the U.S. will take part in a 75-minute panel for students of all ages, followed by screenings of the 2017 student film competition short films and a student-friendly film from the festival.

Oct. 21, 8 p.m. — Saturday Night Classic at Odd Fellows Hall, Geyserville: A celebration of the 50th anniversary, 4K digital restoration of “The Graduate,” the movie that shaped a generation, including a soundtrack for the ages.

Oct. 22, 10 a.m. Filmmaker Brunch at the Trading Post, Cloverdale. Enjoy a delicious brunch at Sonoma County’s “favorite new local restaurant” and meet some of the committed filmmakers and artists participating in this year’s festival.

Oct. 22, 5:30 p.m. — Closing night film and reception at The Raven Film Center and Spoonbar. The 2017 festival concludes with “Behind the Curtain: Todrick Hall,” a delightful, life-affirming testament of tolerance and acceptance, followed by a Q&A with director Katherine Fairfax Wright. The evening continues with a celebration of student filmmakers and audience award winners at Spoonbar, a modern restaurant and event space in downtown Healdsburg’s h2Hotel.

This year’s festival is underwritten by award-winning filmmaker and psychologist Dr. Steven Ungerleider of the Foundation for Global Sports Development. “We are proud to support the third annual Alexander Valley Film Festival,” Ungerlieder said. “The film society has brought incredible opportunities to this community in terms of art and education. It's a pleasure to join the other festival sponsors, volunteers and participants for what is becoming a destination event for Sonoma County and the entire San Francisco Bay Area.”

Significant 2017 sponsors also include Bear Republic Brewery, The Arabian Family and The Bobo Foundation.

Hecht added that the festival wouldn’t be possible without the hundreds of hours of support and time donated by the volunteers.

“I’m just so excited to celebrate all of this hard work,” Hecht said.

All proceeds of the festival benefit Sonoma County students and support year-round educational and cultural enrichment programs.

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