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Don’t miss these films at the 2022 Sonoma International Film Festival

From Jack London to social causes to UFOs, the best from this year’s festival in Sonoma.|

The Sonoma International Film Festival, March 23-27, has so many outstanding films that the event could be two weeks long and you still wouldn’t have time to see them all.

Most film screenings require a full festival pass, but some are available for individual purchase (visit sonomafilmfest.org).

Here are 13 to consider, from films shot locally and of local interest (think Jack London) to movies on social issues, music, the Olympics and even drag queens and UFOs.

“Pretty Problems” is emblematic of what makes the film festival so enthralling. It’s a hilarious and smart film you’re unlikely to see elsewhere.

It follows an ordinary couple who are invited on a getaway by a very rich new friend to a wine estate near Healdsburg. The trip becomes the most unhinged weekend of their lives. The dialogue is crisp, the comedic timing spot-on and the direction pitch-perfect.

“It’s a love letter to the Sonoma region,” said director Kestrin Pantera. “I think that locals are going to really appreciate the humor. There are some deep-cut jokes that were written exactly for this audience.”

Pantera used a drone to capture “overhead glory shots of the vineyard and this beautiful estate, the Russian River and its iconic bridge.”

Pantera will appear at both showings of the film, 2:30 p.m. Thursday, March 24, and 5 p.m. Saturday, March 26.

“Children of the Vine,” directed by Brian Lilla, is another film of local interest.

The dramatic documentary reveals the horrific health consequences of using the herbicide Roundup and how the company that produces it, Monsanto, works to obscure its dangers.

Lilla and his wife moved from Oakland to Napa in 2013 and a year later had a daughter. In 2015, he saw a report that Napa had the highest child cancer rates in the state.

“As a new parent, I was just shocked,” Lilla said. He wondered, “Wait, what the hell is going on here?”

While countries all over the world (the Netherlands, Russia, Ukraine, Mexico, even Germany, where Monsanto parent company Bayer is based) have banned Roundup because tests suggest it’s a carcinogen, its use in Napa County has been increasing, he said.

The film probes the EPA’s deficiencies in testing chemicals and Monsanto’s powerful public relations network that counters scientific findings with industry-backed reports.

Lilla is thrilled to launch the film at the Sonoma International Film Festival “because I wanted to premiere close to our community, so people from Napa and Sonoma counties that are affected by the use of Roundup” can see the film.

He’ll be at both showings: 11:30 a.m. Thursday, March 24 and 11:30 a.m. Saturday, March 26.

“Olga” is about a young gymnast arriving at the Olympics troubled by the upheavals in her home country, Ukraine. It couldn’t be more timely, said Kevin McNeely, the festival’s artistic director. 3 p.m. Thursday, March 24.

“The Ceres Community Project” follows an 8-year-old girl named Hannah whose mother is diagnosed with cancer. The family received meals from Sebastopol’s Ceres Community Project, a nonprofit providing nourishing food to people with serious illness. When Hannah turns 16, she signs up to cook for Ceres. 2:30 p.m. Thursday, March 24, and 2:30 p.m. Saturday, March 26.

“The Blues Chase the Blues Away” is the story of how Charles “Buddy” Guy made his way from a sharecropping family in rural Louisiana to become one of the world’s leading blues guitarists. At age 85, Guy is the last great midcentury Chicago bluesman who remains; he played in Santa Rosa and Napa earlier this month. 2:30 p.m. Thursday, March 24, and 11:30 a.m. Saturday, March 26.

“Mixtape Trilogy: Stories of the Power of Music” examines the connection between performers such as Amy Ray and Emily Saliers of Indigo Girls and their fans. It speaks to how music engenders emotion and how fans can find their community at concerts. Director Kathleen Ermitage will attend both screenings. 5 p.m. Thursday, March 24, and 12:30 p.m. Sunday, March 27.

“We Feed People,” directed by Ron Howard, chronicles the work of chef José Andrés and his nonprofit World Central Kitchen, which in 12 years has become one of the most effective global food relief groups. 3 p.m. Friday, March 25, and 7 p.m. Sunday, March 27.

“Jack London’s Martin Eden” is based on London’s semi-autobiographical novel about a working-class young man who falls in love with a wealthy woman. 10 a.m. Friday, March 25, and noon Saturday, March 26.

“Jump, Darling” follows a young drag queen reeling from a breakup who visits his ailing grandmother, played by Cloris Leachman, who died last year. “It’s wonderful to see how their relationship evolves,” McNeely said. Thomas Duplessie, who plays the drag queen, will be at both screenings. 1 p.m. Friday, March 25, and 2:30 p.m. Saturday, March 26.

“The Phenomenon” is part of the festival’s UFO program. Narrated by actor Peter Coyote, it claims to reveal the “hidden history” of unidentified flying objects, starting in the late 1940s. 9 a.m. Friday, March 25.

“Fair Play,” directed by Jennifer Siebel Newsom, probes domestic inequity, making visible the care work historically done by women. McNeely said he appreciated that Siebel Newsom told him, “I’m coming as a filmmaker, so please don’t characterize me as the First Lady of California.” 6 p.m. Saturday, March 26.

“The Immigrant” is a 1917 short silent film starring Charlie Chaplin that’ll be screened with live musical accompaniment by Sonoma composer John Partridge on piano. 7 p.m. Friday, March 25.

“A Dog Named Palma,” about a dog lost at the airport, headlines the free family screening with a short called “Andy” at the Sebastiani Theatre, 9 a.m. Saturday, March 26. The films also shows at noon Sunday, March 27, but that screening requires a festival pass.

For screening times and venues for all films, see: sonomafilmfest.org.

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