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2007 Wine Country Film Festival Highlights

The popular roving Wine Country Film Festival presented another stellar program of movies in three communities - Sonoma, American Canyon and Napa - north of the Golden Gate Bridge. In addition to world and American films, the fest offered Arctic Tale and No Reservations which made their regional debuts in the festival.

WCFF’s approach to programming singles out the best in domestic and international titles in unique groupings such as Cinema of Conscience – films addressing social and political issues; World Cinema – films that provide insight to other cultures and points of view; Arts in Film – films about dance, music, literature and painting; Eco Cinema – films about the planet and U.S. Cinema – the best movies by seasoned and emerging filmmakers from around the country.

Now in its twenty-first year, the Wine Country Film Festival continued its love affair with "Film al Fresco™" movies under the stars.. With its “Reels on Wheels™” the fest continues to show more movies under the stars than any other festival in North America. The shows are in 35mm with Dolby Digital Surround Sound projected on to a big cinemascope screen just like in the best “hard top” cinemas. For those who prefer a more conventional approach to the cinematic experience, the fest also unspooled movies at Copia's theater in Napa, and the Sonoma Community Center's auditorium-theater in Sonoma.

The Terroir of Cinema

Festival Creative Director Stephen Ashton says, "'Terroir' is what gives a wine anywhere in the world its unique quality linking it to a particular place with a particular set of climatic, geological and atmospheric influences. 'The Terroir of Cinema' is WCFF's term expressing the deep roots that give cinema its unique attributes, tastes and cultural distinctions."

"Film, like wine and cuisine," he says, "reflects the roots of the filmmakers and subjects they focus on – a Cultural Terroir if you will, that arises from their roots. In these times, distinctions cut both ways; at this Festival programmers chose to celebrate cultural differences rather than fear them."

Paseo de España – A New Look

Perhaps the most exciting cinema of today is coming from the lands of Cervantes and Gaudi where a new energy is being provided for filmmaking far from the main center of Madrid, which could be considered Spain’s Hollywood. This year the WCFF presented a major focus on a national cinema- “Paseo de España – A Walk of Spain.” The excursion transported moviegoers from Andalucia in the South to Catalunya in the South East to Pais Vasco (Basque Country) in the North East to Galicia in the North West.
Director-founder Stephen Ashton wrote in the program "what strikes me every time I travel to Spain is the purity of the diversity in each of these 'Autonomous Regions' is that they have their own cultural heritage, cuisine and in the case of Galicia, Pais Vasco and Catalunya, their own languages. When thinking of Spain, we must consider the fact that since the Spanish Civil War of the 1930’s Spain was controlled by Franco’s fascist dictatorship that, along with censorship and worse, suppressed their languages. It was only after his demise in the 1975 that regional uniqueness began to openly flourish."
Two wonderful films from the Basque Country, in the Basque language were Show Me the Way, Ixabel emphasizing the culture differences between the Spanish and Basque and Nomadak, TX about a world tour of the most unusual percussionists ever. Nomadak, TX walked away the coveted Margrit and Robert Mondavi Award for Peace and Cultural Understanding. Dramatic films from Galicia, Andalucia, and Catalunya were all unique representations of Spain's “new” cinema. Best of the Festival went to the current Spanish hit musical comedy Scandalous! by Alvaro Begines.
In partnership with the Ministry of Culture of Spain, Catalan Film & TV, Andalucia Film Commission, Latido Films, Spain GourmeTour, Wines of Spain and the Ferrer family (owners of the world famous Freixenet in Spain and Gloria Ferrer in Sonoma), and Whole Foods of Sonoma, cava and still wines were paired with Spanish food products at the screenings.

Of special interest was the film Education of Fairies from producer/director José Luis Cuerda (producer of many Amenabar films) who is also noted winemaker. The Festival presented his film under the stars along with a tasting of his delicious white wine "Sanclodio" from Galicia. An essential part of the cinema showcase was the Paseo Passport - two weekend strolls to select shops around the Sonoma Plaza to sample a wide variety of spanish wine and food.

Wheels And Reels

A standing room crowd of young teens were moved by Cesario Montano's documentary Rising Son on the roller-coaster life of skater legend Christian Hosoi. Following the movie, the teens spent several hours outdoors skateboarding on ramps provided by Bay Area activist and painter Keith "K Dub" Williams. Rhanda Steward, an annual festival goer, said "a theater full of skateboarders, an inspiring film for all ages... reaching out to our young people with movies that matter. This is what film festivals should be about. What a show!"

The crowd pleaser MO (winner in the fest's U.S CINEMA category ) by husband and wife team of Brian Scott Lederman and Monica Lederman, moved many to tears as they walked out of the Barrel Room Theater at Cartlidge & Browne Winery. MO stars Eric Per Sullivan of Malcolm in the Middle. It is the compelling true story of Lederman's brother who suffered from a genetic mutation called Marfan Syndrome. Audience members chose the 2007 festival's winners voting from 1 through 10; ten the highest. MO scored off the charts with a 15.

The fest's Eco Cinema category included a dozen eco films with the emphasis on positive solutiions and life affirming storytelling. Many of these films screened at the Gaia Napa Valley Hotel, Napa Valley's first environmental hotel. Owner Wen I. Chang, who welcomed the fest with open arms, is an entrepreneur with a societal mission. He is committed to transforming the public awareness of ecology into the design and operations of a portfolio of green hotels. We Feed the World by Erwin Wagenhofer and Power of Community by Faith Morgan (U.S.) won the top Eco Cinema Awards.

Thomas Philips director of Rattle Basket (winner of Best Ensemble in a Feature ) described WCFF as " the best film festival experience I have ever had. This is a film fest with heart and soul, superb venues and a terrific line up of films." Rattle Basket screened inside Frazier Winery's magnificent cave in Napa.

Inspiring movies were found throughout the program. The WCFF Humanitarian Film Award was given to Javier Bardem for Invisibles. Past WCFF Humanitarian recipients include HH The Dalai Lama, Nobel Peace Prize winners Jody Williams and Jose Ramos Horta and actress Jane Seymour. Produced by Javier Bardem's Pinguin Films shingle for charitable organization Medicins Sans Frontiers (aka Doctors Without Borders) Invisibles tackles ignored social problems from Africa and Latin America. The film is assembled into five minu-docus directed by four Spanish and latino helmers and Wim Wenders.

For the complete list of winners see www.winecountryfilmfest.com

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