The Sonoma International Film Festival — 25 Years In The Making

Sonoma International Film Festival

The Sonoma International Film Festival (SIFF) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to promoting the best in independent film and filmmakers from around the world, inspiring savvy film lovers, and introducing the power of film to student filmmakers. This year’s historic 25th anniversary live festival takes place from March 23-27. Top films from the live festival will be available in the Virtual Festival from April 23-30.

SIFF’s Artistic Director Kevin W. McNeely with Co-Director Ginny Krieger and her husband Larry.
SIFF’s Artistic Director Kevin W. McNeely with Co-Director Ginny Krieger and her husband Larry.

The festival began in 1997 when Sonoma residents Jerry Seltzer — a roller derby owner and son of the sport’s founder — and Carolyn Stolman came up with the idea for Sonoma to have its own film festival.

Since its beginning, the festival has hosted a huge number of Hollywood celebrities. Right from the beginning, the festival was attended by Hollywood legends like Danny Glover and Francis Ford Coppola. Over the years new events and program were added, including wine tastings, the Media Arts Program at Sonoma Valley High School and the SIFF | Devour! Chefs & Short Dinner.

For more, here’s a timeline of the festival’s history:

25 Years of SIFF


Sonoma friends Carolyn Stolman and Jerry Seltzer dream up the film festival.


Francis Ford Coppola is one of the first filmmakers of note to attend the Sonoma International Film Festival.


The work of acclaimed actor and Bay Area resident Danny Glover is showcased.


The festival moves to the springtime and films from Pixar Animation Studios are the highlight of the festival.


The festival reinvigorates restored classic films with a tribute to film historian and preservationist Richard May.


Sonoma International Film Festival provides the key funding to launch the Sonoma Valley High School Media Arts Program.


SIFF pays tribute to three award winning writer-directors: Alexander PayneMark Romanek and Agnieszka Holland.


SIFF focuses its lens on women in film with guests Blythe DannerFionnula FlanaganJena Malone and Deborah Unger.


Three-time Academy Award winning producer Saul Zaentz receives the SIFF Lifetime Achievement Award.


 Danny Glover

Actor and activist Danny Glover returns to accept the SIFF Humanitarian Award for his body of work on screen and off.


SIFF celebrates 10 years with a tribute to the creativity and innovation of Pixar Animation Studios.


Michael Keaton’s antic turn as Beetlejuice previews at SIFF.


Bruce Willis receives the SIFF Lifetime Achievement Award and films SIFF’s first commercial.


Lauren Hutton

Lauren Hutton receives the SIFF Achievement Award from the iconic actor and comedian Robin Williams.


Susan Sarandon 

Actor and activist Susan Sarandon is honored with the SIFF Lifetime Achievement Award.


Cult film director John Waters performs his one man show to a standing room only audience.


Mary-Louise Parker 

The SIFF Spotlight Award goes to actors Mary-Louise Parker and Demián Bichir.


Jude Law and Demián Bichir open the festival with their film Dom Hemingway.


Alan Rickman’s directorial debut of A Little Chaos opens to a sold out audience.


Meg Ryan

Screenwriter and Sonoma vintner Robert Kamen, and actor Meg Ryan share the festival spotlight.


SIFF celebrates 20 years with more than 135 films from 200 filmmakers representing 40 countries.


The SIFF | Devour! Chefs & Short Dinner debuts with noted chefs and culinary shorts including three-star Michelin chef Dominique Creen.


Julia Ormond opens the festival with the film Women In Black.


SIFF pivots to an all virtual festival, expanding its audience and international reach, hosts drive-ins and new monthly online screenings.


SIFF Summerfest was one of the first live, larger gatherings to bring the Sonoma community together.


Sonoma International Film Festival celebrates 25 years live on March 23-27, with its command performance SIFF Virtual Film Festival April 23-20.

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