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The Ninth Annual AVFest Returns to Northern Sonoma County April 28-May 7

Contact: Kathryn Hecht, ka***********@tr****************.org, 707.893.7150

Event redesigned to simplify the festival adventure for attendees, pack the houses, and give visiting filmmakers a richer experience.

Healdsburg, Calif. (April 10, 2023) – The ninth AVFest, presented by AVFilm, will be held in Cloverdale, Geyserville, Healdsburg, and Santa Rosa, Friday, April 28 – Sunday, May 7. The Opening Night Film, BLACKBERRY, is a narrative feature chronicling the rise and fall of one of the most game-changing technologies in the last 30 years. Director and star Matt Johnson and Executive Producer and Composer Jay McCarrol will be in attendance to celebrate the film with a Block party on First Street in Cloverdale. 

“AVFilm is known for its bold and audacious programming year-round,” says Kathryn Hecht, Executive Director of AVFilm. “This year, we poured all that spirit and ambition into one screening, one venue at a time. We want our patrons and visiting guests to get fired up about sharing film experiences.”

AVFest regularly showcases and hosts new and emerging talents from all over the world. The fest creates opportunities for the community to gather, honor film, and meet and learn from visiting artists. The fest also offers deeply discounted tickets to welcome students and low-income neighbors by working with community partners.

The festival features a diverse array of films and filmmakers from around the world, with 19 feature films, 36 shorts, more than 14 panels and Q&As, and dozens of student works. 

New for 2023, Director of Programming Mike Traina takes the helm, leveraging 30 years of film industry experience to deliver an impressive final lineup. “I’m really excited with this year’s film slate which highlights a lot of incredible movies by first-time directors,” says Traina. “We’re so proud to be welcoming a few dozen filmmakers to Sonoma County, as connecting guest artists with local filmgoers and regional film students is central to the mission of AVFilm and the festival. The stories and themes featured in this year’s line-up are sure to provoke a wide range of thought-provoking conversations and Q&A sessions.” 

Traina also runs Film Fest Petaluma in cooperation with Santa Rosa Junior College, which is co-sponsoring visiting filmmakers and shorts programs that will play at both Fests. 

AVFest program highlights include:

  1. The festival kicks off on Friday, 4/28th at 5 p.m. with the Opening Night Film + Block Party at The Clover Theater in Cloverdale, Calif. BLACKBERRY is a fast-paced nerd comedy about the early days of addiction to our phones. It is shot in a verité, handheld style reminiscent of The Office, features a retro soundtrack, and a cast that electrifies the screen. After the film, patrons and guests from the film will join the community on First Street for the Opening Night Block Party, complete with the hot Cuban band, Sabor de mi Cuba, food trucks, wine, beer, and more!
  2. The 2023 Student Film Competition screens Saturday, April 29th at 10:30 a.m. at The Clover Theater. Attendees will “walk the red carpet,” and student works will play on the big screen. Students from Lake, Mendocino, and Sonoma Counties in middle school, high school, and college will compete for $3,000 in prize money.
  3. Saturday, April 29th at 6 p.m. is Neighbor Night at Alexander Valley Hall in Geyserville, Calif.! A signature event, guests will claim their spot amongst the checkered tablecloths, and tuck in for a BBQ feast from KinSmoke. Following dinner, JACK HAS A PLAN introduces us to San Francisco musician and storyteller, Jack, who has decided to end his life due to an irreversible brain tumor (and asks for it to be filmed). The result is both thought-provoking and entertaining. Director Bradley Berman and Producer Chris Metzler film will be in attendance.
  4. Sunday, April 30th at 6 p.m. is The J.E.D.I. Award for OUR FATHER, THE DEVIL. Following a filmmaker reception, Writer-Director Ellie Foumbi will be presented with AVFilm’s prestigious J.E.D.I. (Justice/Equity/Diversity/Inclusion) Award, which carries a cash prize of $1,000.
  5. On Monday, May 1st at 7 p.m. is DOC SHORTS: CHANGEMAKERS at The Lost Church in Santa Rosa, Calif. This collection of emotionally moving documentary shorts features activists and advocates changing lives in meaningful and transformative ways. Directors Heather Murray, Sarah Moshman, Vicki Topaz, and Shane Anderson are expected to be in attendance.
  6. AVFilm celebrates AAPI Heritage Night: 7 DAYS on Tuesday, May 2nd at 6:30 p.m. at Lo & Behold in Healdsburg, Calif. Guests will enjoy an exceptional multi-course meal artfully crafted by local chefs with perfectly paired wines and the delightful rom-com, 7 DAYS, a fresh and satisfying take on the classic romantic comedy updated for the 21st century.
  7. Wednesday, May 3rd at 6 p.m is Dinner + Film Under the Stars at Catelli’s. Chef Domenica Catelli welcomes us back to the patio with her signature Italian comfort food served family-style with local wines. The film SORRY, WE’RE CLOSED follows chef Elizabeth Falkner as she sets out across the country to investigate the impact of the pandemic on the restaurant industry. Director Pete Ferriero and local chefs will be in attendance.
  8. On Thursday, May 4th at 7 p.m., The Madrona in Healdsburg, Calif. will host Arthouse at The Madrona with FREAKS OUT. Patrons will take in the Italian blockbuster in authentic wine country style. Featuring jaw-dropping visual design, a science fiction premise, and visual stylings reminiscent of Quentin Tarantino or Tim Burton, FREAKS OUT tells the story of four Jewish circus performers with extraordinary abilities who band together to fight Nazis during the rise of the Third Reich.
  9. Friday, May 5th at 7 p.m. is World Shorts Showcase at Longboard Vineyards in Healdsburg, Calif. The program features a compilation of creative cinema from around the globe with storytellers in attendance. The event includes a glass of Longboard’s sumptuous wines.
  10. Saturday, May 6th at 6 p.m. is PLAZA CINEMA CENTER CELEBRATION, a ticketed event in the courtyard of Plaza Cinema Center (coming soon to Healdsburg) with a picnic, Cartograph Wines and music from Healdsburg Jazz Fest. The event will spill over to The Healdsburg Plaza for a free public screening of the incredible indie doc LITTLE RICHARD: I AM EVERYTHING.
  11. AVFest always closes with a social justice doc, which includes a call to action. This year, we sign off on Sunday, May 7th at 5 p.m. with 26.2 TO LIFE at Longboard Vineyards. Filmed inside San Quentin Prison, 26.2 to Life explores the transformative power of the 1000 Mile Club, a training program where incarcerated men prepare to run a marathon on the dirt and concrete path circling the prison yard. Director Christine Yoo, film subject Markelle Taylor, Coach Diana Fitzpatrick, and Head Coach Frank Ruona will be in attendance. After the film, guests are invited to The Matheson in Healdsburg, Calif. for the Closing Night Reception and Awards Ceremony.

Tickets are on sale now. For film passes, individual tickets, the full lineup of films, and the full fest schedule, please visit 

This year’s festival is sponsored by several generous businesses and individuals, with significant contributions from Cartograph Wines, KarmaDog Construction, Healdsburg Tourism Improvement District, Big John’s Market, PFM Law, and Reuser Inc.

All proceeds from AVFest benefit Sonoma County students and support year-round educational and cultural enrichment programs.



The following 19 features and 36 short selections were chosen after reviewing more than 1,000 films.
Congratulations to all of the filmmakers!


7 DAYS (USA) Directed by Roshan Sethi
ANIMA (China) Directed by Jinling Cao
BLACKBERRY (Canada) Directed by Matt Johnson
FREAKS OUT (Italy) Directed by Gabriele Mainetti
NOWHERE SPECIAL (Italy/Romania/UK) Directed by Uberto Pasolini
OUR FATHER, THE DEVIL (USA/France) Directed by Ellie Foumbi
PERSIAN LESSONS (Russia/Germany/Belarus) Directed by Vadim Perelman
PRETTY PROBLEMS (USA) Directed by Kestrin Pantera
THE HAPPIEST MAN IN THE WORLD (North Macedonia) Directed by Teona Strugar Mitevska
THE ORIGIN OF EVIL (France) Directed by Sebastien Marnier
WHAT’S LOVE GOT TO DO WITH IT? (UK) Directed by Shekhar Kapur 


26.2 TO LIFE (USA) Directed by Christine Yoo
JACK HAS A PLAN (USA) Directed by Bradley Berman
LAKOTA NATION VS. UNITED STATES (USA) Directed by Jesse Short Bull & Laura Tomaselli
LYNCH/OZ (USA) Directed by Alexandre Philippe
RICOCHET (USA) Directed by Jeff Adachi & Chihiro Wimbush
SMOKE SAUNA SISTERHOOD (Estonia) Directed by Anna Hints
SORRY, WE’RE CLOSED (USA) Directed by Pete Ferriero


A MOST EXQUISITE MAN (Estonia) Directed by Jonas Taul
AN EVENING WITH TAGLIANI (UK) Directed by Jessica Wright & Morgann Runacre-Temple
ANDY, A DOG’S TALE (USA) Directed by Jamy Wheless
ASPIRATIONAL SLUT (USA) Directed by Caroline Lindy
BELLINGHAM’S BELIEF (USA) Directed by Tom Salvaggio
BEYOND THE BETA (USA) Directed by Heather Murray
BRING THE SALMON HOME (USA) Directed by Shane Anderson
BY MY SIDE (USA) Directed by Vicki Topaz & Wynn Padula
CHASIN’ BUTTERFLIES (USA) Directed by Joshua Harding, Adam Hobbs, Matt Klug
CHRISTOPHER AT SEA (France/UK/USA) Directed by Tom Brown
CUCKOO! (Netherlands) Directed by Jörgen Scholtens
DESERT LIGHTS (Chile) Directed by Katherina Harder Sacre
DOG – APARTMENT (Estonia) Directed by Priit Tender
DREAM ON LEON (Canada) Directed by Roger Gariépy
EL CARRITO (USA) Directed by Zahida Pirani
HATCHBACK (Australia) Directed by Riley Sugars
ICE MERCHANTS (Portugal) Directed by João Gonzalez
INSIDE THE BEAUTY BUBBLE (USA) Directed by Cheryl Bookout & Cheri Gaulke
JEFF (USA/Canada) Directed by Walter Woodman
JUST A REHEARSAL (Spain) Directed by Hugo Sanz
MILEZ (USA) Directed by Stephanie Patrick & Ben Lee
MOSES SUPPOSES (USA) Directed by Caleb Teicher
MY NAME IS SIRI (USA) Directed by Sarah Moshman
ON THE RIDE (USA) Directed by Jen McGowan
PRO POOL (Canada) Directed by Alec Pronovost
PRUITT & IGOE (USA) Directed by Rachael Daniels
PUZZLE (Mexico) Directed by Ricardo Muñoz Senior
SAFE (Spain) Directed by Josema Roig
SIERRA (Estonia) Directed by Sander Joon
SUSHI NOH (Australia/Japan) Directed by Jayden Rathsam Hua
THE FOURTH (USA) Directed by Johnny Kirk
THE RECRUIT (USA) Directed by Bao Truong
THE SEINE’S TEARS (France) Directed by Yanis Belaid, Eliott Benard, Nicolas Mayeur, Etienne Moulin, Hadrien Pinot, Lisa Vicente, Philippine Singer, Alice Letailleur
THE SPACE BETWEEN US (USA) Directed by Julianne Martin
THE SPRAYER (Iran) Directed by Farnoosh Abedi

About True West Film Center

True West Film Center began in 2015 when film lovers in Cloverdale and Healdsburg came together with a goal of bringing the rural North Bay more access to cinema arts events and education. The first True West Film Festival–known then as AVFest–featured 24 films across four days on four screens in two cities. With a mission to bring the transformative power of cinema to Northern California, True West Film Center removes barriers to film and media arts. Since its origin, True West Film Center has exhibited more than 600 films and now serves more than 5,000 people, 1,000 public school students, and 600 lifelong learners through year-round educational and cultural programming. For more information, visit

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