Mendocino is known for its rugged shoreline, breathtaking forests and fine beers and wines. It’s also building quite a reputation for its film scene, specifically the annual Mendocino Film Festival, which just wrapped up last Sunday.
“Our program director, Claudia Puig, compiled and cultivated an impressive showcase of films from all over the world, and we enjoyed sharing these selections with our festival audience,” said Michael Fox, Mendocino Film Festival Executive Director. “I think it was our best program yet.”
The opening night party was held at the Hill House Inn in Mendocino. The event featured small plates from world-class chefs, local wines, beers and craft cocktails. Filmmakers and film buffs mixed, mingled and discussed the upcoming showings. “This was our biggest opening night party to date,” said Fox. “We expanded with more chefs, wineries and partners. We’ve taken inspiration from the film Commanding the Table, which profiles powerhouse restauranteur Ella Brennan, the force behind New Orleans’ legendary Commander’s Palace.”
Later guests caught an evening film of their choice: Big Sonia, which tells the story of Holocaust survivor Sonia Warshawski (90), who serves as a bridge between cultures and generations while continuing to run her late husband’s tailor shop in Kansas City. Sonia’s shop is one of kind – along with her colorful and exuberant personality, which attracted a large audience to the film.
Another movie that drew a big crowd was Dolores, a film about civil rights icon Dolores Huerta, who worked closely with Cesar Chavez to launch the United Farm Workers of America. Huerta attended the screening, adding another layer of star power.
Other special moments included an appearance from Marc Sondheimer, the Oscar-winning producer of this year’s best animated short, Piper. He made the trip from Pixar to regale audiences about how he studied birds for three years to make the endearing 6-minute computer animated short about a baby sandpiper.
“The Mendocino film festival was one of my favorite festival experiences,” said Sondheimer. “Mendocino is a spectacular place to visit for any occasion, but being able to meet & interact with the locals and other artists in such an intimate and glorious setting was unforgettable. I fell in love with the town, the event and saw wonderful movies. It was also a very fitting end of an amazing journey for Piper – by a beautiful beach. Truly a special experience.”
There were more highlights than could possibly be mentioned. Pierce Brosnan and Keely Shaye Brosnan received the 2017 Mendocino Film Festival Rogue Wave Award for their film Poisoning Paradise, which describes environmental activism in Hawaii.
“What I love about the festival are the intimate venues in a spectacular location and the opportunities to interact with people who are passionate about film,” said Festival Board Member Guy Pacurar.
If you missed this year’s festival, don’t worry, there’s a fall program called Cinema in the Vineyards. This year’s theme is Films that Evoke the Senses, which will showcase films about country living and sustainable farming.
Where to Stay During Your Visit
Mendocino is brimming with lodging options. A favorite of mine is the Brewery Gulch Inn. Surrounded by pine forests and Mendocino Bay, Brewery Gulch sits upon a windswept bluff overlooking the rugged Mendocino coast. With just 10 rooms, as well as the 700-square foot Serenity Cottage, the inn is an intimate retreat.
Another recommendation is The Inn at Cobbler’s Walk with a fantastic dining room for farm-to-table dinners, three buildings spread over an acre of land and its namesake feature is an amazing ocean-cliff trail at your doorstep. Also, just down the lane, you’ll find a trail-head that takes you down to the sandy beach at Van Damme State Park.
To top if off, The Inn at Cobbler’s Walk offers a delicious in-room three-course breakfast. “We love home-growing ingredients for the meals we serve, from our chicken eggs, the honey and comb from our hives, the apples and rhubarb for our breakfast crisps, and everything growing in the organic vegetable garden,” said owner John Dixon.
The Inn uses these farm-grown ingredients in breakfast, for their appetizer hour, and in the Shared Table dinners. “Guests love the in-room breakfast service too. They can save the visiting and social time to later in the day over wine, and have breakfast in the privacy and quiet of their rooms. People love the big hot “breakfasts in bed” served daily at 9:00am sharp,” said Dixon.
Whether you come to Mendocino to find inspiration, to see powerful and poignant independent films that you won’t find anywhere else, or simply to enjoy the fresh air and vibrant cultural scene, you have come to the right place. Mendocino is one of the most charming seaside destinations you’ll find in California and beyond.