San Joaquin International Film Festival

Facebook TwitterInstagram



  Bookmark and Share  

Festival Director Sophoan Sorn

Sophoan Sorn

Founder/Director Sophoan Sorn inaugurated the San Joaquin International Film Festival on June 4, 2008 at the historic Bob Hope Theatre in downtown Stockton, California. Sophoan's collaborative spirit and innovative leadership led an unprecedented regional interest in specialty cinema and foreign-language films in San Joaquin County. Through the years, the festival has presented unique series such as the San Joaquin Children's Film Festival, Cinema Italia and French Cinema Days, while collaborating with cultural, civic, and educational institutions in the area such as University of the Pacific, San Joaquin Delta College, and The Haggin Museum.

In 2010, Sophoan became Director of San Francisco's Berlin & Beyond Film Festival, one of the world's largest festivals of German cinema, taking place at San Francisco's legendary Castro Theatre (since 1996). Berlin & Beyond also presents a tour series at the Honolulu Museum of Art in Hawaii and other venues in the San Francisco Bay Area. Sophoan continues to impact the cultural perspective of audiences across Northern California. He resides in San Francisco and Stockton, California, and annually attends the prestigious international film festivals, including the Berlinale, Festival de Cannes, and Sundance.


Through the Years




December 16, 2017
Janet Leigh Theatre at University of the Pacific in Stockton, CA

Hear Us Now was the theme of the one-day marathon 9th San Joaquin International Film Festival, calling us to listen and respond to urgent stories, experiences, and topics that are relevant locally, globally, and personally. The main feature was the Stockton Premiere of Dolores, Peter Bratt's documentary that celebrated the empowering and inspiring life and activism of civil and labor rights leader Dolores Huerta, who always considers Stockton her home. The selection also included Erahm Christopher's San Joaquin-made drama, Listen, and Maria Schrader's time-spanning biopic, Stefan Zweig: Farewell to Europe.



Little England

Kahlil Gibran's The Prophet

Janey Makes a Play

August 1-2, 2015
Janet Leigh Theatre at University of the Pacific in Stockton, CA

22 motion pictures, produced in 17 countries, empowered our theme, Taking Chances, with stories of bravery, perseverance, wisdom, and wit, to overcome the obstacles of life. Pantelis Voulgaris’s familial drama, Little England, tells of two sisters on a Greek island, their love for one man, and their future stifled by secrets and tradition. In Claudio Marcone's feature debut, In the Grayscale, a Chilean man who is married with a wife and child, faces the challenging acknowledgment of his sexual identity. In Mark Nikolas’s Nefertiti’s Daughters, we gain insight into the lives of street artists who are fighting for women’s rights and freedom in Egypt today. In Kahlil Gibran's The Prophet - the passion project of Salma Hayek, directed by Roger Allers, and based on the famed and beloved book - we experience the power, the perseverance, and the struggles of the human expression.



A River Changes Course

Hank and Asha

The Great Beauty

January 3-6, 2014
Janet Leigh Theatre at University of the Pacific in Stockton, CA

Fifteen motion pictures, produced in 20 countries, told stories of adventure, history, love, relationships, struggles, and success–relatable on a global scale. We Are Connected was the theme of the festival. Kicking off was the Hometown Premiere of A River Changes Course, directed, produced and shot by Stockton-raised, Edison High School graduate, Kalyanee Mam. In her film, we see a Cambodia today with the modern world encroaching on people striving to maintain their traditional ways of life. Hank and Asha from James E. Duff and Julia Morrison, is about two strangers in Prague and New York City searching for connection in a hyper-connected world. Michael Mayer’s Out in the Dark tells of two gay men living and loving across cultural and political barriers in Israel and Palestine. Paolo Sorrentino’s Rome-based masterpiece, The Great Beauty, takes us into the heart and soul of an older man reflecting on the life he’s lived and the city he’s loved.



Caesar Must Die


Mona Lisa Missing

Golden Slumbers

January 4-8, 2013
Janet Leigh Theatre at University of the Pacific in Stockton, CA

"The 2013 selections include some of the best of recent World and independent American films making their first screenings in California's Central Valley in Stockton: official entries from Germany (Barbara), Italy (Caesar Must Die) and Switzerland (Sister) vying for the 2013 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film consideration; highly-acclaimed winners from leading festivals of the world; first feature-length works from both up-and-coming and seasoned directors; groundbreaking surveys of contemporary societies and current issues. In addition, the festival is showcasing the newly-restored, complete Director's Cut of Volker Schlöndorff's 1979 masterpiece, The Tin Drum.

The thematic strand of the 2013 festival was Life on the Edge. Humans on the margin of society: a boy stealing ski equipment from rich tourists to make ends meet in the Swiss Alps; a female doctor living under meticulous Stasi control in East Germany; an Israeli anti-terrorist policeman clashing with young radicals; a debt-ridden yet hopeful Chinese immigrant mother saving funds to reunite with her son. Young people discovering their identities: a Belgian teenage lad falling in love with his male best friend; a drum-pounding toddler refusing to grow up and to accept adult society. Our planet on the brink: The gifted photographer James Balog capturing ancient glacial mountains melting in moments instead of decades, further proving the reality of global warming. Documentarians piecing together broken history: discovering why Vincenzo Peruggia stole the Mona Lisa; finding remnants of the lost cinema of Cambodia; reflecting on of the fall of Motor City Detroit. Following the heart, finding the art: small-town guitarist running to Guadalajara to join a mariachi band; inmate actors staging Shakespeare's 'Julius Caesar' while contemplating their own personal destiny.These films tell of immediate needs, urgency and bravery. From the first shot to the final moment - these cinematic stories portray unique experiences of living on the edge."
--Festival Director/Curator Sophoan Sorn



A Cat in Paris

Play by Play

April 21-22, 2012
Janet Leigh Theatre at University of the Pacific in Stockton, CA

A festival for the young and young at heart. Three internationally-successful animated films from France in recent years - Academy Award-nominated "A Cat in Paris," the English version of "Mia and the Migoo," and Michel Ocelot's masterpiece "Tales of the Night" - led the seletions, with films from master directors and new talents of over nine nations. Directors of the films in "It's a Small World" shorts program are seasoned talents and promising up-and-coming filmmakers highly-regarded in their respective countries and the international festival circuit - such as Director Carlos Baena and Screenwriter Bob Roden's "Play by Play," which won three awards in the Short Films Competition.


The Sandman

Le Havre

Carol Channing Larger than Life

January 12-15, 2012
Stockton Empire Theatre in Stockton, CA
Janet Leigh Theatre at University of the Pacific in Stockton, CA

Over 1,000 people flocked to the 5th Anniversary San Joaquin International Film Festival for three nights of screenings at the Empire, and - for the first time in four years - Pacific's Janet Leigh Theatre. SJIFF opened with the sensational original comedy from Switzerland, "The Sandman" by Peter Luisi, who was present at Opening Night. Festival founder Sophoan Sorn opened the program with a piano solo performance of the classic "What a Wonderful World," while Director Luisi engaged in a candid Q&A with the audience. A festive Opening Night Party was held at the University Plaza Waterfront Hotel in Downtown Stockton. Centerpiece films were Aki Kaurismäki's "Le Havre" (Finland's national entry to the 2012 Academy Awards) and Sundance favorite "Being Elmo - A Puppeteer's Journey." Other films were New Zealand cross-cultural romantic comedy "My Wedding and Other Secrets" by Roseanne Leang, John Sayles' Philippine-American war drama "Amigo," the 2012 Academy Award nominated "Chico & Rita" from Spain's Fernando Trueba and Javier Mariscal, Daron Ker's "Rice Field of Dreams" about Cambodia's first national baseball team, Yossi Madmony's fatherhood drama "Restoration" from Israel, German-Polish father-daughter story "Winter's Daugther" by Johannes Schmid, and Anna Justice's time-spanning love and reunion story "Remembrance." The eclectic shorts program featured Hallvar Witzø's 2012 Academy Award nominated "Tuba Atlantic." The festival ended on high notes with the brilliant documentary profile "Carol Channing: Larger than Life," a journey through the life and love of a Broadway legend.



The First Beautiful Thing


March 17-26, 2011
Stockton Empire Theatre in Stockton, CA
The State Theatre in Modesto, CA

The 4th San Joaquin International Film Festival opened with Italy's official entry to the 2011 Oscars, "The First Beautiful Thing" by Paolo Virzi. Special screenings included Peru's 2011 Oscar bid "Undertow," Israel's 2011 Oscar bid "The Human Resources Manager," the lauded documentary profile "Bhutto," Tribeca favorite "Road, Movie" and the Oscar-nominated animated feature "The Illusionist." The Closing Night film was Ralf Huettner's road movie "Vincent Wants to Sea."



Fantastic Mr Fox

The Call of the Wild

Saturday, May 1, 2010
Stockton Empire Theatre 1825 Pacific Ave. Stockton, CA 95204

In association with the Stockton-San Joaquin County Public Library, we celebrated the National Endowment for the Arts' THE BIG READ with Cinema and Literacy Day, celebrating the power of storytelling through film arts and reading. Featuring: Director Ken Annakin's classic cinematic adaptation of Jack London's "The Call of the Wild" starring starring Charlton Heston; Wes Anderson's internationally-celebrated adaptation of Roald Dahl's "Fantastic Mr. Fox" featuring the voices of George Clooney and Meryl Streep; "Short Stories on Film", a riveting shorts collection; and the global phenomenon "1000 Journals", with the presence of international director, Andrea Kreuzhage.


The Girl on the Train

Hymen - Shorts 2010

March 27-28, 2010
Stockton Empire Theatre, 1825 Pacific Avenue, Stockton, CA 95204
The State Theatre, 1307 J Street, Modesto, CA 95354

We opened an invigorating Spring 2010 season with the 2nd French Cinema Days, a captivating rendez-vous with new, celebrated and award-winning works from France and beyond! Featuring: New French Shorts 2010 with new short films from emerging directors making international and American premieres; a special screening of Philippe Lioret's 10-time French Academy Award-nominated drama "Welcome"; the Spotlight film presentation of "The Girl on the Train" from master director André Téchiné; and the presence of Parisian writer-director, Cédric Prévost.


The Secret of Kells

Walt and El Grupo

The Young Victoria

February 19-27, 2010

Stockton Empire Theatre, 1825 Pacific Avenue, Stockton, CA 95204
The State Theatre, 1307 J Street, Modesto, CA 95354

The 3rd San Joaquin International Film Festival took place February 19-27, 2010 in the homebase of Stockton and two days in Modesto. The Academy Award-nominated animated film "The Secret of Kells" by Irish animator Tomm Moore opened the festival. Centerpiece was "The Messenger" starring Woody Harrelson. "The Young Victoria" starring Emily Blunt drew record crowds at The State Theatre. "Walt & El Grupo", by Director Theodore Thomas (alumnus of the University of the Pacific) and Producer Kuniko Okubo, closed the festival.


Celtic Family Festival

Saturday, February 13, 2010

The Haggin Museum at Victory Park, 1201 N. Pershing Avenue, Stockton, CA 95203

In conjunction with SJIFF3 Opening Night film "The Secret of Kells," The Haggin Museum presented Celtic Family Festival on Saturday, February 13th, 1:30-4:00 p.m. as part of its 2nd Saturdays for Families series. The event featured storytelling, games, dance, "manuscript" illumination and other hands-on art activities focusing on Celtic arts and culture Featuring music by Black Irish Band and guest animator-director Joaquin Baldwin.



Love of Siam

Thursday, December 10, 2009 at 7:00PM
Holiday Film: LOVE OF SIAM

Pacific Theatre, University of the Pacific 3601 Pacific Ave. Stockton, CA 95211

We celebrated the Holiday Season with a special screening of Love of Siam, the groundbreaking teen love story that became of Thailand's biggest box office hits and Thailand's national entry to the 2009 Academy Awards.


Ver Llover

The Window

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Tillie Lewis Theatre, San Joaquin Delta College, 5151 Pacific Ave. Stockton, CA 95211

Latino Cinema Day (el Día del Cine Latino) featured new and celebrated films from Argentina and México, exploring contemporary Latino experiences. Featuring: the Forum on Mexican Cinema by film scholar Misha McLaird; Mexican Shorts Program featuring Festival de Cannes winner "Ver Llover"; and closing with the poetic, Argentine masterpiece "The Window" by Carlos Sorin, preceded by "Kid" by Miguel Alvarez. Made possible by grants from: Cultural Awareness Programs (CAP) and Associated Student Body Government (ASBG) of San Joaquin Delta College


The Beaches of Agnes

Sunday, August 30, 2009 at 1:00PM - 9:00PM
Stockton Empire Theatre 1825 Pacific Ave. Stockton, CA 95204

An illuminating World Cinema Series with new and award-winning films from France, a nation rich with cinematic tradition and stories of family, romance, friendship, cultural exchange, globalization, history, coming-of-age and ethical issues. French Cinema Day presented: two New French Shorts programs featuring the works of new directors; a special screening of Claude Miller's award-winning drama "A Secret"; and the 2009 French Academy Award-winning film "The Beaches of Agnés" - the magnificent autobiography of Agnés Varda - as the Spotlight Film.


Marcello Marcello

Cherry Blossoms

Para Asia


May 14 to 24, 2009

Screening venues: Bob Hope (Fox) Theatre, the Stockton Empire Theatre, The Haggin Museum, Faye Spanos Concert Hall and Pacific Theatre at University of the Pacific, and the Matinée Movie Lounge

The 2nd San Joaquin International Film Festival (SJIFF2) took place May 14 to 24, 2009, with a glorious world showcase of 21 feature-length films and 101 short films from 40 countries. SJIFF2 opened with the red carpet Northern California Premiere of "Marcello Marcello" at the Bob Hope Theatre with Italian actor Francesco Mistichelli in person who was honored with the inaugural Discovery Award. Fran Borgia's unforgettable short film "Para Asia" screened before the Opening Night film. Indie Animation King Bill Plympton screened his latest film "Idiots and Angels," taught a Master Class and was honored with the El Dorado Award. Rising star Maiara Walsh graced the festival at the screening of her first feature film "Lullabye Before I Wake," while engaging the audience in a winsome Q&A. The distinguished jury honored seven films, including "Cherry Blossoms" by Germany's leading director Doris Dörrie for Best Narrative Feature and Jim Granato's "D Tour" for Best Documentary Feature. The multi-layered, Austrian music drama "Universalove" by Thomas Woschitz captivated the festival as its Centerpiece. Stockton-born filmmaker Jason Turner premiered "Veer," his vibrant film on bicycle culture. Other festival favorites included the Annecy winner "Sita Sings the Blues" by gifted animator Nina Paley, the Filipino blockbuster "Baler" from Mark Meily, the music doc "The Young Romantic: A Portrait of Yundi Li" from Barbara Willis Sweete. Animania, a special focus on the endless world of animation and animated cinema, brought fourth two extraordinary short series and a Family Festival at The Haggin Museum that featured Annie Award-nominated Joaquin Baldwin, local artists, educational conversations, and hands-on activities and crafts for kids of all ages! The festival brought the world’s most celebrated short films and latest cinematic discoveries in A World of Shorts. 14 collections of short films curated by Sophoan Sorn featured winners of the Festival de Cannes Palm d’Or to Academy Awards and Sundance honorees. Many films were national, continental or world premieres. This diverse collection features the work of film veterans, cinema visionaries, student filmmakers, and new directors from over 30 nations. The festival closed with an emotional screening of "Like Dandelion Dust" based on the best-selling novel by Karen Kingsbury, starring Mira Sorvino and Barry Pepper, directed by Jon Gunn, produced by brothers Bobby and Kevin Downes. Gunn, in attendance, was honored with the festival's inaugural Independent Award.


Days and Clouds

Cinema Italia

February 21 to 23, 2009

at the Stockton Empire Theatre

Cinema Italia featured the works of gifted new Italian directors. Opening Night featured the announcement of the first films of May 2009's San Joaquin International Film Festival, along with edible treats and a presentation of Silvio Soldini's "Days and Clouds." Three feature films and six short films lit up the exciting program, sharing stories of family, immigration, romance, friendship, cultural exchange, the economy, history, coming-of-age, sports and ethical issues. Il Film Corto Italian Discovery Programme showcased a rare and riveting collection of short films making their North American, USA and California premieres. New Italian director Andrea Lodovichetti was in attendance, and the Pacific Italian Alliance hosted a private reception at the residence of Mr. and Mrs. Basso. Ferzan Ozpetek's celebrated "Facing Windows" touched many hearts on a rainy Sunday afternoon, while the multi-cultural music film "The Orchestra of Piazza Vittorio" from Agostino Ferrente closed the festival with a bang.


Azur and Asmar


January 16 to 18, 2009

at the Stockton Empire Theatre

The San Joaquin Children's Film Festival opened with the California Premiere of the English language version of "Azur and Asmar: The Prince's Quest," a new film by the acclaimed, French animator Michael Ocelot. A unique, vibrant and dynamic collection of 21 feature and short films from around the world included the vibrant award-winning documentaries "Darius Goes West" and "Going on 13." The memorable World of Shorts collection of 18 shorts included Student Oscar® winner "Zoologic," "His Good Will" and "Papiroflexia." These 21 films have screened at over 300 festivals around the world, collectively. Kids of all ages were inspired through the Young Filmmakers' Workshop, engaged in the Young Actor's Studio with San Joaquin actress Brieanne Jansen, and welcomed directors Kristy Guevara-Flanagan and Dawn Valadez of "Going on 13" on Closing Night.



Nonnas Trip

The Clown and the Fuehrer

Love and Dance

June 4 to 8, 2008

Screening venues: Bob Hope (Fox) Theatre, the Stockton Empire Theatre, The Haggin Museum, Faye Spanos Concert Hall and Pacific Theatre at University of the Pacific, and the Matinée Movie Lounge

Making History was the theme of the inaugural Festival, with its bold collection of 54 films from 18 countries, with many events across the city of Stockton, California. The Spotlight on Latin Cinema included the Opening Night film "El Viaje de La Nonna / Nonna's Trip." In a unique partnership with The Haggin Museum, "Celebrate! Mexico" Family Festival vibrantly celebrated arts, music, film, dance and crafts for children and adults. The Spotlight on Jewish Cinema celebrated the 60th Anniversary of Israel. Co-presented with the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival and the Consulate General of Israel Pacific Northwest, the program showcased the Israel Academy Award-winning documentary "Souvenirs" and the Closing Night film "Love and Dance." Other showcased films were the American Indie "The Garage" by Carl Thibault, John Sayles' "Honeydripper" starring Danny Glover, and Steve McClure's "Rain Falls from Earth" featuring narration by Sam Waterston. Opening Night Party grand opened the restored sky terrace at the historic Hotel Stockton. Two short films from the Youth Video Vision project, "Saving San Joaquin" and "Stage Left," premiered. Valley-born director Erahm Christopher was honored with the inaugural Ambassador Award; and Emmy-winner Almudena Carracedo was honored with the inaugural Spirit of Humanity Award with her film "Made in L.A." An international jury panel selected: "The Clown and the Führer" as Best Narrative Feature; "To Touch the Soul" as Best Documentary; "The Golden Voice" as Best Narrative Short, "My Mother Said" as Best Documentary Short, "My Happy End" as Best Animated Short; "The Drift" as Best Experimental Short; "Aquarium" as Best Student Short; and "The Piano Lesson" as Best Local Short.


^ back to top


Copyright © San Joaquin International Film Festival. All rights reserved.