The Sedona International Film Festival rolls out the red carpets this month. Supplement the celluloid soirée with culinary crafts, art galleries, creative classes and live music.
The scene at the long, sleek metal bar inside REDS Restaurant at Sedona Rouge Resort & Spa felt surreal on a rainy Saturday afternoon in February last year. The sound of silverware hitting plates mingled with cognac-scented conversations about everything from portrayals of witchcraft in indie cinema to the torrent outside. Everyone was wearing lanyards around their necks for the Sedona International Film Festival; some gleamed with the reflected glow of cozy tabletop candles. One almost expected to overhear raconteur filmmaker John Waters make some quirky comment on arthouse cinema, like he did in New Orleans publication The Gambit in 2010: “I’ve said what I want to invest in: Avatar-quality 3-D for home porn. That person will be rich.”
Alas, the “Pope of Trash” was not one of the many people philosophizing inside REDS that day, but he could have been. As one of the headlining guests for the eight-day-long 2015 Sedona Film Fest, he was likely rooming at Sedona Rouge (2250 W. State Route 89A, 928-203-4111, sedonarouge.com). Actor Ed Asner and Orson Welles’ daughter, Beatrice, were also in town somewhere. Other stars that could be spotted twinkling around the theaters and private parties of this painterly place in previous years include Susan Sarandon, Mariel Hemingway, Sean Young, Nick Nolte, Tony Curtis, Nicolas Cage, Rita Rudner and Michael Moore.
Sedona International Film Festival takes place every February (see sidebar for highlights of the 2016 fest), and it’s grown into the largest annual arts-related event in this city famed for its art galleries and shops, red rocks, spangled night skies and spiritual vortices. But it’s one of many arts adventures to be had here. Here are five satellite activities to augment your film fest experience.
Celluloid Dreams and Bohemian Berries
The largest venue for SFF is Harkins Theatres Sedona 6 (2081 W. State Route 89A, 928-282-2221, harkinstheatres.com), a spacious, modern and comfortable cinema embedded in a strip mall half a mile down the highway from an interesting culinary work of art, ChocolaTree Organic Oasis (1595 W. State Route 89A, 928-282-2997, chocolatree.com). This self-styled “Sanctuary where each Being can nurture their Authenticity” is mostly a raw food and vegan restaurant, but it also has an indigenous artisan shop offering handcrafted goods from Arizona’s Hopi people and some South American tribes, and it is also part chocolate factory. The verdant wonderland that is ChocolaTree’s back patio teems with trees bearing everything from pears and pistachios to figs and kiwis, and a bevy of berries from goji to strawberries. Many music and meditation events are held in the garden, along with gardening classes.
Ballet, Branagh and the Frog
Another SFF venue, the Mary D. Fisher Theatre (2030 W. State Route 89A, 928-282-1177), shows indie buzz films year-round, in addition to special screenings of things like the Christmas classic The Nutcracker from the Bolshoi Ballet in Moscow and broadcasts of productions from the Kenneth Branagh Theatre Company in London. A good place to fill up your belly after feeding your brain is the Barking Frog Grille (2620 W. State Route 89A, 928-204-2000, barkingfroggrille.com), where we recommend the cactus fries (battered and fried nopales strips served with prickly pear sauce), the chile relleno poblano, and a Famous Frog Margarita.
It Takes a Village
Modeled after a clay- and pottery-rich place near Guadalajara, Tlaquepaque Arts & Crafts Village (336 State Route 179, 928-282-4838, tlaq.com) brims with two dozen boutique shops stocking everything from music boxes at Sedona Music Boxes and More to obscure European liquors at Vom Fass Sedona; five restaurants (starring Oak Creek Brewery and Grill); and galleries galore (18 spaces, to be exact, including Azadi Navajo Rugs, Eclectic Image Gallery, Kuivato Glass Gallery, and Honshin Fine Art). For some fantastic food inside Tlaquepaque (pronounced tuh-lah-key-pah-key), stop at El Rincon Restaurante Mexicano (928-282-4648, elrinconrestaurant.com), where the machaca beef enchiladas and tiger shrimp chimichangas are saucy and satisfying. Beginning April 3, there will be live flamenco music in the courtyard. If some fine-dining with a French accent is more to your taste, Tlaquepaque is also home to René (928-282-9925, renerestaurantsedona.com), which boasts some superb sherry- and brandy-laced French onion soup, an umami-bomb mushroom strudel, and more than 20 wines by the glass.
Six-guns and Six-strings
The former farmstead of the pioneering Jordan family is now the Sedona Heritage Museum (735 Jordan Rd., 928-282-7038, sedonamuseum.org), where visitors can tour the Jordan home, see the relocated and restored telegraph office that was featured in the 1947 John Wayne flick Angel and the Badman (along with a glut of goods pertaining to the many Western movies made in and around Sedona), and hear talks on Arizona history and arts (including a presentation on theatre in Territorial Arizona at 10 a.m. on February 10). Every Monday, SHM hosts demonstrations in such crafts as wood-carving and quilting. A great way to wrap up the day is sitting on the patio at Sound Bites Grill (101 N. State Route 89A, 928-282-2713, soundbitesgrill.com), soaking in a sunset while sipping a local Oak Creek Amber. The interior is decorated with a “guitar gallery” of wall-mounted six-strings signed by such stars as Stevie Ray Vaughan and ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons, and buzzes with live music at least five nights a week, usually to the tune of folk and blues-rock, with an occasional side of jazz. While you’re uptown, take a stroll through the many art galleries. Every First Friday, the Sedona Gallery Association (sedonagalleryassociation.com) hosts a variety of receptions, and Sedona Trolley offers free shuttle service between most galleries.
Have Some Class... and Wine
Guests at the gorgeous Enchantment Resort (see sidebar) can enjoy exclusive educational forays into creative photography, gourd decoration and painting with watercolors. But non-resort guests, fret not – Sedona Arts Center (15 Art Barn Rd., 928-282-3809, sedonaartscenter.com) has plenty of classes for the general public. Our favorite? “Fun with Art and Wine,” a two-hour class on Friday evenings that combines how-to with drink-up. Instructors Brian and Melanie Gold, who taught art in the Waldorf schools of London for more than 20 years, lead students step-by-step through the process of creating a landscape painting with acrylics, and encourage with pours of Arizona wines from vintners like Sand-Reckoner. The class is sponsored by Vino Di Sedona (2575 W. State Route 89A, 928-554-4682, vinodisedona.com), the city’s newest – and hippest – wine bar, which augments its menu of charcuterie, panini and pizza and its War and Peace-thick wine list with open mic nights and painting classes.
Whichever adventure you choose in Sedona, whether it’s a quiet class on Impressionism or a cacophonous cocktail hour of expressive auteurs, art will inevitably imitate life. After all, you’re strolling through one of Mother Nature’s finest landscape works.
International Sedona Yoga Festival
March 10-13, 2016
More than 77 yoga instructors conduct 200 workshops at this “consciousness evolution conference” at the Hilton Sedona Resort at Bell Rock. sedonayogafestival.com
Illuminate Film Festival
June 1-5, 2016
The “consciousness” continues with this film fest focused on inspiring and spiritual projects, such as Landfill Harmonic (a documentary about a landfill-adjacent youth orchestra in South America) and an animated version of The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran. illuminatefilmfestival.com
Sedona Restaurant Week
More than 25 restaurants participate in this food fête, which offers three-course, prix-fixe dinner menus in three price ranges/levels – casual ($22 per person at places like 89A Agave Cantina and Vino Di Sedona); classic ($33 per person at places like ChocolaTree and SaltRock); and elegant ($44 per person at places like René and Cress on Oak Creek). sedonadineandwine.com
IF YOU GO:
Sedona International Film Festival
February 20-28, 2016
Opening concert: Classic rockers Chicago, Feb. 19 at Sedona Performing Arts Center
Highlights: Screening of the 1973 film American Graffiti hosted by cast members Mackenzie Phillips (Carol) and Cindy Williams (Laurie); screening of James Franco’s new film, Memoria, with Sam Dillon, Thomas Mann and Franco; M*A*S*H star Mike Farrell’s one-man show on global warming; performance by Roslyn Kind, Barbra Streisand’s younger sister; and screening of Gene Kelly: The Legacy featuring a performance by his wife, Patricia Ward Kelly.
Passes: Range from $110 for 10-ticket packages to $1,050 for a Platinum All-Access Pass. Individual movie tickets go on sale to the general public on Feb. 15.
Looking for festival-adjacent accommodations? These three resorts make lodging a fine art.
Situated in Boynton Canyon, Enchantment makes guests feel like they’re living in a landscape painting. Guests get dishes made with Arizona-sourced ingredients at Che-Ah-Chi restaurant, or go haute-healthy with the all-organic menu of Mii amo Cafe, inside the resort’s exclusive spa, Mii amo. $340-$980 avg. nightly rate. 525 Boynton Canyon Rd., 888-250-1699, enchantmentresort.com
L’Auberge de Sedona
In addition to killer creekside cabins, L’Auberge has a spa that was deemed one of the best in the U.S. by Conde Nast Traveler, and Cress on Oak Creek, where artisanal French cuisine gets paired with a selection from the most extensive wine list in Sedona and ridiculously romantic views. $260-$1,050 avg. nightly rate. 301 L'Auberge Ln., 855-905-5745, lauberge.com
Amara Resort & Spa
This Kimpton hotel is stylish and modern, offering 100 guest rooms decked out in original art and colorful accents. The spa is a straightforward gem of Zen, while the resort’s restaurant, SaltRock Southwest Kitchen, shines like a diamond with dishes such as braised osso buco and citrus swordfish. $170-$319 avg. nightly rate. 100 Amara Ln., 928-282-4828, amararesort.com
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