Founder of Napa Sonoma Wine Country Film Festival Celebrates 22nd Year

Posted by Karen Monroe — May 26, 2008

SAN FRANCISCO – (May 27, 2008) – Stephen Ashton is passionate about films. He always has been. A former documentary cinematographer in the 60s, Ashton took his fervor for films to the community when he founded the Napa Sonoma Wine Country Film Festival in 1986.Stephen Ashton.Now preparing to launch the festival for the 22nd year July 23 through August 3, the Glen Ellen resident has created one of the most dynamic film festivals the region has to offer. Many say the Wine Country Film Festival is the best kept treasure in town; but that is changing thanks to the help of festival sponsors like Pacific Union GMAC Real Estate which is spreading the word about the upcoming event.“Film is an exciting medium for bringing differing perspectives to people who might never otherwise see them. We look for a unique perspective, and this year’s films are more inspiring than ever,” said Ashton, who is committed to featuring films that effectively bridge cultural gaps. “The important thing is that when people come to a film screening, they are surrendering themselves to another person’s vision of the world.”The Wine Country Film Festival is a nonprofit educational organization designed to bring the region a program of stimulating, thoughtful, cultural and eco-friendly films from around the world. For more than 20 years, Ashton has traveled the world handpicking specific films and directors to include in the popular annual event. The Wine Country Film Festival is a roving film festival moving from town to town. It is slow paced by design, informal and many of the films are good for all ages. Movie goers are welcome to come for one or more days. The festival hosts numerous culinary events showcasing the rich bounty of Napa and Sonoma, premiere Master Classes with seasoned professionals and lots of fun under the stars for nine nights.Ashton is a multi-talented visionary. He is a writer, photographer, cinematographer and editor. His film credits include contributing to the films directed by Oscar-winner Hilary Harris such as Nine Variations on a Dance Theme, Organism and New York: Vision of a City. Ashton’s time-lapse film footage is featured in the landmark film Koyanisqaatsi. He shot a peace film and worked on many national television programs for KQED, The Smothers Brothers show, Wide World of Sports as well as short films and television commercials.“You put on a great show. I love this festival,” said Kirk Douglas, screen legend and Hollywood’s first independent film producer.An extensive traveler, Ashton has served on several Juries of International Film Festivals from Colorado Springs to Bulgaria, Croatia, Turin, Italy and Athens. He is a Charter Member of the Food & Film Academy of Slow Food International, Film Independent, Independent Feature Project and other trade organizations.In addition to film, he is the proprietor of Ashton Vineyards, a small vineyard and wine label in the Sonoma Valley, specializing in Syrah and Pinot Noir.Ashton studied art history, philosophy and international affairs at Oberlin College and the New School for Social Research and went on to study film theory and production at New York University. He studied viticulture and enology at California’s Santa Rosa Community College.For more information about the Wine Country Film Festival, or to purchase tickets for the event, visit To contact Ashton directly, email The specific films and venues throughout Sonoma and Napa for this year’s festival will be announced in June.Napa Sonoma Wine Country Film FestivalFounded in 1986 by Stephen Ashton, the Napa Sonoma Wine Country Film Festival is a nonprofit educational organization created to bring the region a program of the best films from around the world with attending filmmakers who are able to share their vision with others in the film festival forum. The program is designed to engage curiosity, stir the senses, stimulate enlightened dialogue, raise environmental awareness and build cultural bonds. For more information, visit or email Union GMAC Real EstateSince 1975, Pacific Union GMAC Real Estate has thoughtfully matched generations of buyers and sellers throughout the entire Bay Area. Pacific Union GMAC focuses on delivering outstanding quality and unparalleled service to a full spectrum of discerning clients. Pacific Union GMAC is the only firm in California to receive a distinguished four star International Property Award in association with CNBC Europe and the London Daily Mirror for superior marketing materials and client services in the luxury marketplace. A premier, locally managed brokerage with knowledgeable, experienced real estate professionals, Pacific Union GMAC takes a leading edge to new technology applications designed to enhance the client experience. Pacific Union is a GMAC Home Services company. For more information, visit

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