Films. Kevin Costner. Food. Shailene Woodley. Wine. Mike Myers. Filmmakers. Beautiful scenery. This is how you describe the festivities of a growing festival.
For being only four years old, the Napa Valley Film Festival (NVFF) is quite the spectacle, gaining more prestige as the years pass. Four neighboring Northern California towns — Napa, Yountville, St. Helena and Calistoga — joined forces to present a world-class festival that was serious on the art of filmmaking, but also determined to remind the visitor what their winery community has to offer.
During November 12th through 16th, moviegoers had a chance to watch 125 films in fourteen unique screening venues, which ranged from turn-of-the-century theaters to new state of the art venues, such as The Uptown Theatre in Napa & Camero Cinema in St. Helena (two oldest and refurbished theatres), the Lincoln Theatre in Yountville and the Mercedes-Benz Theatre in Napa.
The films were presented in different categories: Special Presentation, Documentary Feature, Lounge Feature, Narrative Feature, Short, and Red Carpet. Some of the hundred plus films shown — which some had multiple viewings; the extra showings were really nice that it made it easier to catch when you had viewing conflict– included “Alex Of Venice,” “Escobar: Paradise Lost,” both versions of “The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby,” “Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me,” “Match,” “The Last 5 Years,” “#STANDWITHME,” “Half The Road: The Passion, Pitfalls & Power Of Women’s Professional Cycling,” “Robin Boyd: Australian Beauty,” “In Plain Sight,” “What The F@#- Is Cancer And Why Does Everybody Have It?,” “All Stars,” “Growing Up And Other Lies,” and “Like Sunday, Like Rain.” There was also a 10th anniversary screening of the classic “Sideways.”
On Opening Night of the NVFF, viewers had a chance to an early screening of “The Imitation Game,” which opens nationwide November 28th, that stars Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley and is directed by Morten Tyldum. Actor Allen Leech, who plays Tom Branson on the “Downton Abbey,” was in attendance. For the screening of the documentary “Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon,” director/producer Mike Myers and legendary manager Shep Gordon, whose career the film is based on, were on hand, as well as Kevin Costner and director Mike Binder for their film “Black or White,” a film about a grieving widower who is drawn into a custody battle over his granddaughter.
The NVFF had a Celebrity Tribute Program, which honored Costner with the festival’s inaugural BVisionary Filmmaker Award. Hosted by “Access Hollywood’s” Billy Bush, actor Jeremy Jordan (musical “Newsies,” TV’s “Smash”) received The Domaine Chandon Rising Star Award, while actress Michelle Monaghan (“Mission: Impossible” films) was given a Spotlight award. On another day, there was the Variety’s “10 Producers to Watch,” where actress Shailene Woodley (“Divergent,” “The Fault in Our Stars”), who was also celebrating her birthday that day, received an Indie Impact Award.
On the last night, the NVFF also had a festival award ceremony. Below is the full list of The Jury Awards and Audience Awards:
• Best Narrative Feature: “Amira & Sam”
• Best Screenplay: “East Side Sushi”
• Best Ensemble Cast: “Little Accidents”
• Best Animated Short: “The Missing Scarf”
• Best Documentary Feature: “An Honest Liar”
• Best Documentary Short: “White Earth”
• Best Narrative Short: (tie) “Looms” and “Selling Rosario”
• Honorable Mention for Narrative Shorts: “Leonard in Slow Motion”
• Special Jury Prize – Documentary “#chicagoGirl: The Social Network Takes On A Dictator”.
• Special Jury Prize – Features (Cinematography & Art Direction): “Kinderwald”
• Special Jury Prize – Features (Soundtrack): “Song One”
• Favorite Actor: Dev Patel, “The Road Within”
• Favorite Actress: Zoe Kravitz, “The Road Within”
• Favorite Animated Short: “The Missing Scarf”
• Favorite Documentary Feature: “States of Grace”
• Favorite Documentary Short: “Slomo”
• Favorite Lounge Feature: “Bar America”
• Favorite Narrative Feature: “Amira & Sam”
• Favorite Narrative Short: “The Gunfighter”
• The runner-up for Narrative Shorts: “Selling Rosario”
While the SIDEWALKS ENTERTAINMENT crew took part in a few events, what they saw was truly a class act display. Besides the big galas and celebrities, what really intrigued host Veronica Castro was the heart of the filmmakers who are continuing to pave their way through film festivals to make a name for themselves.
“How incredible to meet such passionate filmmakers,” says Castro, “who also take a big stance for raising awareness of important issues such as filmmaker Allison Gryphon with her film “What the F@#- is Cancer and Why Does Everybody Have It?.” I was so touched, moved and inspired (I had to give a hug) by her courageous act of pushing boundaries and sharing a fight that is personal yet effects many on a global level. It’s filmmakers like her and others that make the independent film circuit so transformative. It was nice to meet some of the other filmmakers who traveled far to support their passion projects. So much goes into filmmaking and to learn how these indie filmmakers come together to create something with limited resources and either spent days or sleepless nights pulling there story creations together is really like a dream come true. Definitely motivating!”
The film goers we talked to enjoy the viewing experience and the many Q&A sessions following some of the films, as well as the other highlighted activities that include wine tasting and food from many of the regional vendors.
“It’s been a tremendous 4th year and we are thrilled by the excellence of the films in our lineup paired with equally as impressive culinary and wine events,” said NVFF Co-Founders and Directors Brenda and Marc Lhormer in a prepared press release. “It has been our pleasure to host such creative story-tellers and enthusiastic film-loving audiences once again in Napa Valley.”
The atmosphere of Napa Valley is a perfect location for the activities. From the screenings to food and wine, the NVFF is definitely making a name for itself, and we can see it growing in the years to come.