In line with the award-winning films screened here during its first five years, the 2016 Napa Valley Film Festival once again offers both Oscar buzz and the promise of an exciting array of new movies.
For five days next month — Nov. 9 through 13 — new films starring Annette Bening, Dev Patel, Rooney Mara, Nicole Kidman, Viggo Moretensen, Frank Langella, Miles Teller, Aaron Eckhart, Eddie Murphy, Vera Farmiga, Virginia Madsen, Isabelle Huppert, Jessica Chastain, Jason Sudekis and Ray Liotta will be screened at one or more of the 13 venues that are part of the sixth annual film festival produced by the husband-and-wife team, Marc and Brenda Lhormer.
In addition to films with Oscar buzz, the daily social whirl and spectacular late-night parties, this year’s festival is also welcoming screen stars to be feted at celebrity tributes, including filmmaker Lee Daniels (who will be introduced by actor Cuba Gooding Jr.) and actors Kurt Russell, Viggo Mortensen, Dev Patel, Chloe Grace Moretz, Glen Powell and Zoey Deutch. The Celebrity Tributes event is scheduled at 6 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 10, at Yountville’s Lincoln Theater.
Just added to the lineup is a private VIP screening of TWC-Dimension’s highly anticipated film, “Gold,” starring Oscar winner Matthew McConaughey, who will receive the Caldwell Vineyards Maverick Actor Tribute, for his outstanding contributions to the art of acting and cinematic story-telling.
Directed by Oscar winner Stephen Gaghan (“Traffic,” “Syriana”), “Gold” is an epic tale of one man’s pursuit of the American dream, to discover gold. The film is inspired by true events and will be released wide on Christmas Day. McConaughey is best known for his Academy Award-winning role in “Dallas Buyers Club.”
“Vintner John Caldwell is the original Napa Valley maverick winemaker, and Matthew McConaughey is the epitome of a maverick when it comes to his work in the film industry,” noted NVFF co-founder/director Marc Lhormer. “Matthew boldly inhabits each character that he plays on screen, and we are just delighted to showcase his latest film and to honor him at the festival this year.”
“Gold” will screen on Thursday, Nov. 10, at 9 a.m. at the Cameo Cinema in St. Helena. The showing is open only to members of the festival’s Patron Circle and Vintner Circle.
The Caldwell Vineyard Maverick Actor Tribute will be presented at noon at the Lincoln Theater in Yountville. Deadline Hollywood’s Mike Fleming will host and moderate the onstage conversation with Fleming. The tribute is open to Patron and Vintner Circle Members, as well as holders of the Pass Plus. A limited number of individual tickets will also be available.
Focus on films
For fans of the silver screen, the excitement comes in being able to see films just prior to their release date. Those generating lots of interest on the festival circuit to date include:
“Lion,” director Garth Davis’ dramatic debut in which Dev Patel plays a real-life figure separated from his family in central India at age five and reunited with them a quarter-century later. This uplifting drama that the Weinstein Company is pinning a lot of Oscar hopes on also stars Nicole Kidman and Rooney Mara. “Lion” is the story of how a 5-year-old boy in India was tragically separated from his family, wound up adopted by an Aussie couple on a completely different continent, and managed to find his birth mother 25 years later using Google Earth. It screens Wednesday, Nov. 9, at 5:30 p.m. at Napa’s Uptown Theater and at 8:15 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 13, at St. Helena’s Cameo Cinema.
“Bleed For This” is the true story of one of the most inspiring and unlikely comebacks in sports history. It chronicles the inspirational story of World Champion Boxer Vinny Pazienza who — after a near fatal car crash, which left him not knowing if he’d ever walk again — with the help of an incredible trainer (played with critically acclaimed gusto by Aaron Eckhart) was able to get back into the ring. It will be shown Friday, Nov. 11, at 4:30 p.m. at Lincoln Theater in Yountville and at 5:15 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 13, at Cameo Cinema in St. Helena.
In “20th Century Women,” Annette Bening stars opposite newcomer Lucas Jade Zumann in an exploration of the complicated parent-teen bond amid the cultural shifts of late 1970s California. The film debuted to a standing ovation at the New York Film Festival on Oct. 8 and is generating Oscar buzz for Bening’s performance as a bohemian single mother. Directed and written by Mike Mills, the movie also stars Elle Fanning, Greta Gerwig and Billy Crudup. Bening has been nominated for four Oscars for her work in “The Grifters,” “American Beauty,” “Being Julia,” and “The Kids Are All Right, ” so she’s due an Oscar nod this year.
Mortensen leads an outstanding cast as a grizzled rural eccentric who hits the road with his half-dozen home-schooled, off-the-grid children in director Matt Ross’ “Captain Fantastic.” Also starring Trin Miller and Frank Langella, the film focuses on a father devoted to raising his kids with a rigorous physical and intellectual education who’s forced to leave his paradise and enter the real world, challenging his idea of what it means to be a parent. “Captain Fantastic” screens Friday, Nov. 11 at 5 p.m. at Napa’s Uptown Theater.
Acclaimed director Bruce Beresford (“Driving Miss Daisy”) is responsible for “Mr. Church,” the story of a unique friendship that develops when a little girl and her dying mother retain the services of a talented cook — Henry Joseph Church (Eddie Murphy). What begins as a six-month arrangement instead spans into 15 years and creates a family bond that lasts forever. “Mr. Church” will be shown Thursday, Nov. 10, at 8:30 p.m. and Saturday, Nov. 12, at 10 a.m. at Napa’s Uptown Theater.
In the moving adventure story, “Burn Your Maps,” an 8-year-old boy (Jacob Tremblay, “Room”) becomes convinced that he actually hails from the steppes of Mongolia, leading his troubled parents (Vera Farmiga and Martin Csokas) to undertake an incredible family voyage. “Burn Your Maps” will be screened Saturday, Nov. 12 at 9:45 a.m. at Cameo Cinema in St. Helena and at 10 a.m. Sunday, November 13, at Napa’s Uptown Theater.
Director Paul Verhoeven is one of the most provocative and controversial storytellers creating films today. In his latest, “Elle,” Isabelle Huppert stars as a successful businesswoman who gets caught up in a game of cat and mouse as she tracks down the unknown man who raped her. “Elle” will be screened at 10 a.m. Wednesday, Nov. 9, and 8:15 p.m. Friday, Nov. 11, at St. Helena’s Cameo Cinema.
Director Bill Purple’s “The Book of Love” follows Henry, an introverted architect, and his free-spirited wife, played by Jason Sudekis and Jessica Biel. After the death of his wife in a car accident, the architect sets out to help Millie, a homeless teen, to build a raft to sail across the Atlantic. The teen is played by Maisie Williams. Also starring Mary Steenburgen and Paul Reiser, “The Book of Love” — one of the narrative features in competition — will be screened four times (as with all narrative and documentary features) — Wednesday, Nov. 9, at 8:30 p.m. at Cameo Cinema in St. Helena, at 8:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 10, at Lincoln Theater in Yountville, at 5:15 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 12, at Calistoga’s Gliderport and at 8:30 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 13, at Napa’s Uptown Theater.
Also in competiton is “Love Is All You Need?”, which explores bullying, racism, and prejudice in a way never done before on the big screen. Teen suicide in the LGBT community is an issue director Kim Rocco Shields tackles head-on in this feature film where homosexuality is the norm. A favorite entry of festival directors, “Love Is All You Need?” will be screened at 1 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 10, at Yountville Community Center, at 1:15 p.m. Friday, Nov. 11, at Cameo Cinema in St. Helena, at 8:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 12, at Napa’s Uptown Theater and at 5:15 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 13, at Calistoga’s Gliderport.
Another competition film is “Sticky Notes,” the story of Athena (Rose Leslie), a struggling dancer trying to make it in Los Angeles. Athena’s father Jack (Ray Liotta) interrupts her lonely and detached existence when he asks her to move home to Florida to care for him — he has cancer. “Sticky Notes” screens Wednesday, Nov. 9, at 8:30 p.m. at Charles Krug Winery in St. Helena, at 10 a.m. Friday, Nov. 11, at Calistoga’s Gliderport, at 9:30 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 12, at Napa Valley College and at 8:30 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 13, at Lincoln Theater in Yountville.
On of the highlights of the closing day is a new political thriller, “Miss Sloane.” It stars Jessica Chastain as a political lobbyist on the brink of burnout who tries to push gun-control measures in America. Its supporting cast features two screen veterans, John Lithgow and Sam Waterston. The film is directed by John Madden, who rose to prominence in America with his 1998 film “Shakespeare in Love,” which won the Oscar for Best Picture. “Miss Sloane” screens at 5:15 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 13, at Lincoln Theater in Yountville.
Sponsored by Anchor Distilling Company and BarSol Pisco, “Pisco Punch: A Cocktail Comeback Story” will have its world premiere as one of the closing-night films on Sunday, Nov. 13, at 5:30 p.m. at Napa’s Uptown Theater.
“Pisco Punch: A Cocktail Comeback Story” tells the story of one of the world’s great forgotten spirits — Peruvian pisco. In the late 19th century, pisco was the most celebrated spirit in the western United States. Calamitous political developments in its native Peru caused pisco to disappear until relatively recently when it made a remarkable comeback.
Directed by Anchor Distilling Company’s Executive Director of Education, Alan Kropf, this beverage documentary provides viewers with an illuminating look at pisco’s history and heritage. Through the eyes of the world’s greatest pisco producers, including BarSol founder Diego Loret de Mola, the film captures the full depth of what pisco represents, and reintroduces the spirit of a nation, one cocktail at a time. The film will be released on iTunes in 2017.
The Napa Valley Film Festival Closing Party, sponsored by Anchor Distilling Company, BarSol Pisco, and Prom Peru, will be held immediately following the screening at the Napa Riverfront Promenade. The party will feature pisco tasting stations and pisco punches from top bartenders from the Bay Area along with Peruvian cuisine. This event begins at 7:30 p.m.
The ultimate celebration of film, food and wine, the sixth annual festival will present more than 120 new independent films and studio sneak previews in 13 venues in Napa, Yountville, St. Helena and Calistoga. Attendees interact with more than 300 filmmakers at screenings, and enjoy industry panels, wine tastings, culinary demonstrations, winemaker dinners, Celebrity Tributes, the Awards Ceremony and Festival Gala, Opening and Closing Night parties and more.
This year, attendees can purchase tickets to individual films ($20, $40) as well as rush tickets $15), in addition to a variety of passes, including the festival pass ($295) and a pass guaranteeing priority access ($645) Log onto www.nvff.org for more information, or call 707-226-7500.