By Charlie Swanson
Normally, the Napa Valley Film Festival is the place to be to interact with filmmakers and partake in culinary and wine-centric events and screenings.
Last year, the festival went dark due to the pandemic. This year, organizers are relighting the lights — albeit virtually — for the streaming Napa Valley Film Festival running online next Wednesday through Sunday, Nov. 10-14.
The festival is presented by nonprofit organization Cinema Napa Valley.
“We’re a small organization, but we’re fortunate to have a board that’s very active and we have a couple of people who’ve been generous with their time and helped us get this virtual festival up and running,” Cinema Napa Valley Chairman Rick Garber says. “We’ve been able to build a program that we are proud of.”
The Napa Valley Film Festival’s online lineup of more than 60 narrative and documentary films includes several features making their California premieres and a wide-ranging short film program.
In addition to the screenings, Napa Valley Film Festival also presents several filmmaker tributes taking place during the virtual festival. These video tributes will follow screenings of the filmmakers’ work and include a recorded conversation with each honoree.
“They were all extremely receptive,” Garber says of the honorees. “I think that they are excited about getting back out to the public after being locked down.”
The festival honors Irish-born actors Caitríona Balfe and Jamie Dornan with the Spotlight Award, both for their work in the upcoming film Belfast, presented by Okapi wines following exclusive film clips of Belfast.
Actor and producer Harvey Keitel receives the festival’s Icon Award, presented by Mount View Hotel following a screening of the new film Lansky. Deaf actor and producer Marlee Matlin accepts the festival’s Trailblazer Award, presented by Charles Krug following a screening of the 1986 film Children of a Lesser God and the new film CODA. Twenty-three-year-old actor Odessa Young collects the Rising Star Award, presented by Grounded Wine Company following exclusive clips from the upcoming film Mothering Sunday.
New this year, Napa Valley Film Festival also presents three Culinary Cinema Awards to celebrate achievements in storytelling devoted to food, wine and spirits.
The festival honors producer and director David Gelb with the Excellence in Culinary Cinema Award, and screens Gelb’s documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi. The festival also recognizes producer and television host Phil Rosenthal, and presents Rosenthal’s favorite foodie film, Ratatouille, and clips from his show, “Somebody Feed Phil.” Finally, the festival awards producer and host Jon Taffer the Culinary & Spirits Cinema Spotlight Award, and shares Taffer’s show “Bar Rescue.”
Going forward, Garber says the public is about to hear much more about Cinema Napa Valley, as the nonprofit starts to expand its cultural and educational offerings year round.
“We want to focus more of our energy on serving the community, and we want to build an organization that becomes a valued community partner,” Garber says. “We’re excited about the future and we’re excited about what we’re putting forth next week.”