This will be the fourth year for the Napa Valley Film Festival, but the first year I’ll be attending – I just couldn’t get my act or my calendar together enough in years past. This year, however, I jumped on getting tickets. Everyone I know has raved about the films, the venues, the fun parties, the celebrities. It just seems ridiculous not to participate in the Valley’s most glamorous, exciting event, which runs this year from November 12 to 16. The VIP parties are being catered by the Valley’s top-flight chefs and wines will be poured from more than 50 local boutique wineries.
And so begins the countdown: The Festival will kick off on Opening Night (November 12) with a red-carpet screening of The Imitation Game, starring Kiera Knightly and Benedict Cumberbatch, which won the Audience Award at the recent Toronto Film Festival. Director Morten Tyldum is expected to attend the screening, which is following by a VIP bash at the Napa Valley Museum.
The lavish Red Carpet Festival Gala (November 13) will follow the screening of Black and White, starring Kevin Costner and Octavia Spencer. The gala event will enable ticket-holders to mingle with filmmakers and celebrities.
Among the stars being honored at the Celebrity Tribute (November 14), Kevin Costner will be presented with the BVisionary Award by Beaulieu Vineyards, and Domaine Chandon will present the Rising Star Award to Jeremy Jordan, who appears in The Last Five Years opposite Anna Kendrick. The event will include video highlight reels and intimate on-stage conversations with Access Hollywood’s Billy Bush.
Then there’s the 10 Producers to Watch event (November 15), where actress Shailene Woodley (The Fault in Our Stars, Divergent, The Descendants), will receive Variety’s Indie Impact Award and Variety executive Steve Gaydos will have a “Contenders’ Conversation” with Kevin Costner. The following day, (November 16), Shailene Woodley will participate in a Q&A after a screening of The Fault in Our Stars.
Such celebrity events will be packed among a full roster of new feature films, documentaries, sneak previews, special presentations, narrative shorts, panel discussions, and… well, I’m exhausted just writing about it.
Here are a few other events I’m particularly excited about:
- Alex of Venice will mark the feature directorial debut for actor Chris Messina (Vicky Cristina Barcelona, Argo, Julie & Julia), who will be doing a Q&A after the screening.
- Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me looks at the final tour of the music legend as he deals with Alzheimers; the screening will be at the Uptown Theater, which was the venue for Campbell’s poignant final performance. Director James Keach (Walk the Line), will participate in the Q&A afterward.
- Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon will be followed by a Q&A with renowned talent manager Shep Gordon and producer Mike Myers (Austin Powers).
- The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Her & Him will present back-to-back screenings of director Ned Benson’s two versions of a film about a dissolving marriage, from the wife’s and the husband’s perspectives (starring Jessica Chastain and James McAvoy). Benson will be on hand for a post-screening discussion.
And those are just the highlights! The Festival Pass ($295) gets you into all the screenings; to also attend all the parties, presentations, and discussions, you’ll need the Pass Plus ($595). You can also buy a Day Pass ($95), individual tickets to the parties ($75 to $200) or try last-minute walk-ins to the films, which is akin to flying standby. All this and more is at the Napa Valley Film Festival website.