Bigger, better, more—that's the mantra for this year's Napa Valley Film Festival. Cofounder Brenda Lhormer is determined to put the kibosh on any possibility of a second-year slump for the annual event, which descends on the valley Nov. 7–11. "We're coming out of the gate stronger," she says, "more excited, and equally as ambitious as last year."
It's a tall order for the
Bottle Shock brood (Lhormer and husband Marc produced the film in 2008), but fueled by Lhormer's energy, they seem poised to pull it off. From the far-out and fabulous to the much-hyped mainstream, there's something for every type of film fiend in this year's lineup.
Only in Napa would a world premiere about the grueling climb to master sommelier be considered a coup. Somm, which kicks off the fest at the Napa Valley Opera House, tells the true tale of four wannabe sommeliers sniffing and slurping their way to the finish line.
Indie cinephiles will head straight to the Lounge at Hatt Hall in downtown Napa for some of the edgiest if not most obscure film fare around. There's the docu-feature The Final Member, which chronicles the unfolding saga of one man's quest to create a penis museum. For those who prefer some sci-fi with their screen talk, there's The History of Future Folk, a musical rhapsody set on the planet Hondo. Round out the doom with some gloom at It's a Disaster, where a mundane couples' brunch-a-thon turns turbulent when death's door comes knocking.
For star seekers hoping to bump elbows with A-listers, expected attendees include theater and film vet Alan Cumming (Spy Kids), 30 Rock's James Marsden, and Imogen Poots (Filth). Each will be honored during Saturday night's tribute program, hosted by Access Hollywood's Billy Bush. Other celebs expected to walk the red carpet are Heather Morris (Glee), Garret Dillahunt (Raising Hope) and Olympia Dukakis.
Perhaps the fest's most inspirational screening is Getting Up: The Tempt One Story, about famed LA graffiti artist and activist Tony "Tempt" Quan, who re-learned to create art with a literal blink of his eye, following an ALS diagnosis, which left his eyes as his only moveable part.
Also making its premiere during the NVFF is the opening of the Century, a 12-theater cineplex which will show sneak previews on Nov. 8 and open to the general public on Nov. 9.
If the mere mention of such talk makes the eyes twitch, Silo's hosts a "Panels and Conversations" series. Pitch your film at the "Make Your Pitch" session on Friday. Follow that up with the "Critics' Panel" on Sunday hosted by big kahuna critic Leonard Maltin, who is also president of the festival jury. If you're feeling brazen, schmooze your way into Round Pound's film industry mixer on Friday.
Last year on opening night Lhormer proclaimed, "We hope to be bigger than Sundance!" In the meantime, Napa watches the story unfold, onscreen and off.