Film festivals remain one of the only places where independent cinema can continue to thrive and flourish, as they are at the forefront of fostering new voices just waiting to be discovered. It is this philosophy that has helped shape the films screened at the Napa Valley Film Festival (NVFF).
Every year, NVFF welcomes a diverse group of narrative and documentary filmmakers to screen their films in Juried Competition and participate in our Artists-in-Residence (AIR) program, hosted by Meadowood Napa Valley. The AIR program is an innovative and unique week long opportunity for talented and burgeoning indie filmmakers to network and explore career development with industry professionals. (And the bonus: Meadowood also offers a $10k cash prize to the winning filmmaker in both categories).
To us, there’s nothing quite as exciting as finding a new filmmaker on the cusp of cementing their cinematic legacy. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, it wasn’t the bigger studio films that reinvented the wheel, but rather the indie voices that advanced cinema’s capacity for storytelling. Through truly independent cinema — lower budgets, festival coverage, and dedicated fans — filmmakers such as Steven Soderbergh, Spike Lee, Julie Dash, Richard Linklater, Alexander Payne, Todd Haynes, and Quentin Tarantino were given a chance to prove their gusto. This is what makes independent cinema so memorable and ground-breaking, and makes festivals matter now more than ever.
With the impending announcement of the 2017 Artists-in-Residence films in Juried Competition, here are some excellent, genre-bending films from past AIR filmmakers that you can stream now:
Amira and Sam (NVFF 14):
Directed by Sean Mullin, this film is a multicultural romantic dramedy premised around an Iraqi woman and an Army veteran that come together through their shared feeling of being outsiders within the country. Amira and Sam won the Best Narrative Feature prize from the Jury in 2014. Amira and Sam can be rented on Amazon, iTunes or Youtube.
Set in an apocalyptic near future, 14 year old Astraea and her older brother go on a snow-filled journey in the far northeast to find her parents. Yet along the way, the siblings run into another couple that drastically alters Astraea’s plans. Astraea is a modern day gothic masterpiece directed by Kristjan Thor. Astraea can be rented on Amazon, iTunes or Youtube.
Little Accidents (NVFF14):
Shortly after a tragic accident in a West Virginia mine, the small town is plagued with another unfortunate death of a young boy. Only that young boy’s best friend, Owen, knows what happened in the woods, but he won’t tell. From here, the film deftly balances the many personal stories dealing with these two losses. The film is a heartbreaking, but ultimately redemptive story told by debut feature director Sara Colangelo. Little Accidents can be rented on Amazon, iTunes or Youtube.
An Oversimplification of Her Beauty (NVFF12):
Exploring the emotions, fantasies, and memories that run through a young man’s mind after meeting what may be the lady of his dreams, An Oversimplification of Her Beauty is a highly inventive film. Blending live-action narrative, documentary, and animation to create an experimental, subjective exploration of a roller-coaster relationship. The film marked Terence Nance’s debut feature. An Oversimplification of Her Beauty can be rented on Google Play, iTunes or Youtube.
Accidental Courtesy: Daryl Davis, Race & America (NVFF 16):
This socially conscious, biographical documentary follows accomplished musician Daryl Davis as he embarks on a trip across America to interview KKK and neo-Nazi leaders about why they don’t like Daryl, without having ever met him. This enlightening documentary carves away at the preconceptions people develop about racism. The film is directed by Matt Ornstein. Accidental Courtesy can be streamed on Netflix.
An Honest Liar (NVFF 14):
One of the greatest illusionists of his era was “The Amazing Randi.” This film from Justin Weinstein and Tyler Measom documents Randi’s life, as well as the history of the illusion entertainment industry. An Honest Liar can be streamed on Netflix.
King Georges (NVFF 15):
After the Philadelphia-based restaurant Le Bec-Fin was considered one of the best in the country, it was put under the stress of potentially closing. French Chef Georges Perrier refuses to let his world-renowned restaurant close, thus, going on a crusade to keep the place and his culinary traditions alive. King Georges is the debut feature-length documentary from Erika Frankel. King Georges can be streamed on Hulu.
Right Footed (NVFF 15):
This triumphant, inspirational documentary follows Jessica Cox — a woman born without arms. Jessica became an inspirational speaker and an activist for those who have disabilities, all the while learning how to drive a car and fly an airplane with just her feet. This inspiring doc, directed by Nick Spark, proves that no one should set limits on what they can and cannot accomplish. Right Footed can be rented Amazon, iTunes and Youtube.