On the Big Screen at the Napa Valley Film Festival
It was a remarkable event: five days, more than 100 films, 300 filmmakers, 150 wineries, and 12 screening venues set amongst the world-class wine, food, and hospitality of Napa Valley. The 3rd Annual Napa Valley Film Festival was a huge success, showcasing independent films as well as offering loads of entertainment with galas, winemaker dinners, and an amazing collection of food and wine. The festival was spread across the Napa Valley in Festival Villages held in Napa, Yountville, St. Helena, and Calistoga.
There were parties, premieres, celebrity tributes, lots of wine, films, and discussions centering on film and the art of filmmaking during the five days. Films included features and short length, documentaries, narratives, and animation. Avid film enthusiasts could see up to four films daily and enjoy wine lounges in each of the villages, as well as dine on sumptuous food at restaurants throughout the Napa Valley.
Venues included theaters, wineries, galleries, and even a hangar. And, since the event was held in the Napa Valley, there was free flowing wine and beer from festival sponsors. Walking into a screening venue at 10 a.m. and drinking a glass of wine or beer felt a little strange at first, but it was ultimately a lot of fun. These intimate screenings allowed for interaction with the film’s directors, producers, and actors during Q&A sessions after each film.
On Day Two, while relaxing in my hotel’s pool, I met the filmmakers from “In Lieu of Flowers.” They had been on the festival circuit for months and were celebrating inking a distribution deal for their film just days earlier. We attended the festival gala together, and I got to experience the more glamorous side of filmmaking. At the screening of their film the following night, held in a hangar in Calistoga, they were available to answer questions about the inspiration for the film, casting, and film production for an appreciative audience.
It was sometimes difficult to select the day’s screenings from such an illustrious array. The screenings were intimate and the films were so heart-felt that it was impossible not to be charmed. I enjoyed seeing films in non-traditional venues, such as in an art gallery and a former hangar. Theater seats were arranged in these spaces along with a selection of beer and wine provided by sponsors, which created a festive ambiance. I loved walking to the screenings and afterwards choosing from the selection of restaurants nearby and perusing the shops.
After spending four days eating, drinking, and watching films, I was exhausted. Fortunately Dr. Wilkinson’s Hot Springs Resort had the perfect solution with the Works, a mud bath, mineral bath, steam room, blanket wrap, and massage that restored my energy. Imagine, two hours of bliss! Beginning and ending each day in the fabulous outdoor mineral pool was a ritual to which I could become accustomed.
Stay: Festival sponsor Dr. Wilkinson’s Hot Springs Resort offers spa treatments and comfortable accommodations as well as mineral pools, a Calistoga specialty. Unwind in the soothing pools after a day of drinking wine and viewing films; get the Works and you will feel like a new person. Dr. Wilkinson’s is conveniently located in Calistoga across from one of the film festival venues and the wine tasting pavilion and a short walk to the other film venue.
Dine: Calistoga Kitchen offers indoor and outdoor dining featuring locally sourced ingredients prepared into a mouth-watering array of seasonal dishes. We enjoyed the cauliflower salad with frisée that was spicy, savory, and delicious and an entrée of short ribs that melted in your mouth, served with sweet potato purée and chard. For dessert we couldn’t resist the German chocolate cake with caramel sauce, which we snuck into the late night film.
Hydro Grill serves delicious and satisfying fare along with local beer and wine and live music on the weekends. The burgers are legendary, but everything on the menu is delicious.
Palisades Deli Cafe is a great place for breakfast or lunch with indoor and garden seating. The café offers a selection of salads, sandwiches, and hot entrées.
Details: Napa Valley Film Festival is a five-day film, food, and wine extravaganza held throughout the Napa Valley. Next year’s festival will be held November 12-16, 2014. Passes are available on the website.