Nevada City Film Festival (NCFF) kicks off its 19th year on August 23 with their most ambitious line up of films, filmmakers, workshops, panels, and after parties yet. Spanning the course of seven days, NCFF will screen nearly 100-award winning short and feature length films, and welcome 45 filmmakers to participate in Q&A’s, workshops and panel discussions.
The event takes place from August 23-30, 2019, at four locations in downtown Nevada City throughout the week: Nevada Theatre, Onyx Theatre, Pioneer Park, and Festival HQ located at the NCFF Office, 110 Union Street, Nevada City.
NCFF earned the moniker “Sundance of the Sierra” for its emphasis on fiercely independent cinema by showcasing innovative, progressive and exciting new voices in film. Each year, NCFF attends major film festivals, collaborates with film schools around the world, reads countless film blogs, and watches the hundreds of films submitted, to narrow it all down to the very best in independent film. From feature-length documentaries to world premiere shorts, NCFF brings in the buzzed-about festival winners, as well as some of independent cinema’s best-kept secrets.
“This year’s Official Selections are bold, bright and beautiful films, that are ushering in an exciting new era of filmmaking that includes new stories told by new voices in new ways,” says NCFF Festival Director Jesse Locks. “This year’s festival is truly for the movie lovers out there, if movies – independent films in particular – are your thing, you can’t miss this year’s lineup, because we’ll be hard pressed to repeat it!”
Named for the second time by Moviemaker Magazine as one of the Top 50 Film Festivals Worth the Entry Fee, NCFF received a record number of 912 films from 65 countries around the world – for a total running time of 429 hours, 6 minutes, and 43 seconds. That is nearly 18 days of movies. And if that wasn’t enough, NCFF’s program committee watched an additional 100 films from other film festivals and film schools.
“Every year we work to create more opportunities for attendees to meet, speak, and interact with the visiting filmmakers and vice versa,” says Locks. “That’s what makes a festival special, the opportunity to watch a film that is beautiful, compelling and inspiring, and have the opportunity to discuss, explore and share with the person who created it. That’s when art and filmmaking goes from entertaining to life changing.”
HIGHLIGHTS OF THE 2019 NCFF
Festival attendees are treated to a very special Opening Night, Friday, August 23, at the historic Nevada Theatre, with the 50th Anniversary screening of Easy Rider written by Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper and Terry Southern, and directed by Hopper. A landmark counterculture film, and a “touchstone for a generation”, Easy Rider explores the societal landscape, issues, and tensions in the United States during the 1960s. The success of Easy Rider helped spark the New Hollywood era of filmmaking during the early 1970s, and ushering in the official rise of independent cinema.
“For any movie lover Easy Rider is a classic music see, and for most folks they have never seen it on the big screen or it has been a very long time since they have seen it on the big screen,” says Locks. “We wanted to honor that renegade spirit by giving the film a place in our lineup.”
Prior to the screening, Timothy White, famed celebrity photographer, author and motorcycle enthusiast, will give a talk on Motorcycles and the Counterculture, where he will share some of his photos, along with their stories, of Dennis Hopper, Harrison Ford, Brad Pitt, Keith Richards, and many others and their motorcycles. White also penned the acclaimed book on Indian Larry, the noted motorcycle builder and artist, stunt rider, and biker, who first became known as Indian Larry in the 1980s when he was riding the streets of New York City on a chopped Indian motorcycle. Respected as an old school chopper builder, Larry sought greater acceptance of choppers being looked upon as an art form.
This rest of this year’s films check all the boxes of what an independent film festival should encompass; from promising debuts by emerging directors to seasoned industry favorites taking creative risks to tell new and exciting stories, and everything in between, including these spotlighted features.
NCFF and the Nevada Theatre Film Series will partner to present a special screening of Ai WeiWei: Yours Truly directed by Cheryl Haines. Ai Weiwei, famous for his large-scale installation work and his dogged social justice advocacy, created a career-defining work in 2015 with @Large, mounted at Alcatraz, the emblematic site associated with egregious incarceration conditions and radical Native American protest. At the core of @Large were portraits of prisoners of conscience coupled with the opportunity to write letters of solidarity to the imprisoned. In her impassioned and powerful film, exhibition curator Cheryl Haines visits several current and former prisoners, including American whistleblower Chelsea Manning, and learns how these letters were vital to their survival. Filmmakers and special guests will be in attendance to take questions afterwards.
Desolation Center dir. Stuart Swezey
Desolation Center is the previously untold story of a series of early 80s guerrilla music and art performance happenings in Southern California that are recognized to have paved the way for Burning Man, Lollapalooza and Coachella, collective experiences that have become key elements of popular culture in the 21st century. The feature documentary splices interviews and rare performance footage of Sonic Youth, Minutemen, Meat Puppets, Swans, Redd Kross, Einstürzende Neubauten, Survival Research Laboratories, Savage Republic and more, documenting a time when pushing the boundaries of music, art, and performance felt almost like an unspoken obligation. Desolation Center demonstrates how the risky, and at times even reckless, actions of a few outsiders can unintentionally lead to seismic cultural shifts.
The Seer and the Unseen dir. Sara Dosa
Set against the spectacular landscape of Iceland, THE SEER AND THE UNSEEN is an magically real film about invisible elves, financial collapse, and the surprising power of belief. The documentary follows Ragnhildur “Ragga” Jónsdóttir, a grandmother and “seer” who has the ability to communicate directly with a parallel realm of elves, or huldufólk (hidden people) – invisible spirits of nature that over half of Iceland believes in. As one of the country’s most respected seers, government officials, businesses and individuals enlist Ragga to consult the elves to learn where they can and cannot develop land. But when Ragga is called upon to be the elves’ ‘Lorax’ and speak on behalf of nature under threat, she enters a political battle to save an ecologically important lava field set to be razed by road construction – just one of the many needless, reactionary projects spurred by Iceland’s sensational financial meltdown in 2008. Through Ragga’s heroic fight, THE SEER AND THE UNSEEN explores the invisible forces that shape our world and transform our natural landscapes, revealing not only what is worth seeing, but what is worth saving.
Carmine Street Guitars dir. Christian Petzold
Once the center of the New York bohemia, Greenwich Village is now home to lux restaurants, and buzzer door clothing stores catering to the nouveau riche. But one shop in the heart of the Village remains resilient to the encroaching gentrification: Carmine Street Guitars. There, custom guitar maker Rick Kelly and his young apprentice Cindy Hulej, build handcrafted guitars out of reclaimed wood from old hotels, bars, churches and other local buildings. Nothing looks or sounds quite like a Rick Kelly guitar, which is the reason they are embraced by the likes of Bob Dylan, Lou Reed, Patti Smith, Jim Jarmusch, just to name a few. Featuring a cast of prominent musicians and artists, and some virtuoso performances, the film captures five days in the life of one shop in the heart of Greenwich Village that remains resilient to the all-too-quickly vanishing way of life.
NCFF features a record 11 short film programs made up of 80 films this year including documentary, narrative, animation, midnight, children, adventure, and more! Short films have always been at the heart of NCFF programming, and one of the favorite and unique things about this festival.
For the first time NCFF will host a midnight movie during the film festival. The chosen film is the highly anticipated comedy horror film Satanic Panic. Based on a story by Grady Hendrix (Mohawk) and Ted Geoghegan (We Are Still Here), the Satanic Panic was written by Hendrix and directed by Chelsea Stardust (Hulu’s Into the Dark). It stars Hayley Griffith (The Drew), Ruby Modine (Happy Death Day), Michael Polish (Before I Wake), Jerry O’Connell (Billions), and Rebecca Romijn (X-Men Franchise). The film follows Sam, already a cancer survivor at twenty-two, as she ekes out a meager existence delivering pizza for minimum wage—and minimum tips—while dealing with an exploitative boss and obnoxious coworkers. When the final delivery of the night promises to take her to a wealthy neighborhood with the chance of a healthy tip, she takes the opportunity to make up for an unprofitable shift. What begins as a quest for cash ends up as a quest for survival, though, when it turns out her customers aren’t who she’s used to delivering to. Instead, they’re a Satanic cult of a very different color: high-society elites for whom worshipping the Dark Lord coexists with country clubs and casseroles.
The Nevada City Film Festival Filmmaker Residency returns for a second year welcoming filmmakers from around the world to participate in either a monthly residency or weeklong producers retreat. Karin Chien, a four-time Spirit Award-wining film producer and distributor, leads this program. This year’s resident filmmaker is Zhang Xian Min, an actor, producer, director and professor of filmmaking at the Beijing Film Academy. Considered one of the foremost authorities on Chinese Filmmaking Xian Min has organized Chinese art house movies screenings throughout Europe, Asia and Australia. During NCFF he will host a program on Chinese films. Also attending this year’s film festival are attendees of the first annual NCFF Producers Retreat including television and film producer Diane Houslin (HBO, PBS, NBC, Sundance, SXSW), film producer Kim Parker (The Last Man in San Francisco), immersive/VR/AR/games/interactive narratives and films producer Vassiliki Khonsari, and documentary film producer Christina King (Warrior Women), who will be mentored by Heather Rae and Diana Williams. Producers from the retreat will participate in a panel during NCFF.
WORKSHOPS AND PANELS
NCFF will host a series of workshops and panels during the film festival on various topics including editing with Greg Finton (Watson, He Named Me Malala, Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind), Creative Distribution with the filmmakers and producers at Meow Wolf, Music for Film, Production Design, and more.
BEST OF THE FEST
The festival wraps Friday, August 30 with an outdoor “Best of the Fest” screening in Pioneer Park at 6 p.m. Attendees can enjoy delicious eats from local and regional food trucks, award-winning beer from Ol’ Republic and the winners of this year’s festival including audience favorites.
Early Bird Festival Passes (ends Aug 1) $99 includes all films at Nevada Theatre and Pioneer Park, VR, After Dark Parties, Workshops/Panels, Reserved Seating and Complimentary Membership, Festival Passes (after Aug 1) $150, Student Pass $40, Individual Screenings Tickets $11/$9,
Advance Tickets available online at www.nevadacityfilmfestival.com, by phone at (530) 362-8601, and in person at NCFF Office, 110 Union Street, Nevada City, M-F 9 a.m.-5 p.m. During the Festival tickets are available at each of the venue locations.
STAY & PLAY
NCFF and the Inn Town Campground in Nevada City are offering a Stay & Play package where attendees who book a reservation during the festival will receive 2 discounted festival passes to the film festival. For more information go to www.inntowncampground.com
For more information or to buy tickets, visit www.nevadacityfilmfestival.com.
Content and photos submitted by Jesse Locks