An insiders guide to The Nevada City Film Festival | TheUnion.com

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An insiders guide to The Nevada City Film Festival

Recent years have seen an explosion of film festivals worldwide, thousands of them of various sizes springing up around the world. And though trying to explain this phenomenon could take an article in and of itself, a couple of reasons come quickly to mind: (1) film remains the most dynamic medium for reaching our hearts and minds through art and entertainment; and (2) festivals are, um, festive! (When done right, that is).

The above describes the Nevada City Film Festival (NCFF) to a “T”, and we’ve been perfecting the festivities during the past decade, scouring the U.S.A. and the world for top notch, independently produced films and presenting them in the gorgeous and fun-packed environment that is the Sierra Foothills in high summer. Sort of like a great party where some of the guests have made something amazing that they want to show you.

Unlike our other excellent local film festival, Wild & Scenic, there’s no particular theme to NCFF. Instead, (and similar to the great established festivals such as Sundance, Seattle IFF, Toronto IFF, Mill Valley IFF, etc.) our aim is simply to present the most remarkable, creative, inspiring films we can find in well-thought out programs. We show dramas, comedies, romance, documentaries, and animation – the whole shebang. The only criteria are that each film has to be as amazing as possible.

And it ain’t easy to be invited to show at the NCFF. We’re quite discerning, and between 80% and 90% of submissions don’t make the cut. Also, most of our films are short, generally between 5 and 15 minutes, which means that the ideas and images come at you in waves, building into an overall experience over the course of a program. We offer an international menu, and our films this year originate from around the globe, including California, New York City, Japan, Spain, Britain, Sweden, Syria, Canada, Ireland, Chile and even Downieville!.

Sometimes people are so moved or exited after watching a program that they feel the need to sit down and have a beer or a glass of wine and talk about what they’ve just seen. Which is good, because we also provide the refreshments and a place to hang out and enjoy them.

And while sitting there you just might bump into the very person who happened to make your favorite film. Many of the filmmakers and a number of other celebrity guests and judges join us annually at the festival, often traveling great distances to be here. And one thing these invitees all share with the folks who also come from near and far to experience their films is that everyone seems to be having a VERY good time.

If you’ve been to a previous NCFF, you know what I’m talking about. And if you haven’t yet experienced NCFF, I urge you to come by this weekend and join the fun. For a lot of us it’s the best and most fascinating party of the summer!

Jeffrey Clark is the Executive Director of the Nevada City Film Festival. He is also the owner of the Magic Theatre, the charming 62-seat art house theatre and Home to the Nevada City Film Festival, located in the Seven Hills Business District. Thursday Night Opening Night

Someplace with a Mountain plus a tasty sampling of short films including Pioneer, The Star Shepherd and The Other Astronaut.

Someplace with a Mountain is the breathtaking and inspiring documentary, directed by Steve Goodall and narrated by Chevy Chase. The film shines a light on the plight of the people of a South Pacific island under siege from global rising sea levels. This is a great lineup for the entire family.

Most of the volunteer staff of NCFF grew up in Nevada County. With students in mind we kept the ticket prices as low as possible and added a slew of programs that audiences of all-ages would enjoy.

“We Are Wizards” is a documentary that follows Harry Potter fans and the musical acts inspired by the novels. Get out your wizard hat and wand and crank up the tunes!

The worldwide renaissance in animated films is driven by technology but fueled by imagination. From cutting edge CGI to paper and scissors labors-of-love, this year NCFF will screen seven remarkable shorts that offer a glimpse of just how creative, intense and beautiful the animation genre can be. We are extremely excited to screen two animated shorts by Downieville resident and animator Niven Wilson.

It’s always our aim here at the NCFF to slather on the laughs, and this year the humor gamut ranges from a comedy of errors to a slapstick political crisis involving, um….terrorist bears (think “Sarah Palin’s Alaska” meets Samuel L Jackson in “Snakes on a Plane”). NCFF alumni Camen Hodges will also screen his film “Project 5” which won last year’s NCFF Young Filmmakers Grant and Award.

No self-respecting film festival would leave out the almighty Non-fiction/Documentary Film program. This year we bring you two programs that share the true life stories of an aging Japanese gentleman looking back on his life in the porn industry, pioneers of 70’s California hot tub counterculture who reflect on their days of making hot water whoopee, cantankerous desert rats from the ghost town of Ballarat welcome you to their ramshackle pitstop, a grizzled European couple eke out a smoke smudged living in an almost medieval landscape, and a weightlifting Yogi reveals his profound spiritual secrets. Just to name a few. Local filmmakers Jason Sussberg and Patrick Kack-Brice return to the festival with their respective docs “The Sea is a Harsh Mistress” and “Maurice”.

Nevada County has long been home to a flourishing and inspiring music scene with up and coming artists and musicians. We like to bring the rock (and punk, and folk, and world music) to the festival. These films are for our musically inclined friends.

This feature-length music documentary is about the musicians, dancers and people of Mali who every day create inspiring heartfelt music in some of the most difficult living conditions in West Africa. Music In Mali features Djeli Mady Tounkara, Mangala Camara, Lobi Traore, Ami Koita, Zani Diabate, Toumani Diabate, Djeneba Seck and many others.

From the shifting fault lines of Hollywood fantasies and the economic and racial tensions of Reagan’s America, Fishbone rose to become one of the most original bands of the last 25 years. With a blistering combination of punk and funk they demolished the walls of genre and challenged the racial stereotypes and political order of the music industry and the nation.

This remarkable international collection of shorts and one full-length film (from France, Syria, Spain, Germany, Chile etc) tell of the human drama in many tongues. Bridges are crossed, journeys completed, but the travels and the travails, no matter how exotic the locale, are uncannily familiar and deeply poignant.

The Atacama Desert, one of the most arid places in the world, becomes an allegorical field for Chile’s past political problems; it also happens to be a great place for astronomical research due to its geographical location. Two different worlds collide; while scientists are looking to the skies’ celestial bodies for answers, the mothers of Pinochet-era missing Chileans find themselves searching the desert’s sand for the smallest traces of human body remains. Nostalgia for the Light seeks a balance between history and science spiraling around a country that is still not yet able to heal the wounds of its past.

We all know that love conquers all, but this year we have half a dozen films that explore what can go right and what can go wrong along the way. We also have another handful of films that wear their hearts on their collective sleeves. The bitter and the sweet stories of breaking up, growing up, a journey home, and the ultimate bedtime story (starring singer-songwriter Will Oldham aka Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy).

Opening Night

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Enjoy the sweet sounds of local troubadour Brett Shady and Bay Area psychedelic rock band Sands (formerly Dame Satan) at one of Nevada City’s most treasured and historic buildings.

9:30pm-Midnight, Free, Ages 21+, National Hotel, 211 Broad Street, Nevada City, CA

Friday, August 19, 2011

Celebrate with filmmakers, festival attendees and locals while DJ Owen Lindsey spins the best rock and soul classics. Plus a special performance by Th’ Mole AKA Jonah Mociun. Part performance artist, part musician, Th’ Mole plays a laptop like Jimi played the guitar.

930pm-2am, $5 or Free with NCFF VIP Badge or Ticket Stub, All-Ages, The Haven, 228 Broad Street, Nevada City, CA

Saturday, August 20, 2011

The Nevada City Film Festival Comedy Show returns this year with the wickedly funny Brent Weinbach (Lopez Tonight, Comedy Central, FunnyOrDie.com) Brendan Walsh (Conan, Jimmy Kimmel, HBO), Eric Andre (Lopez, Comedy Central), Lizzy Cooperman (NBC’s Last Comic Standing, Tosh.0, MTV) and hosted by DJ Douggpound (Tim & Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!). Local comedy group Best Friends Group opens the show.

10pm-Midnight, $15, Ages 16+, The Miners Foundry 325 Spring Street, Nevada City CA

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Enjoy the West African beats of The System Krush house band plus special guests and DJs.

930pm-2am, $5 or Free with NCFF VIP Badge or Ticket Stub, All-Ages, The Haven, 228 Broad Street, Nevada City, CA