Nevada City Film Festival all about the hometown love |

Nevada City Film Festival all about the hometown love

This year — its 15th — the Nevada City Film Festival took a look back, and honored the wealth of talent this county has generated, with a lineup that included the return of Grass Valley native Patrick Brice.

"To celebrate our 15th anniversary, we wanted to go back to our roots and celebrate the local filmmakers who are making great films and those filmmakers that are working hard to capture the stories of our community," Jesse Locks, festival director, told The Union.

"This is our love letter to Nevada City," Locks added. "We haven't in a long time had this many locals. It was serendipitous — we didn't seek it out, it just naturally happened."

The festivities kicked off Thursday with the premiere of "Music in Mali: Life is Hard, Music is Good," a feature-length music documentary spearheaded by Nevada City native Aja Salvatore and sound-engineered by Grammy-winner Oz Fritz, who lives locally.

“This is our love letter to Nevada City. We haven’t in a long time had this many locals. It was serendipitous

— we didn’t seek it out, it just naturally happened.”Jesse Locksfestival director

Thursday also marked "Best of the Best," featuring some of the festival's landmarks over the last 15 years, including a video made for musician Joanna Newsom, another Nevada City native.

Friday night, a raucous crowd packed the Miners Foundry for Comedy Shorts, which featured "The High Country," a locally produced and shot TV pilot by Heather Donahue and Matt Herman. Donahue and Herman got a lot of love from the audience, which featured a healthy sprinkling of the county residents who worked on, and appeared in, the pilot. The show, which affectionately skewers Nevada County's grower culture, is currently being shopped for a prospective home.

Perhaps not surprisingly, "The High Country" won the Audience Choice Award and got a second showing at Sunday's Best of the Fest.

Donahue, best known for her star turn in "The Blair Witch Project," said attending screenings typically is her least favorite part of filmmaking, adding, "I love making things, but sharing them is a scary thing."

But, she said, showing Nevada County "The High Country" was an amazing experience.

"I am feeling an incredible amount of love and support," Donahue said. "After much debate in the beginning, I feel like people are really behind this.

"It's humbling," she laughed. "I feel an overwhelmingly great sense of responsibility" to make this a success.

Brice, whose first film (when he was a Nevada Union student) was shown at the fest, was on hand for the screening Saturday night of his second full-length feature film, "The Overnight," starring Adam Scott and Jason Schwartzman. The edgy relationship comedy premiered at Sundance earlier this year and was subsequently picked up by distributors. Brice's first film, "Creep," starring Mark Duplass, was screened at last year's film festival and also was just released this summer.

In honor of the film fest, local artists cooperative DANK hosted an opening reception titled "DANK Cinema," with art inspired by film, "filmic" cocktails, and live music by Strictly Business, featuring Locks' brother, Jaimie.

The Nevada City Film Festival wrapped up Sunday with the Best of the Fest after-party at Ol' Republic Brewery.

"You came, you saw, you voted and the public has spoken," festival director Jesse Locks said Sunday in a release announcing the 2015 Best of the Fest Winners — Best Documentary Short and Best of the Fest, Hotel 22; Best Foreign Short, La Reina; Best Comedy, Funnel; Best Narrative Short, Myrna the Monster; and Audience Award winner The High Country.

The judges "always look for compelling storytelling," Locks said. "These films really stood out."

And 2015's festival. Locks said, has been the "best year yet — it's true."

Attendance was up this year, possibly because there were so many local connections.

"It's great, because we exposed people to things they hadn't seen before," Locks mused. "If people came because they knew someone (in a film), then they came out to see this exceptional film festival that's been going on for 15 years."

To contact City Editor Liz Kellar, email or call 530-477-4229.