Nevada City Film Fest returns with shorts, films, music and more |

Nevada City Film Fest returns with shorts, films, music and more


Nevada City Film Festival best known as the “Sundance of the Sierra” is excited to announce their strongest, most ambitious and inclusive program in the festival’s 21-year history. Starting on Aug. 27, the festival will showcase 100 award-winning shorts and feature length films from around the world to be enjoyed in person at four venues in Nevada City and Grass Valley, and at home via streaming. Also included in the festival’s lineup is the free family-friendly children’s shorts program in Pioneer Park, a special 20th anniversary screening of the cult classic “Ghost World” with director Terry Zwigoff, the film industry recognized Producers Retreat with special guest Rebecca Green of Dear Producer, a special listening and watch party with musicians Devendra Banhart and Noah Georgeson for their new album, and the outdoor screening of the Best of the Fest in Pioneer Park.

Every summer, Nevada City Film Fest makes art into a party, bringing an audience of movie lovers together with emerging and top independent filmmakers. Last summer due to COVID, the festival made the giant pivot to create a series of drive-in movie theaters in Grass Valley where the nonprofit welcomed over 1,300 ticket holders. They also presented the festival online, organized a free youth online animation camp for 70 students, and raised $5,000k for local nonprofits – Bright Futures for Youth, Neighborhood Center for the Arts, Bear Yuba Land Trust, Nisenan Tribe and the Nevada County Arts Artist Relief Fund.

“We learned a lot last year. This year’s festival is a celebratory blend of indoor and outdoor events, featuring inspiring, joyful, intensely beautiful, and heartfelt expressions of the human experience,” said Jesse Locks, the festival’s executive director. “Of course, NCFF wouldn’t be the same without some wild and whacky visual treats too.”

Official Selections

This year the festival received over 500 submissions from 41 countries, for a total running time of 219 hours, 29 minutes, and 13 seconds. The festival program committee then watched an additional 100 films from other film festivals and film schools to finally narrow it down to this year’s Official Selections.

Some of the highlights of this year’s festival include Friday, Aug. 27’s opening night films – The comedy Language Lessons featuring Natalie Morales and Mark Duplass, about a Spanish teacher and her student who develop an unexpected friendship. The film which currently has a 94% positive ranking on Rotten Tomatoes will screen at the Onyx Theatre. The vibrant and inspiring SXSW break-out film “I’m Fine (Thanks for Asking)” by first time directors Kelley Kali and Angelique Molina is about a recently widowed mother who becomes houseless and convinces her 8-year-old daughter that they are only camping for fun while working to get them off of the streets, plays at the Nevada Theatre. And music knows no boundaries in the documentary “The Conductor,” about internationally renowned conductor Marin Alsop who smashed the glass ceiling when she became the first woman to serve as music director of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, the São Paulo Symphony Orchestra, and the Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra. With unprecedented access, director Bernadette Wegenstein accompanies Marin Alsop to classical concerts around the world, telling Marin’s story through a combination of intimate interviews and shared moments in the Maestra’s professional and private life. “The Conductor” screens at Pioneer Park.

Other must-see films include Saturday, Aug. 28’s screenings of “Almost An Island” directed by Jonathan VanBallenberghe is a cinematic portrait of the Goodwins, an Inupiaq family living above the Arctic Circle in Kotzebue, Alaska, working to transfer traditional knowledge and cultural practice from one generation to the next; “Godspeed, Los Polacos” directed by Adam Nawrot, is the lost story of the world’s greatest road trip that culminates in the record-breaking first descent of the world’s deepest canyon, and finds the kayakers in Soviet cross-hairs after they leverage their new found fame to fight for democracy in the Eastern Bloc; and the beautiful narrative “The Dog Who Wouldn’t Be Quiet” directed by Ana Katz, tells the story of an ordinary man in his thirties devoted to his loyal dog and working in a slew of temporary jobs. As he moves fitfully through adulthood, he navigates love, loss and fatherhood – until the world is rocked by a sudden catastrophe, upending his already turbulent life.

Saturday’s centerpiece is the 2001 cult classic “Ghost World,” directed by Terry Zwigoff and starring Thora Birch, Scarlett Johansson, and Steve Buscemi. Based on the 1993-1997 comic book of the same name by Daniel Clowes, with a screenplay co-written by Clowes and Zwigoff, the story focuses on the lives of Enid (Birch) and Rebecca (Johansson), two teenage outsiders in an unnamed American city. They face a rift in their relationship as Enid takes interest in an older man named Seymour (Buscemi), and becomes determined to help his romantic life. With acerbic wit, Zwigoff fashions Clowes’ graphic novel into an intelligent, comedic trip through deadpan teen angst.

On Sunday, “Tell Them We Were Here” directed by Griff Williams and Keelan Williams will screen at the Nevada Theatre and chronicles artists living and working in the San Francisco Bay Area who follow a path that is less careerist and more community driven, much like the place itself. The featured artists extend the legacy of Bay Area activism and social consciousness through their influential yet unconventional careers. In an age of hypercapitalism, these artists represent an empowering alternative worldview, one that emphasizes creativity and community over capital. “The Cuban Dancer,” directed by Roberto Salinas, is a passionate coming of age ballet tale, danced between Cuba and the United States, in a time of change, will screen at the Onyx Theatre.

Peppered throughout these features are seven short films programs. Curating and presenting extraordinary short films have always been at the heart of NCFF. Be it through drama, mystery, romance, comedy or some alchemical blend of all these elements, a spellbinding story that begins, unfolds and concludes in but a handful of minutes is a challenge to create and pleasure to behold. Accompany most of the films will be filmmaker Q&A’s.

Throughout the week films can be seen at the Onyx Theatre (21+) and on Friday, Sept. 3, the in-person festival concludes with the popular Best of the Fest screening of this year’s winners and audience favorites outdoors at Pioneer Park.

Special Events

In addition to several after parties, on Thursday, Sept. 1, Nevada City Film Festival will present a special event for festival pass holders – a listening and watch party for Refuge a new ambient album by acclaimed musicians Devendra Banhart and Noah Georgeson, accompanied by short films by Giraffe Studios – in the garden of the National Exchange Hotel. Refuge is a dialogue between two friends and long-standing collaborators, Devendra Banhart and Noah Georgeson, drawing from the shared nostalgia of their parents’ new age cassette collections and their own contemplative and creative practices to find respite and comfort in simple musical spaces. This is music to help sustain a single pointed focus, music for study, music for meditation, or just a soundtrack to find a far away feeling to linger in and pass through. Refuge the album is out now on Friends Of / Dead Oceans.

Safety Precautions

“As always we are taking the health and safety of our patrons extremely serious. With the everchanging world of COVID, we wanted to make sure – depending on everyone’s comfort level – they could watch this year’s incredible slate of films. You can watch from home, at the state-of-the-art Center for the Arts, the historic Nevada Theatre, the 21+ art house Onyx Theatre, and/or outside at Pioneer Park,” said Locks. “We encourage everyone get vaccinated, but won’t require proof. We will be taking everyone’s temperatures before entering the indoor theatres. We will also be operating at 50% to allow for 6-feet between patrons and will require masks on while indoors. For our outdoor venues, we will space everyone out by 6-feet and ask for masks on while in line for tickets and concessions.”

Source: Nevada City Film Festival


WHO: 21st Annual Nevada City Film Festival

WHEN: Aug. 27-Sept. 3 (In-Person), Aug. 27-Sept. 12 (Online)

WHERE: Nevada City & Grass Valley

TICKETS: VIP Pass $195 (limited to 50), Early Bird Festival Pass $75/GA, $45/Student (limited to 100), Early Bird Onyx Pass (limited to 60 and 21+) $75/GA, Individual Tickets (go on sale Aug 9) $10/GA, $8/Senior, Student & Military,


Patrons of the Nevada City Film Fest watch a movie at The Onyx Theatre in Nevada City.
Photo by Kial James

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