Film Fest Promises an Immersive Run

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By Christopher Trela | NB Indy

“Go Deeper.”

That’s the message the Newport Beach Film Festival wants 50,000 filmgoers to embrace during the 18th annual cinematic confluence of filmmakers and moviegoers that runs through April 27 at more than a dozen theaters in Newport Beach and Costa Mesa.

Kicking off with the premiere of “Take Every Wave: The Life of Laird Hamilton” earlier this week, the festival over the next seven days will screen nearly 400 films from 50 countries in feature, documentary, action sports, animation, music video, collegiate, and short subject categories.

The “Go Deeper” theme and logo, a bottle afloat on the ocean with a message inside, reflects the coastal setting and the nature of the medium. “It’s the idea that through film, we have different messages that are being conveyed, so you have to go deeper,” said Gregg Schwenk, the festival’s co-founder and chief executive.

“This year, we’ve been exceptionally rigorous in finding some of the best films on the festival circuit today,” he said. “A unique aspect of our festival that we’re proud of is that we respect the films that are submitted. Every film is watched five times before a decision is made whether it’s in or out of the festival.”

The festival’s longevity is a testament to the enthusiasm and determination of Schwenk, a lifelong Newport Beach resident, and festival co-founder and marketing director Todd Quartararo. “I remember that first year, standing at the red carpet, wondering if anyone would show up,” recalled Quartararo with a laugh.

Audiences have shown up and they continue to grow, as evidenced by the many sold out screenings this year.

“The Newport Beach Film Festival is for people who want a different, more interactive, sometimes more intellectual experience,” said Schwenk. “We can be creative and celebrate things that unite cultures.”

And many cultures are represented in the line-up, starting with the U.K. Spotlight films on Friday and Sunday, which include 14 short films and 12 features by Irish filmmakers, many who will attend. “We’ve never had this many in the festival before,” Schwenk said. And as always, the Irish Showcase after party is at Muldoon’s Irish Pub.

Monday features a Pacific Rim showcase with a spotlight on Vietnam, while Tuesday features European films from Germany, Sweden, Italy, and France. Wednesday switches continent and features films from Mexico, Chile and Brazil.

Closing night is the West Coast premiere of “The Exception,” a romantic drama from the U.K. featuring Christopher Plummer.

The festival also offers a handful of retrospective screenings, starting with the annual salute to Newport resident and screen icon John Wayne. This year is “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance,” directed by John Ford and starring Wayne, James Stewart, Lee Marvin, and Vera Miles.

There is also a screening of “Singing in the Rain” on the eve of its 65th anniversary. That film was the first starring role for the late Debbie Reynolds. The animated film “Aladdin” also gets a special screening to celebrate the film’s 25th anniversary.

Other films in the festival with local ties: longtime Newport resident Simon Chiu produced “Frei Otto: Spanning the Future,” resident Augie Nieto takes center stage in a documentary; surfer Tim Reyes, of Huntington Beach, figures in “Under An Arctic Sky”; and longtime resident Henry Segerstom is the focus of “Imagining the Future”; former Newport resident Matthew Charles Hall directed “The Longest Road”; and several crew members on “The Men” are former Chapman University film students.

There are also film line-ups in action sports, the environment, art and design, music videos and one made by students of several colleges and the Orange County School of the Arts in Santa Ana.

One fan favorite is the annual evening of Disney Rarities on Sunday, April 23, hosted by producer Don Hahn and Disney creative director David Bossert. You never know what gems the duo has uncovered, but it’s always an entertaining and educational program.

And over the weekend, there are free seminars and panels open to the public that explore the worlds of cinematography, screenwriting, visual effects, music in film, acting, and editing.

For more information and a complete list of films and screening dates and times, visit NewportBeachFilmFest.com.

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