Newport Beach Film Festival Takes April by Storm

If you thought you had to go to Park City or Cannes to see a quality film festival, well, you are right. But those places are far and plane tickets are expensive, which is why the Newport Beach Film Festival, starting April 20, is your best option (and actually a contender for serious festivals) in terms of a week-long experience of a bunch of independent films, parties and promotions.
Now when I say a of bunch films, I’m not joking. The Newport Beach Film Festival features over 350 films from almost 40 different countries. There will be 15 spotlight films, most of which feature galas afterward sponsored by Newport restaurants and Level Vodka. The festival also offers a family and youth showcase, an extensive short-film selection, a puppetry spotlight and four days of free seminars for up-and-coming filmmakers.
All of the spotlight films are respectable and worth seeing, but also possibly too expensive and formal for students. There are, however, many exciting nonspotlight films, which will appeal to the students’ budgets and sensibilities.
‘Neo Ned,’ directed by Van Fischer and playing April 21 at the Edwards Island Cinemas, if executed well, may be one of the more interesting movies in recent years. It chronicles a love story between a Neo-Nazi who falls in love with an African-American woman who believes she is the reincarnation of Adolf Hitler. Antics ensue.
Australian film ‘The Proposition’ is another movie that has a good deal of buzz surounding it. Written by songwriter Nick Cave, ‘The Proposition’ is a violent Aussie Western set in 1880 and stars Guy Pierce. It airs Saturday, April 22.
It is odd that ‘The Great New Wonderful’ isn’t a showcase, but nice for students. Also on April 22, this dark comedy chronicles five stories one year after Sept. 11 in New York City. The cast is top-notch with Maggie Gyllenhaal, Tony Shaloub, Olympia Doukakis, Stephen Colbert and Will Arnet.
‘Art School Confidential’ will most likely appeal to or disgust studio art majors here at UCI. Directed by Terry Zuigoff (‘Ghost World,’ ‘Crumb’) this film follows a young art student who ‘gets embroiled in a murder that makes him a celebrity for his artistry.’ The film stars Max Minghella, John Malkovich and Angelica Houston.
All students who love homemade films should definitely check out ‘Raiders of the the Lost Ark: The Adaptation.’ There was a bit of news coverage about this film when it was made. Three 12-year-old boys filmed an almost shot-by-shot remake of the Spielberg classic over the course of seven years after they saw it in 1982.
As for the spotlights, there are several interesting films if you are willing to raise the capital.
Opening night features ‘Neverwas,’ a drama-mystery, being screened on April 20 at Edwards Big Newport. It stars Aaron Eckhart as a psychiatrist who leaves his practice to work at an institution where his father wrote a popular children’s novel. It is the first feature film for writer-director Joshua Michael Stern
A gala reception will follow at Bloomingdale’s courtyard in Fashion Island, features acclaimed Newport Beach restaurants, hosted by Level Vodka, Karl Strauss Beer Garden and wine courtesy of J.W. Destsch Ltd. The event price is $125.
Another exciting showcase is the comedy ‘The Amateurs’ written and directed by Michael Traeger and staring an all-star cast with Jeff Bridges, Ted Danson, Tim Blake Nelson, Joe Pantoliano and Jeanne Tripplehorn. ‘The Amateurs’ follows Bridges’ character who deals with going through a midlife crisis by gathering his fellow small-towners to make a pornographic film.
Finally, ‘The Illusionist’ is the final spotlight for the festival, staring Edward Norton in one of two films this season as a lead after a three-year hiatus. Paul Giamatti and Jessica Biel also star. Directed by Neil Burger, this romantic thriller is set in 1900 Vienna. Norton plays a stage magician who has been pitted against power-hungry Crown Prince Leopold and Inspector Uhi. Both men desire Duchess Sophie Von Teschen. When the unthinkable happeneds to Teschen, Eisenheim sets out to prove Leopold is the guilty party.
The Youth Shorts features films by filmmakers 18-years-old and younger and is sponsored by Volcom. Will Ferrel is the 2006 honorary chair of the youth division. It airs April 21 at 6 p.m. at the Lido Theater and Saturday April 22 and at 1 p.m. in the Edwards Island Cinemas.
‘I’m excited to be a part of the Newport Beach Film Festival. It’s such a great opportunity for young adults to participate in. There is a lot of great talent and passion out there in today’s teenagers and I am really looking forward to seeing the productions that they have created,’ Ferrel said.
The topics of these youth shorts are as varied as the spotlight films, featuring everything from a musical about getting your first B at Harvard, to being Marilyn Monroe’s long-lost son, to growing up as a child solider in Sierra Leonne.
Despite being kind of expensive, the Newport Beach Film Festival is giving back with four days of free seminars with respected members of the filmmaking community, sponsored by the Newport Beach Arts Commission
On April 22, Newport Beach Public Library hosts a day full of seminars focusing on screenwriting acting, directing and film composing.
The library will also hold two different seminars April 23, which focus on benefiting those who are young or new filmmakers. The seminar ‘Science on the Screen’ hopes to educate audience members on the benefit of a new law which allows filmmakers to gain access to secrets of the scientific community in order to get kids interested in the sciences.
At 2 p.m., ‘Putting it All Together’ features high-profile producers speaking about the importance and intricacies of possibly the most important behind-the-scenes film profession.
On April 23 at OCMA several more seminars with a focus on family films, screenwriting and yet another filmmakers panel.
Finally, Newport Beach Public Library will host the last of these free seminars on April 28 at 10 a.m., entitled ‘Filmmaker Forum,’ a casual event focused on networking, in which filmmakers and film industry professionals and film festival programmers can meet in a relaxed setting.
Any information on times and locations for the festival can be found at