The Parties Are Over – Till Next Year

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Film Festival-goers gather at the Lido for the closing night showing and after-party. Photo by Jim Collins

You can’t judge a film festival by its parties – or can you?

The Newport Beach Film Festival just ended it’s 13th annual affair with 500 films crammed into seven days of cinematic and sensory overload, which is just what film fans crave.

Those seven days (technically eight if you count the Thursday opening night and go through the following Thursday night) included after-parties of all shapes and sizes, a bonus for those with tickets to the nightly spotlight screenings.

The festival kicked off on Thursday, April 28, with the world premiere of “Jewtopia” at the Big Newport Theatre in Fashion Island, which can accommodate around 1,000 cinephiles. Based on a play of the same name, Jewtopia was a comedic romp through all things Jewish. Director Bryan Fogel introduced the film by saying he had envisioned it premiering in a Jewish enclave such as New York or Los Angeles. Who knew, he said, that Orange County would end up embracing this film.

The cast and crew attended the screening, and most made it to the huge after party in the Bloomingdale’s courtyard. And what a party it was: food from 35 restaurants, bars pouring absolute Vodka drinks and Stella Artois beer, and entertainment from the talented cast of “Million Dollar Quartet” currently running at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts.

The party was packed and lasted far into the night (and morning), but another after-party loomed Friday night (at the Newport Lexus dealership) and again Saturday night (at Equinox). The Equinox festivities featured Jack Mack and the Heart Attacks performing 80s hits from a stage floating in the health club’s large swimming pool.

One notable event lacked a party yet was worth celebrating—the reopening of the Port Theatre in Corona del Mar. The theatre doesn’t actually open to the public for another two months, but the Festival was allowed to offer a sneak peek via industry seminars on Saturday and Sunday with guest screenwriters and directors discussing their craft. The theatre incorporates luxury seating and a retro-modern décor, with a lobby concessions area that boasts a nautical theme.

The Tuesday night Irish spotlight film, “Songs for Amy,” was followed by an after-party at – where else – Muldoon’s Irish Pub. The cast and crew attended the party, and the band featured in the film performed live.

The Newport Beach Film Festival saved the best for last. The closing film, “Shanghai Calling” (at the Lido Theatre), turned out to be a charming, extremely well-made, superbly acted movie that deserves to have major distribution. The cast and crew held a Q&A session after the film, and then attendees made their way outside for more food and libations to celebrate another successful year for the Newport Beach Film Festival.

Friday, the festival jury awards were announced.

“Apartment in Athens,” a drama of Nazi-occupied Greece, won four of the awards: for best feature film, best actor (Gerasimos Skiadaresis), best screenplay (Ruggero Dipaola and Heidrun Schleef), and best cinematographer (Vladan Radovic).

“The First Day I Saw Your Heart,” a French romance, won two awards, for best actress (Melanie Laurent) and best director (Jennifer Devoldère).

Best feature documentary went to “The War Around Us,” about the Gaza Strip. “Lioness” won for for best short documentary,

“The Maker” won the award for best short animation, while “Interview” was named best narrative short.

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