Take 22: Annual Newport Beach Film Festival Returns Oct. 21-28

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Newport Beach Film Festival marquee / photo by Chris Trela

The Newport Beach Film Festival is back!

Last year the Film Festival – which normally screens 350 films during an eight-day period in April – shifted to an online event in the fall, but now the festival returns to an in-person cinematic celebration October 21-28.

“I am tremendously excited to be back hosting the festival in theaters so audiences can see films on a big screen the way they are supposed to be seen,” said Gregg Schwenk, the Newport Beach Film Festival’s President and CEO, and the co-founder along with Todd Quartararo, who handles the public relations and marketing for the festival.

NB Film Fest Co-Founders Gregg Schwenk and Todd Quartararo / photo by Charles Weinberg

“This has been very challenging times for us,” noted Schwenk. “It’s been two and a half years since our last in-person festival. Last year when the pandemic hit we lost 80 percent of our staff, and in 2020 we lost 90 percent of our revenue. It’s been devastating on the film festival, but we took the last year to build and grow and bounce back. The support from the community has been tremendous.”

This 22nd edition of the Newport Beach Film Festival will showcase over 300 films from around the world. The Festival will host nightly special events, world premieres, awards contenders, red carpet galas and compelling conversations with filmmakers.

Highlights include the 2021 Festival Honors program celebrating Variety’s “10 Actors to Watch,” International Spotlights (UK, Ireland, Mexico, French, Swedish, Italian, German, Czech, Spain, Japan, Korea, China, Australia, Vietnam) and Special Programs (Action Sports, Art, Architecture + Design, Culinary, Environmental, Music Film Series).

Films will screen at THE LOT in Fashion Island, The New Port Theater in Corona del Mar, Edwards Big Newport, Starlight Triangle Cinemas in Costa Mesa, and Regency South Coast Village in Santa Ana, across from South Coast Plaza.

On Thursday, Oct. 21 at 7 p.m., the Film Festival will kick off its eight-day run with the World Premiere of “Never Catch Pigeons: and Eleven More Hard Lessons from Mr. Paul Van Doren” at Edwards Big Newport (300 Newport Center Drive).

Scene from the Vans documentary

The documentary tells the remarkable and honest story of Paul van Doren, a self-made innovator who started Vans, the iconic shoe and lifestyle brand that inspired a global skateboarding revolution.

Directed by NBFF alumni Doug Pray, the film features Paul van Doren, Tony Alva, Christian Hosoi, Ray Barbee, Brighton Zeuner, Hana Beaman, Dylan Graves, Steve Van Doren, Cheryl Van Doren, Kathy Van Doren, Paul Jr. Van Doren, and Janie Van Doren.

Following the screening, the Festival will host a Street Party presented by VANS in the parking lot behind Edwards Big Newport. The event will feature a hosted bar by Tito’s Handmade Vodka and live entertainment.

“Historically, the festival has been able to bring to Southern California the best in contemporary filmmaking that have a global perspective but also a local focus,” explained Schwenk. “Being able to open with the documentary on the founder of
Vans—there’s no more local story to Orange County than that of Vans shoes. We also have a record number of local films this year.”

Another local film closes the festival on Thursday, Oct. 28: the West Coast Premiere of “War on the Diamond” at The New Port Theater. Directed by Emmy and Peabody Award Winner Andy Billman and based on the award-winning book “The Pitch That Killed” by Mike Sowell, “War on the Diamond” tells the story of Ray Chapman, the only MLB player killed by a pitch and the 100-year rivalry between two baseball teams and two cities: Cleveland and New York.

Scene from War on the Diamond

The film is produced by Art Horan, Danielle Alberico, and longtime Newport Beach resident Pamela Lynn Sullivan. Former MLB pitcher and local resident Jim Abbott is a featured interview in the film. A Closing Night reception will follow the screening.

“We are thrilled to open and close the Festival with documentary films that have strong Orange County connections,” said Schwenk.

The Festival Honors Program celebrating Variety’s “10 Actors to Watch” is normally a separate event held in the fall, but since the Newport Beach Film Festival has shifted its dates this year, Schwenk said “now we can combine the Festival Honors with the festival itself. Part of the honors program is 10 actors to watch, who are noted for their impressive performances. We now have a true centerpiece to the festival.”

Schwenk also gave kudos to his programming team, who were able to gather major studio and award buzz films, including “Belfast” from director Kenneth Branagh, “Spencer” starring Kristen Stewart as Princess Diana, “The Power of the Dog” starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Kirsten Dunst, and others from noted filmmakers.

Schwenk said that timing plays a part in being able to get these high-caliber films, but also “we found we have a large contingent of guild and academy members that live in Newport Beach and surrounding communities. Those members are hungry for film, and they don’t want to drive to L.A. They can watch them in their own backyard.”

Schwenk also said he’s proud of the diversity of the filmmakers this year.

“We are still compiling statistics, but about 45 percent of our films are directed by women,” he said, adding that “we’re just tremendously excited to be back. I look at where we were a year and a half ago, so it’s just amazing to be where we are today.”

For Festival passes, tickets and COVID-19 safety information, plus a complete listing of all films in the Festival, visit www.NewportBeachFilmFest.com.

Recognized as one of the largest luxury lifestyle film festivals in the United States, the Newport Beach Film Festival brings an international curated collection of films and vibrant cultural gatherings to the beautiful Southern California coast.

Committed to championing the work of original storytellers from around the globe, the Festival celebrates contemporary screen culture, cinematic excellence and engages the community in compelling conversations with filmmakers and artists.

The Newport Beach Film Festival is sponsored in part by UCI Health, Tito’s Handmade Vodka, Fashion Island, Aston Martin and the City of Newport Beach.

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