Nevada City Film Festival on Aug. 28-Sept. 4 features virtual screenings, outdoor drive-in

Despite COVID-19’s best attempts, the show must go on for the Nevada City Film Festival which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year.

The nonprofit Nevada City Film Festival will adapt to the pandemic, moving film screenings online and to an outdoor drive-in which will allow for safe social distancing. Online festival passes will be sold for $35, an industry pass will go for $25, and there will be the option to pay as you watch for $8 per screening.

Since its meager and storied beginnings, the Nevada City Film Festival has championed for the odd, the unheard, and the brave. It was dubbed “The Sundance of the Sierra” by Sacramento News & Review and has been a leader in offering support to independent filmmakers and artists, and was recently voted the third best film festival in North America in USA Today’s Readers’ Choice poll.

Nevada City Film Festival Goes Global

This year’s fest will be largely online – with close to 100 award-winning independent short and feature films from around the globe – being offered. Just like watching your favorite film on Netflix, Hulu or Criterion, film lovers can stream films on their laptops, computers or smart televisions. In addition to the official selections, an online pre-party will take place August 26 @ 7pm, where attendees can ask questions about the festival and films, and learn about the first ever Nevada County Student Film Festival launching Spring of 2021.

Films at the Drive-In

Following a successful drive-in experience this summer which served as its annual Movies Under the Pines series, the theme will continue with nightly films being screened at the Nevada County Fairgrounds. Car-hop vendors will be available for dinner items and ice cream for attendees to enjoy in their vehicles.

The festival opens Friday, August 28 with the narrative feature Freeland directed by award-winning filmmakers Kate McLean and Mario Furloni. The film is about an aging pot farmer who suddenly finds her world shattered as she races to bring in what could be her final harvest, fighting against the threat of eviction as the impact of the legalization of the cannabis industry rapidly destroys her idyllic way of life. This naturalistic narrative was shot on real pot farms during the harvest season in the lush and isolated hills of Humboldt County, the mythical birthplace of American weed. Accompanying the film are shorts from the festival’s inspiring “Our Better Angels” program.

Saturday night’s feature Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets directed by Bill and Turner Ross had everyone talking at Sundance this year. It’s a fascinating portrayal of a group of barflies that tests the boundaries of documentary filmmaking. Opening that program are a handful of films from the Late-Night Shorts program, a collection of cinematic curios intended to amuse, confuse and illuminate.

On Sunday night audiences will enjoy Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s 2001 classic Amelie, a lighthearted fantasy in which a winsome heroine overcomes a sad childhood and grows up to bring cheer to the needful and joy to herself. You see it, and later when you think about it, you smile. Also included are shorts from the Becoming the Change program which celebrates those who are challenging the status quo, in service toward a more human and just world.

Creativity takes flight in the Animated Shorts program on Monday, August 31st, and tend to favor not only those that charm and entertain, but also those that challenge expectations and have something relevant to say. Discretion advised: *NOT* intended for viewers under age 16.

Families and their children will be delighted Tuesday, September 1st with an array of shorts from around the world. Special pricing for this night only – $20/per car.

Wednesday, September 2nd’s program films from the festival’s Adventure Shorts and the highly anticipated documentary feature Public Trust, directed by David Garrett Byars. U.S. public lands are a uniquely American experiment that welcome everyone — hikers, campers, hunters, sightseers, anglers and ranchers — to its 640 million acres. But these national treasures and traditional homes of native people are under threat from the Trump administration. The powerful extractive industries, backed by regulation-slashing state legislators and federal agencies, see these lands as a gravy train whose stores of oil, gas, uranium and copper should be unlocked. Public Trust follows acclaimed outdoor journalist Hal Herring as he explores America at a threshold: Will we preserve our public land birthright or will we create a country where even a sunset has a dollar value?

Curating and presenting extraordinary short films have always been at the heart of the Nevada City Film Festival. Be it through drama, mystery, romance, comedy, or some alchemical blend of all these elements, a spellbinding story that begins, unfolds and ends in only a few minutes is a difficult thing to create and a rare pleasure to behold. Thursday night’s program features many of the Narrative shorts from this year.

The final evening of the festival will feature The Best of the Fest as voted on by judges and audience members in the drive-in experience. Stay tuned for additional information and screening times.

No matter the format, Q & A sessions with the filmmakers will be held after each screening.

Sounds of the Nevada City Album & After Dark Parties

Given that the film festival is offering their online experience for a much-discounted cost, donations are being graciously accepted. A line of merchandise and special compilation record – “Sounds of the Nevada City Album, Volume One” featuring Aaron Ross, Brett Shady, Jessica Lynn & Broken Spoke, and 11 other local musicians – will be available for purchase as well and will aid in ensuring the fest can remain thriving now and in the future. In addition, the events will also serve as a fundraiser for the Nevada County Artist Relief fund. Artists on the album will also participate in a series of “After Dark” concerts that fans can tune in and watch online via Facebook Live or YouTube. Opening night of the Drive-In will feature a live performance by Brett Shady.

—Jesse Locks


WHAT: 20th Annual Nevada City Film Festival

WHERE: Online at Drive-in: Nevada County Fairgrounds, 11228 McCourtney Road, Grass Valley, CA

WHEN: August 28 through September 4, 2020. Drive-in: Gates 6:30 p.m., Film at 7:45 p.m.
TICKETS: Online Festival Pass $35, Industry Online Festival Pass $25, Pay As You Watch Online $8 each. Drive-in: $30 per vehicle with two people, $8 each additional person. Vehicle ticket includes Onyx Concessions Pack of jumbo popcorn with two drinks.


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