8th Annual Napa Valley Film Festival Kicked Off with Green Book and more

A beautiful dusk sky illuminated over a crowded line up at the Historic Uptown Theater in Downtown Napa as patrons waited for the opening screening of the movie Green Book, Directed by Peter Farrelly, written by Nick Vallelonga and Brian Hayes Currie and starring Viggio Mortensen and Maershala Ali.  Actor Paul Sloan, who is friends with the key character and played a small part in the film attended the red-carpet celebration.

Napa Mayor Jill Techtel, welcomed the full theater of attendees and asked all locals to stand up.  She then anointed the Napa residents, ambassadors of the film festival and told the out of town guests to seek answers to their questions from the people standing.  Screenwriters Vallelonga and Currie came out on stage and gave a quick preview of the movie.

Green Book is based on a true story of Vallelonga’s father, Tony Lip, played by Mortensen about an Italian-American night club bouncer in the early 1960’s hired to drive Dr. Don Shirley, a world-class black pianist on a two-month concert tour into the deep south.  The juxtaposition of a white man, rough around the edges driving a black sophisticated gentleman during a time in history when roles were usually reversed created a storyline filled with humor, compassion, compromise and life skills each would learn from the other.  Part road trip and part slice of life, the Green Book brilliantly marries the two characters into a friendship where race is set aside.  Equally compelling about the movie is the musical score by composer Chris Bower, an accomplished classical pianist himself as well as a jazz artist.  Actor Maershala had to learn the piano for his part, but most of the hand scenes were that of Bower.  The music was simply amazing.

Combsville AVA Vinters Steve Reynolds and John Caldwell

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Valleglonga said he always wanted to turn his father’s story into a film.  He approached his long-time friend, Currie and told him the story.

“It took 60-years of friendship to make this film,” said Currie.

“It’s been an emotional and surreal experience,” added Valleglonga.

This is definitely a film worth seeing again and again. Another showing will be held at 5:30 p.m. at the Cameo Cinema in St. Helena on Saturday.

Following the Green Book, the film Grace was presented at the Uptown Theater.  Attending the Red-Carpet line up was director Devin Adair and actor Tate Donovon.  Another must see movie about two people at odds with each other, but discover essential truths in their lives that they have both been trying to avoid.

The opening night concluded with the Patrons Party at Italics Wines.  Vintner Steve Reynolds and family welcomed guests to their colorful cave where gourmet food and fine wines were served along with Reynolds and Company’s new Penta Tequila. Many A-listers, movie executives and key supporters of the Napa Film Fest were in attendance.  Actor William Richtner made the rounds promoting his film Cold Brook, which will be showing at the Uptown Theater Thursday night at 8:30 p.m., 5:15 p.m. at the Acacia Barn in St. Helena Friday and 9:30 a.m. at Charles Krug Winery on Sunday.

The Napa Valley Film Festival continues through Sunday, November 11, 2018.  For tickets and more information visit, www.napavalleyfilmfest.org.


Story & Photos Courtesy of Kari Ruel of Napa Valley Life Magazine