Film critic Claudia Puig, who took a buyout at USA Today this year after 15 years at the paper, has landed quickly on her feet as Program Director at the Napa Valley Film Festival (November 11-15).
She will serve as a consulting programming director and industry liaison for 2015, and then take on full responsibilities at the beginning of the 2016 festival planning cycle.
Are film festivals the next best step for film critics who leave, or are forced from, their posts? Though he stepped down last year, David Ansen served five years at the Los Angeles Film Festival; Scott Foundas was a program director at Lincoln Center, and a member of the New York Film Festival selection committee, before heading to Variety, then Amazon.
Napa Valley also unveils its competition lineup. Directors of the Narrative and Documentary features will participate in NVFF’s Artists-in-Residence Program, and the winners will receive $10,000.
Here is a list of the narrative feature films in contention:
“Astraea” — When humanity is mysteriously wiped out, clairvoyant 14 year-old Astraea is led by her older brother through the snowy landscapes of a post-apocalyptic America. Astraea chronicles their trek to find and connect with other survivors along the way to the far northeast where their parents are believed to still be alive. Directed by Kristjan Thor.
“Honeyglue” — Morgan seeks out a new perspective and lifestyle after receiving a severe life-threatening medical diagnosis. After meeting Jordan, an artist whose avenues for personal expression far transcend her conservative and stale world, the two spend her last months on an adventurous journey of self-discovery. Directed by James Bird.
“It’s Already Tomorrow in Hong Kong” — After a chance encounter in Hong Kong during which an expat and a tourist seem to strike a romantic spark, Ruby and Josh are blessed with an equally coincidental second date. Unfortunately, the two seem to have found the perfect connections at the most inopportune times. Starring Bryan Greenberg and Jamie Chung. Directed by Emily Ting.
“Jane Wants a Boyfriend” — Jane, an aspiring costume designer on the autism spectrum, recruits her sister to help her find her first boyfriend. As she challeneges the obstacles of her daily life in seeking a romantic connection, often failing, she also shows those closest to her that everyone deserves a chance at love. Starring Eliza Dushku. Directed by William Sullivan.
“Life in Color” — Mary, a failed nanny, and Homer, a floundering comedian, grapple with the harsh realities that preclude them from the success that appears to come so easily to others. The unlikely duo realizes that they can overcome their lack of home, job and purpose if they face defeat together. Starring Josh DcDermitt and Katharine Emmer. Directed by Katharine Emmer.
“Lola’s Last Letter” — While completing her community service, a young woman continues to deal with the emotional trauma left over by the mistake that sent her to prison. As Lola’s camera captures details of her daily routine, the reason behind her resistance to moving on is revealed. Starring Valerie Brandy. Directed by Valerie Brandy.
“Moments of Clarity” — Two unlikely friends, Claire and Danielle, elude their protective parents and embark on a quest to repair an antique camera. A series of events lead to their adventure extending beyond their original plans, ultimately helping them both to better understand the worlds from which they had seemingly escaped. Starring Lyndsy Fonseca and Kristin Wallace. Directed by Stev Elam.
“Outliving Emily” — Twelve diverse actors portray the various stages of Tim and Emily’s anthologized marriage. Each pair uniquely captures the notable highs and lows that take place throughout the span of a life-long relationship, making their story highly relatable to couples everywhere. Starring Alexis Bledel, Zosia Mamet, Thomas Mann, Kal Penn, Jeremy Jordan, Phylicia Rashad and many more. Directed by Eric Weber and Sean Devaney.
“The King of New Orleans” — Larry’s story is chronicled from the passenger seat of his taxi cab. His regular commuters and new riders represent the various walks of life in the faded and haunted beauty of New Orleans. The compelling bond he creates with travelers and locals alike is forever changed by the heartbreaking effects of Hurricane Katrina. Directed by Allen Frederic.
“Tumbledown” — Hannah, the widow of an acclaimed folk musician, engages a New York professor to assist her in writing her late husband’s biography. Her emotions are thrown for a loop when he begins investigating the circumstances surrounding the untimely death. Starring Rebecca Hall and Jason Sudeikis. Directed by Sean Mewshaw.
Here is a list of the documentary feature films in contention:
“A Place to Stand” — Jimmy Santiago Baca was a seventeen-year-old petty thief and drug dealer when he was sentenced to five years in Arizona State Prison, one of the deadliest prisons in America. Baca began his incarceration violent, angry and illiterate. Against all odds, he taught himself how to read and write, discovering a passion for poetry that ultimately saved his life. Directed by Daniel Glick.
“Bounce: How the Ball Taught the World to Play” — Based on the book by anthropologist John Fox, “The Ball: Discovering the Object of the Game,” Bounce takes us to the far reaches of the globe and the deep recesses of our ancient past to answer the question: why do we play ball? Equal parts science, history and visual essay, the film follows the bouncing ball from animal play through professional sports to video games, exploring why we play and what play says about who we are and where we are going as a civilization. Directed by Jerome Thelia.
“Code: Debugging the Gap” — Code asks the questions: why is there a dearth of female and minority software engineers, what would society gain from having more women and people of color coding, and how do we get there? Code highlights breakthrough efforts that are producing a more diverse set of computer programmers. Directed by Robin Hauser Reynolds.
“King Georges” — Fiery French chef Georges Perrier is on a crusade to save his world-renowned 40-year-old Philadelphia restaurant, Le Bec-Fin, from closing. Times and tastes have changed — what was once cutting edge is now out of favor. King Georges is the story of a determined, tragi-comic figure, and his fight to keep culinary traditions alive. Directed by Erika Frankel.
“Life Under Siege: Exploring Gaza’s Secret Tunnels” — Life Under Siege is the story of a U.S.-Palestinian family divided by the siege of the Gaza strip, and reunited under the cloak of the Arab Spring. Director Miriam Abu Sharkh’s travels to Gaza investigates the smuggling tunnels to Egypt, and attempts to forge relationships with her father and half siblings, whom she is only able to visit by result of monumental social movements. Directed by Miriam Abu Sharkh.
“Right Footed” — Despite being born without arms, Jessica Cox overcame both physical and emotional challenges to become fully independent. She learned to type with her toes, drive a car with her feet, and amazingly, fly an airplane. Right Footed follows Jessica as she transforms from a motivational speaker to a mentor, and eventually into a leading advocate for people with disability. Directed by Nick Spark.
“Romeo is Bleeding” — Donte Clark’s poetic voice was honed on the violent street corners of his struggling city of Richmond, California. Rather than succumb to the everyday pressures to just survive, Clark uses his artistic perspective — and a good dose of inspiration from the Bard — to create a personalized production of Romeo & Juliet as one man’s attempt to save his city from itself. Directed by Jason Zeldes.
“Since: The Bombing of Pan Am Flight 103” — When a terrorist-planted bomb destroyed Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland in December 1988, 270 lives were ended and a heartbreaking new reality for thousands of relatives begun. Since follows the victims’ families on a 23-year quest for justice and the truth. Directed by Phil Furey.
“The Family Next Door” — He was the star Yale football player who went on to become an attorney. She was the beautiful cheerleader who became a loving, caring teacher. Their genes were perfect to start a dream family. Four children and seventeen years later, they are the family that no one wants to be: the family affected by autism, with drastically altered expectations, and yet with patience, grace, determination and unconditional love. Directed by Michael Messner and Barry Reese.
“The Uncondemned” — In 1997, a mismatched group of underdog lawyers embarked on a quixotic quest to have rape classified as an international war crime for the first time. The Uncondemned is the story of their fight for the first conviction and the story of the heroic Rwandan women who risked the wave of witness assassinations to testify.