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Napa Valley Film Festival Uncorks Edgy Indies and Awards Hopefuls

Now in its fourth year, and running over five days — Nov. 12-16 — the Napa Valley Film Festival is once again showcasing the year’s best new independent films, in 14 venues in the towns of Napa, Yountville, St. Helena and Calistoga, and offering a blend of cutting-edge cinema, local food and wine events, and star power.

Shailene Woodley will receive Variety’s Indie Impact Award at a gala brunch Nov. 15 at Variety’s 10 Producers to Watch event. Variety executive editor Steven Gaydos will conduct a Contenders Conversation with Kevin Costner, who will discuss his latest film, “Black or White” which gets a Red Carpet Festival Gala. Costner will also receive the BVisionary Award at the Celebrity Tribute Program. Woodley will attend a Nov. 16 screening of “The Fault in Our Stars,” followed by a Q&A. Opening night kicks off with a red carpet screening of “The Imitation Game,” with director Morten Tyldum expected to attend.

“The interest in the festival from the industry — everyone from filmmakers and top executives to talent and their reps — has also made a huge leap this year,” say festival co-founders and directors Brenda and Marc Lhormer.

Last year’s fest screened 125 films and issued some 250 filmmaker credentials. “This year, with the same number of films, we’ve had well over 400 credential requests, so it’s not just a matter of, ‘Let’s screen our movie,’ ” Marc Lhormer notes. “The awareness (of the event) has grown hugely, and the industry’s now seeing it as a key festival to position their film and get a great story out there.”

For the first time, he adds, publicists “hired to run the awards season campaigns have also been contacting the fest, wanting to attend. Mike Myers will be here with Shep Gordon and Mike’s documentary ‘Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon.’ (Pictured above.) And that came out in June, so it’s very unusual for a festival now to do a big red carpet screening for it.”

Publicists for Fox and Woodley collaborated with the fest on “The Fault” event, “and it’s a big deal for us,” he adds.

In terms of positioning the fest in an ever-more crowded fall schedule, the Lhormers strategically chose the specific dates “because all the studios roll out their big Oscar-hopeful films at this time, and we saw an opportunity to become the festival known for previewing them and also ending the year, in the way Sundance is known for starting it.”

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