Newport Beach Film Festival Returns Live with Events and Honorees Including Harvey Keitel and Regina Hall

Regina Hall Winston Duke Simon Rex Newport Beach Film Festival
Hall: Derek Blanks; Duke: David Higgs; Rex: Cliff Watts

The Newport Beach Film Festival is back and bigger than ever. Following 2020’s scaled-down, mostly virtual festival, this year returns to in-person screenings and events. Running Oct. 21-28, it will screen more than 300 films from 50 countries, hosting outdoor events, special honors and more.

“We’re so excited to be back with a full, live festival, operating safely of course,” says Todd Quartararo, the NBFF’s vice president of marketing and co-founder. “We are thrilled to give people the total festival experience.”

The festival will kick off with the world premiere of “Never Catch Pigeons: And Eleven More Hard Lessons From Mr. Paul Van Doren,” a documentary about the founder of the Vans shoe company that brings together the festival’s action sports and business constituencies. Along with the screening, an outdoor reception will feature skate ramps, demonstrations by Vans’ professional skate team, food and hosted bars.

“It’s a little unique for us, opening up with a documentary,” Quartararo says. “However, the film is so strong and since Vans is right here in our own backyard, in Orange County, it made perfect sense for us.”

While this year’s festival will feature its share of world and U.S. bows, CEO and co-founder Gregg Schwenk notes that premieres by themselves have become malleable, with special advance screenings and virtual events blurring the lines.

“Newport Beach and Orange County is also a center for a number of guild and Academy members,” Schwenk says. “The festival gives them an opportunity to see a number of these major titles on the big screen, the way they’re supposed to be seen.”

Prior to the pandemic, the bulk of the festival took place in the spring, with special events for honorees taking place in the fall; but having the event in October has added value.

“All of the films that are in the for your consideration campaign are using our festival as a platform to get noticed, and to springboard into the award season,” Quartararo says.

Because of that aspect of the timing this year, the festival will host four select outdoor cocktail receptions called the Sunset Series.

“Those are really intimate opportunities for guild and Academy members, along with our VIP’s, our key donors and sponsors, to come together and meet the filmmakers in a much more intimate and private setting,” Schwenk says.

The festival will also host a brunch for Newport Beach Film Festival Honors, featuring Variety’s 10 Actors to Watch. The festival’s own honorees include Thomasin McKenzie (“Last Night in Soho”) receiving the Breakout Performance Award, Simon Rex (“Red Rocket”) receiving the Spotlight Award, Regina Hall (“Nine Perfect Strangers”) as this year’s Artist of Distinction, Maverick Award honoree Winston Duke (“Nine Days”), Rosanna Arquette receiving the Icon Award, actress and Harvey Keitel (“Lansky”) receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award.  Also being feted is Jeffery Wright (“Westworld,” “No Time to Die”), who is receiving the Variety Legend and Groundbreaker Award.

Along with high-profile entries (“Spencer,” “C’mon, C’mon”) the festival casts a wide net of diverse offerings, such as its Intl. Spotlight series, a plethora of short films and a sampling of works by student filmmakers from SoCal programs. Exciting films include “The Falconer” and documentary “After the Wildfires”; Oscar hopefuls such as “Belfast,” “The Lost Daughter” and “Power of the Dog”; as well as international films like “The Hand of God” and “Deadly Cuts.”

“The festival’s always focused on the future, and the future of filmmaking is really coming out of some of those top schools here in Southern California,” Quartararo says. “So, we’re always excited to bring the young filmmakers in and have them present their best work on the big screen.”

One of the built-in draws of the festival is its location, with Newport Beach offering a grand luxury and lifestyle experience, Schwenk says. “It’s stunning, you can do all these amazing things and then go spend the day watching films in beautiful theaters. It’s just a beautiful location and an incredible locale, and that’s something we’re very proud of.”

WHAT: Newport Beach Film Festival
WHEN: Oct. 21-28
WHERE: Newport Beach, Orange County, Calif.
WEB: newportbeachfilmfest.com