The 9th annual Napa Valley Film Festival (NVFF) kicks off this Wednesday, November 13th and runs through Sunday, November 17th.  We caught up with Festival CEO, Tom Tardio, for all the details about this year’s celebration of film, food and wine.

Q. Travel Writer, Jennifer Boden: Tell us about a few of the standout films featured this year.

A: Tom Tardio, CEO of the Napa Valley Film Festival

Our opening night film is the Warner Bros. film Just Mercy, which we’re looking forward to screening for audiences here in the Valley at the Uptown Theatre in Napa. A couple other great film callouts are Neon’s Portrait of a Lady and Amazon Studios’ Troop Zero.

Ninth annual Napa Valley Film Festival’s Opening Night film is Just Mercy

This year’s special Gala film presentation is the documentary, I Want My MTV, a nostalgic look at the evolution of a TV channel devoted solely to video music.  This film inspired the theme for our annual Festival Gala party, which is the festival’s big Saturday night celebration. The film screening will precede the party, taking place at the Lincoln Theater in Yountville. 

I Want My MTV will screen as this year’s Gala film

This year we also have something called “The Blending Lab,” a series of live panels that celebrate the core mission of our festival—film, food, and wine. 

Q. Does the Napa Valley Film Festival have something for everyone?

A: Tom Tardio, CEO of the Napa Valley Film Festival

Definitely something and more! We purposefully build and curate our film selections with our local and regional consumers in mind. As we put together our programming and lineup we always aim to provide a fabulous entertaining experience for all adult demographics.

2016 festival honoree Kurt Russell attends a screening with festival attendees

Q. Are there exciting Off-Screen events open to all pass holders?

A: Tom Tardio, CEO of the Napa Valley Film Festival

There are so many!  To mention a few: The Cathay Pacific Wellness Lounge is new this year featuring artisan products and morning fitness classes that promote the art of healthy living, located at the Oxbow Commons in Napa. The Monogram Demonstration Kitchen is also taking place at the Oxbow Commons this year where there will culinary demos and panels, along with amazing food and beverage samplings all weekend long.

Monogram Demonstration Kitchen will take place at the Oxbow Commons in Napa

We also can’t have a film festival in Wine Country without having opportunities for wine tastings as well. On Thursday through Sunday, we’ll have our Wine Intermissions taking place in Napa and St. Helena giving attendees the opportunity to try a bunch of different local varietals between screenings.

Q. Tell us about the Perks of the Patron Circle and luxury experiences.

A: Tom Tardio, CEO of the Napa Valley Film Festival

Patron Circle is a fantastic way to get access to some of our most exclusive events, including opportunities to mingle with this year’s filmmakers during an intimate cocktail hour, premiere seats during the Celebrity Tributes program where we’ll be honoring Kevin Bacon, Jillian Bell and Vanessa Hudgens this year. You’ll also be able to attend Variety’s Film to Table event taking place at Charles Krug Winery, a food and wine reception featuring chefs sourced from the Valley’s finest wineries who will make masterful interpretations of dishes inspired by iconic film scenes. The event presents a unique opportunity to meet the chefs, sample their creations and engage in an interactive discussion with celebrity panelists.

Patrons will also be able to attend one of the festival’s Vintner Circle Dinners on Friday evening where you can dine with accomplished filmmakers and world-class vintners at a premiere Napa Valley Winery. And finally, on Saturday evening during the Festival Gala, you’ll have access to the Patron Circle Lounge, a VIP area with special access to reserve wines and a curated menu.

Vintner Circle dinners are one of the favorite experiences of the Patron Circle festival-goers

Q. How many wineries are participating in this year’s Napa Valley Film Festival?

A: Tom Tardio, CEO of the Napa Valley Film Festival

There are more than 25 local wineries that graciously host our patrons, VIP guests and filmmakers in various capacities during the festival, be it parties, dinners, screenings, and more.  Again this year, Charles Krug Winery will be hosting the Variety Film to Table event and Materra | Cunat Family Vineyards will host the Rising Star Showcase where we’ll be honoring a handful of young talent including Kelsey Asbille (Wind RiverYellowstone), Jessica Barden ( Jungleland), Dean-Charles Chapman (Game of ThronesThe King), Jacob Elordi (Euphoria), Kelvin Harrison Jr. (Luce, Waves), Liana Liberato (If I Stay, Light as a Feather) and Mena Massoud (Aladdin, Run This Town).

The Materra | Cunat Family Vineyards hosts NVFF’s annual Rising Star Showcase every year

Anything you’d like to add? 

This year’s community screening program will allow Napa Valley residents free entry to all morning screenings at the Lincoln Theater in Yountville.

The Napa Valley Film Festival functions primarily on a pass system, ranging from 5-day experiences (Wednesday-Sunday) to weekend 3-day experiences (Friday-Sunday). NVFF also sells Rush Tickets to screenings if seats still remain after all pass holders have entered the venue.