Newport Beach Film Festival celebrates cinematography from 50 countries

Aaron Untiveros

After guests, celebrities and film makers had a chance to talk, they went inside to watch a movie and continued on to a night unlike any other.

On Thursday, Apr. 26, the Newport Beach Film Festival opened their week long screening of films, music videos, short films and more with a red carpet and a prestigious gala to follow.

Gregg Schwenky, Executive Director of the NBFF, stands alongside Mark Horner, Regal Entertainment employee, during the opening night of the NBFF on Apr. 26. Photo credit: Aaron Untiveros

“The beautiful people, the creativity and the messages in these films is what keeps bringing me back,” said Noel Hipke, realtor for Re/Max Fine Homes. “There’s a lot of passion behind these documentaries and short films.”

The NBFF celebrates its nineteenth year and is showing over 350 films from 50 different countries.

The opening premiere showcased “American Animals” directed by Bart Layton and follows the true story of four friends who make the worst decision of their life by going through with an art heist as the real criminals tell the story in an interview.

Stan Frazier
Side Deal arrives at the red carpet during the opening night of the Newport Beach Film Festival on Apr. 26. Photo credit: Aaron Untiveros

Featuring actors Evan Peters (American Horror Story), Blake Jenner (Glee), Barry Keoghan (Dunkirk) and Jared Abrahamson (Hello Destroyer), they re-enact the art heist as the story is recounted through the interviews.

Transitioning smoothly between the two parallels of reality and re-enactments, the movie garnered praise from attendees during opening night.

“I thought it was an excellent movie,” said Sean Brown, Newport Beach resident. “Very well done, well put together. I enjoyed it immensely.”

In Fashion Island where the gala took place, cars from Karma were displayed for public viewing on Apr. 26. Photo credit: Aaron Untiveros

Soon after, movie goers headed to the heart of Fashion Island where the night life began.

The Opening Night Gala, presented by Pacific Sales, contained 30 culinary tastings from premiere Orange County restaurants along with hosted bars by Tito’s Vodka, Guinness and Lagunitas.

The Newport Beach Film Festival had 30 premium Orange County restaurants give out food tastings during the gala on Apr. 26. Photo credit: Aaron Untiveros

Food tastings and alcoholic drinks were included in the Opening Night Gala admission.

A popular culinary booth were the sushi tastings made and given out by Sushi Roku.

The chefs behind the food were very professional, cooked with absolute quality and went to great lengths to ensure the food attendees tasted were delectable.

For entertainment, the Academy of Villains, a world renowned dance group, performed and danced to songs like “Bohemian Rhapsody.”

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Scott Owen, guitarist in Side Deal, performs with the group on Apr. 26 during the NBFF gala. Photo credit: Aaron Untiveros

Later into the night, Grammy award-winning artist Side Deal performed songs including “Calling all Angels” and ended their performance with “Fly” by Sugar Ray, which is a band that originated in Newport Beach.

Film makers, programmers, actors, musicians and movie-lovers had a fun-filled time together during opening night. The week long film festival has officially begun and programmers look forward to presenting these passionate projects to the movie goers.

During the NBFF gala event on opening night, the Academy of Villains performed on stage for attendees. Photo credit: Aaron Untiveros

“I love seeing movies, and sharing that experience is what we’re here to do,” said Cathy Udovch, Senior Features Programmer for the NBFF.

The films were chosen by a group typically consisting of at least five individuals. They are then chosen and are put into viewing for the NBFF attendees.

“Every film is guaranteed to have three reviewers/volunteers and two programmers to watch it. So, if it’s gotten into the festival, at least five different people have seen it,” Udovch continued, referring to independent films.

Screening film projects from over 50 countries makes the NBFF a culturally rich and immersive experience for the public. The festival will spotlight different counties and cultures throughout the week.

“They’ve traveled far and they have a lot to say or they want to share their life a bit, and I want to share my life with that,” Hipke said about the foreign film makers.

On Tuesday, May 1, Europe will be spotlighted. In these spotlights, there is typically entertainment, hors d’oeuvres and an after party.

The closing ceremony will be on May 3 and will have a similar layout as the opening ceremony. The after party will take place in Via Lido Plaza.

For information on ticket sales and a list of movies in the festival, check out their website here.