Wine Country Film Festival

Set in various locations in and around the beautiful Napa Valley countryside, the 11th annual Wine Country Film Festival recently featured over 80 films from over 400 entries, along with seminars, workshops and demonstrations of new media technologies."We are astounded by the high quality of the work by so many fine new directors. The competitions are stronger than ever this year. This is one of the most exciting elements of the Festival, the discovery of new talent," said festival director Steve Ashton.Street Pirates, directed by Lee Stanley, is a compelling documentary of seven juvenile prisoners, all charged with serious crimes, who are released from a maximum security detention center to take part in a sailboat race. Stanley, previous winner of five Emmy Awards, was given just over a week to train these kid-convicts for the race. The film chronicles the day-to-day struggles of these youngsters to master the necessary sailing techniques while getting along with each other and abiding by the new rules. A well-respected second place finish for the Pirates results in a jubilant end to this sobering film.Trouble in the Fields, based on the true story of director Stephanie Colopy's struggle as a teenager. Her family's farm, near Danville, Ohio, was repossessed because of aggressive banking practices that caused her father to default on a loan. Actress Greta Fadness relives Colopy's experience in connecting with her family while experiencing this uncertainty and profound loss."We tried to expand our farm and my dad took out a huge loan from the bank, and at that time I think the interest was around seven percent, within a matter of one to two months, it jumped to 23 percent. That's what ended up causing the bank to foreclose on us. In the early 80's the banks were giving out these huge loans, pushing it on the farmer. The bankers were making it very easy for the farmers to get the money," said Colopy.Trouble in the Fields won an award sponsored by the Princess Grace Foundation award for best student film production after Colopy was one of the 250 finalists. "It was an incredible event, like a fairytale come true, something so tragic that happened to my family, loosing their farm, it was amazing to meet royalty out of the loss of a farm," Colopy added.This year's Wine Country Film Festival's Lifetime Achievement award went to Oscar-winning actress Celeste Holm during a screening of Still Breathing, her latest film which also stars Brendan Fraser from the current hit movie George of the Jungle. Holm was a co-star in films such as Gentleman's Agreement, and acted along with Frank Sinatra and Bette Davis. Past recipients of the Wine Country Film Festival awards have included Anthony Quinn, Gregory Peck, Dudley Moore, Nastassja Kinsky, Jonathan Demme, Nicolas Cage, Teri Garr, Dennis Hopper, Lynn Redgrave, Michael York, and a host of others.A panel discussion with several of the film directors allowed members of the audience to ask questions and second-guess casting and scripting decisions made by directors. The Festival featured competitions for the New Directors Prize for best first feature film, Blockbuster Short Film Competition and the WCFF David Wolper Documentary Film Prize. These Awards provide valuable production assistance to the winning filmmakers.Films and videos are screened in selected theaters and wineries in the heart of northern California's wine country, just one hour north of San Francisco. For information about next year's festival, visit the Web site or call 707/226-7671.

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