5 Best Film Events in Napa Valley

April 10, 2020

Can’t-miss film festivals and screenings across California’s Wine Country

Famous for its rolling hillside vineyards and world-class wineries, Napa Valley is one of the world’s most well-known destinations for wine, fine dining, resorts, spas, and idyllic landscapes. Those who call Napa home have a special appreciation for the laid-back lifestyle living here affords: from easy access to some of the country’s best wines and fresh seasonal dining to stunning surroundings and a strong sense of community.

Throughout the year, Napa is constantly providing opportunities for locals and visitors to take advantage of the abundance of culture in the Valley through festivals, ongoing events, and  more. In addition to its love for wine, food, and music, Napa also has a passion for film and plays host to a number of events year-round showcasing fresh perspectives, independent films, documentaries, and beyond.

Napa Valley Film Festival

As one of Napa Valley’s largest and well-known events, the Napa Valley Film Festival is an annual celebration of independent filmmaking presented by Cinema Napa Valley, a nonprofit dedicated to celebrating cinematic arts and enriching the community. Taking place every November, the Napa Valley Film Festival brings together film, food, and wine for five days of screenings, panels, and conversations with actors and industry executives, vintner circle dinners, and a closing gala that can’t be missed.

The obvious centerpiece of this festival is the films, which are screened throughout the event at various unique screening venues in and around Napa, including the Archer Hotel in Napa, Lincoln Theatre in Yountville, and Charles Krug Winery in St. Helena. Over 90 new films are screened every year at multiple times and different locations during the festival to ensure film-loving ticket holders have the opportunity to view as many films as possible and preserve the festival’s mission of affording the art the platform it deserves. This also allows festival guests to experience the character and spirit of different parts of Napa Valley.

Filmmakers are called upon by organizers to submit their projects months before the festival, and from these films, programmers select a variety to showcase during the festival. Ranging in genre and length, the films chosen are all unique but share the common thread of serving to uplift, entertain, inspire, and enlighten festival audiences. In addition to being a film showcase, directors within the Narrative Features and Documentary Features categories vie for the title of Best Feature within each.

No event in Napa would be complete without a nod to the area’s food and wine culture. Starting with the opening night party, the Napa Valley Film Festival offers interactive food and wine pop-up stations, Wine Intermission tastings, culinary demonstrations, and panel events discussing the role of food in film. Parties and special events are also accessible to certain levels of ticket holders.


LUNAFEST is a film festival dedicated to celebrating, showcasing, and elevating women both behind and in front of the camera. Presented by women’s nutrition company LUNA Bar, this traveling festival serves as an extension of the brand’s mission to support and promote equality and create something specifically for the needs and talents of women. LUNA created LUNAFEST in 2001 after learning that women were highly-underrepresented in film, making a commitment to do something about it and demand equality in the industry. The festival began with a small but hopeful screening in California and has since grown to travel to over 200 communities annually.

Every year, organizations, entire towns, cities, or individuals have the opportunity to host LUNAFEST screenings in their community. From the short film submissions they receive, LUNAFEST curates a lineup of 6-10 projects each season—all directed by women—to screen at all events, providing it to hosts in communities across the country along with a toolkit to share best practices and help facilitate screenings. LUNAFEST doesn’t only showcase the work of these female filmmakers—each event serves as a vehicle for raising awareness and funds for causes women and their communities care about. Every screening is structured as a fundraiser to benefit organizations of the hosts’ choice, with 15% of LUNAFEST’s proceeds supporting the Breast Cancer Fund and the remaining 85% supporting the nonprofit chosen by the host.

Since LUNAFEST’s humble beginnings, this national event has grown to reach over 25,000 people annually, raising over $5 million, and working with more than 1,600 women nonprofits since 2001. Every spring in Napa, Soroptimist International of St. Helena Sunrise presents LUNAFEST at the CIA at Copia Theater in Napa, benefitting a number of women and girls organizations, including Girls on the Run Napa & Solano and NEWS - Domestic Violence & Sexual Abuse Services. Napa has hosted LUNAFEST for 11 years and is looking forward to many more years to come!

Sonoma International Film Festival

Napa’s Wine Country sister town Sonoma, just 20 minutes from downtown Napa, is a rich cultural area brimming with events, festivals, and opportunities to come together with the community year-round. Sonoma is no stranger to the love for film, playing host to the Sonoma International Film Festival every year in the heart of downtown Sonoma.

This entirely walkable, five-day event provides the chance for Napa Valley locals to explore the rest of Wine Country within the backdrop of an unforgettable magical film festival that serves a purpose far beyond entertainment. Supporting and promoting independent films, the Sonoma International Film Festival is a non-profit event that celebrates the cultural diversity of the area through visual arts and funds arts in education through its partnership with the Student Film Department at Sonoma Valley High School.

Over five days, the Sonoma International Film Festival screens more than 120 films produced by over 250 filmmakers across 25+ countries, making it one of the most accessible platforms for aspiring and established filmmakers on the festival circuit. This festival prides itself on the quality of films selected and the intimate setting it creates for filmmakers to interact with industry professionals, as well as the high-profile talent it attracts as attendees, from Bruce Willis and Michael Keaton to Meg Ryan and Blythe Danner.

Showcasing a variety of films across a number of categories, including feature-length narratives, documentaries, short films, and student films, the Sonoma International Film Festival is the perfect place to soak up the art you love as well as explore new avenues, all while supporting independent filmmakers. The festival continues to grow its reputation year after year as a champion of social causes, ensuring that of the films selected, its platform is being used to highlight LGBT issues, arts & design, the environment, and more. Sonoma’s beautiful setting only adds to the appeal of this festival, which also incorporates the area’s world-class local cuisine and exceptional wines from Wine Country vintners, and has taken place every spring for over 23 years.

Classical Arts Film Festival

One of the greatest things about Napa is, despite its quaint nature and intimate vibe, the area is alive with so many different interests that the community takes pride in coming together to celebrate and share with others. One of these more niche events is the Classical Arts Film Festival, an event entirely dedicated to showcasing classical art in films as well as the passion that drives individuals to pursue an arts profession.

Held over three days every spring, the Classical Arts Film Festival presents documentaries, international films, short films, and more during four block screenings, each offering a unique insight into the struggles and cultural, economic, psychological, and religious oppression people have faced and continue to face in an effort to dedicate their lives to classical arts. While the focus of this festival is specific, the themes it explores are vast and universal, providing attendees with messages they can relate to against the backdrop of the classical arts. From exploring pivotal moments in the history and development of the arts to highlighting the cross-cultural power of classical arts, the Classical Arts Film Festival serves both as a celebration of art and film and an opportunity for the community to explore little-known stories from around the world.

Art House Short Film Series

Pairing award-winning short films with Napa Valley wines from Jessup Cellars and artisan popcorn from the winery’s Chef MikeC, the Art House Short Film Series is a Napa Valley community favorite, screening one film per month from January through April every year. Since its inception in 2014, the Art House Short Film Series quickly became a beloved local event for art and film lovers throughout Napa, providing an emotional and enlightening experience as attendees embark on a journey from animation to comedy to drama over the course of four months. Each event has come to be known as an opportunity to experience award-winning stories alongside excellent wine and gourmet popcorn pairings, making it the perfect date night or outing with friends, taking in the best of Napa all in one place.

Beyond the screenings, guests are invited to participate in meet-and-greets with filmmakers, Q&As with special guest filmmakers and producers, and support indie film projects with the purchase of Jessup Cellars wines at each event. This series provides an intimate opportunity for the community to gather over their shared love of film, wine, and art, and tickets are available on a per-screening as well as a season pass basis.


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