Dubbed the “Sundance of the Sierra” and recently named #9 film festival by USA Today’s 10 Best, the 23rd annual Nevada City Film Festival (NCFF) kicks off early this year, arriving to downtown Nevada City, next Friday, June 23 and running through Sunday, June 25. 

Best known for its fun, festive environment, and award-winning programming of international, independent short and feature length films, NCFF will screen 70 films and welcome over 40 visiting filmmakers to the three-day festival. In addition to participating in Q&A’s following each program, some filmmakers will also lead a handful of free workshops on horror filmmaking, the ethics of documentaries, episodic filmmaking, and demystifying the Screen Actors Guild (SAG). 

“NCFF is where you come to see the star filmmakers and actors, before they are stars,” explains Jesse Locks, Executive Director. “There are so many examples over the last 23 years of filmmakers who screened their first or second films at NCFF, and have gone on to be nominated for an Oscar or have significant box office success. Last year’s winner for Best Actor at NCFF – Lily Gladstone – recently received the longest standing ovation in the history of the Cannes film festival for her upcoming film “Killers of the Flower Moon” with Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert De Niro directed by Martin Scorsese. You just never know who you are going to bump into.”

The Iron Giant

Films are shown at the beautiful 21+ Onyx Theatre in the 7-Hills Business District, the historic Nevada Theatre, and a special family friendly Movies Under the Pines outdoor screening of The Iron Giant, will happen at the Pioneer Park Bandshell, Friday, June 23.

“This year’s program delves deep into identity and belonging. Whether we’re talking about race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, age, physical or mental ability, or simply belonging within a group, family, or to yourself, this beautiful thread connects many of this year’s films,” says Jess Swigonski, Program Director.

Stand outs include:

Time Bomb Y2K

As the year 2000 approached, rumblings started to spread outside of the world of computer engineers and into the mainstream consciousness about a ubiquitous error in computer code that would cause computers to reset during the transition from “1999” to “2000,” causing the world’s computerized systems to grind to a halt. Time Bomb Y2K, directed by Marley McDonald and Brian Becker, is a fully archival feature (no interviews, verité, etc.) that documents the countdown to Y2K against the backdrop of the mass hysteria that infiltrated everything from politics to pop culture. Friday, June 23, 4pm, Onyx Theatre 21+.

Being Michelle a documentary that follows the astonishing journey of a deaf and disabled woman who survived incarceration and abuse under unimaginable circumstances. Michelle’s trajectory changed when she met Kim Law, a blind volunteer life coach who teaches classes to people in prison. Ultimately, Being Michelle is a story of redemption. It is about the bonds between women committed to thriving in a broken system, who are forging a path to healing that can only come through facing the truth and communicating it, together. This screening features an ASL Interpreter plus Open Captioning and Audio Descriptions. Friday, June 23, 7pm, Onyx Theatre, 21+.

Memories to Light

Memories to Light: Asian American Home Movies, co-presented with the Center for Asian American Media, about the experiences of Asian American communities from across the country and spanning six decades (1920s through the 1980s) of the 20th Century. This free community screening features live music and narration of the home movies. Friday, June 23, 8pm, Nevada Theatre.

The award-winning documentary Subject, directed by Tahoe filmmaker Jen Tiexiera, explores the life-altering experience of sharing one’s life on screen through key participants of acclaimed documentaries The Staircase, Hoop Dreams, The Wolfpack, Capturing the Friedmans, and The Square. These erstwhile documentary “stars” reveal the highs and lows of their experiences as well as the everyday realities of having their lives put under a microscope. As tens of millions of people consume documentaries in an unprecedented “golden era,” Subject urges audiences to consider the often-profound impact on their participants. Saturday, June 24, 1pm, Nevada Theatre.

Following Subject, producer Jameka Autry will lead a round table discussion on the ethics and responsibilities in documentary filmmaking. Whether you’re a filmmaker, writer, viewer or any other part of the documentary creation and consumption pipeline, this discussion will offer new perspectives on how we can share others’ experiences through this storytelling medium with greater care. Saturday, June 24, 3:30pm, NCFF HQ, 110 Union Street.

Bad Press

In Bad Press, directed by Rebecca Landsberry-Baker (Muscogee Creek) and Joe Peeler, when the Muscogee Nation suddenly begins censoring their free press, a rogue reporter fights to expose her government’s corruption in a historic battle that will have ramifications for all of Indian Country. Showing with Cara Romero: Following the Light, a short film on Romero’s photography and how it shines a light on the unseen, resisting colonial categorization and institutional biases around art made by Native artists. Saturday, June 24, 4pm, Onyx Theatre 21+.

Louder Than You Think

This year’s centerpiece film is the rock documentary Louder Than You Think about the early years of seminal indie band Pavement and their colorful and enigmatic drummer Gary Young. Directed by first time director Jed I. Rosenberg and produced by NCFF co-founder and Onyx Theatre owner Jeffrey Clark, Louder Than You Think, won the audience award at this year’s South X Southwest Film Festival in Austin, TX. The film also features the work of local cinematographer and NCFF co-founder David Nicholson. Saturday, June 24, 7pm, Nevada Theatre.

Saturday’s late-night movie is the action, adventure, comedy Hundreds of Beavers directed by Mike Cheslik. It’s a slapstick epic about a frostbitten battle between Jean Kayak and diabolical beavers–hundreds of them–who stand between him and survival. SlashFilm wrote of the film “Hundreds of Beavers exists at the crossroads of Looney Tunes, Benny Hill, Cannibal: The Musical, Blazing Saddles, and Adult Swim mindsets.” Saturday, June 24, 9:30pm, Nevada Theatre.

Harris Dickinson and Lola Campbell appear in Scrapper by Charlotte Regan, an official selection of the World Dramatic Competition at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute. | Photo by Chris Harris.
Harris Dickinson and Lola Campbell appear in Scrapper by Charlotte Regan, an official selection of the World Dramatic Competition at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute. | Photo by Chris Harris.

Sunday’s films features two Sundance Film Festival winners including Scrapper, directed by Charlotte Regan. This vibrant and inventive father-daughter comedy follows Georgie, a dreamy 12-year-old girl who lives alone in her London flat, filling it with magic after the death of her mother. Out of nowhere, her estranged father Jason (Harris Dickinson) arrives and forces her to confront reality. Uninterested in this sudden new parental figure, Georgie is stubbornly resistant to his efforts. As they adjust to their new circumstances, Georgie and Jason find that both father and daughter still have a lot of growing up to do.  Sunday, June 25, 2pm, Nevada Theatre.

For fans of short filmmaking, there are seven programs screening at the Onyx Theatre and Nevada Theatre that defy genre and categorization. Instead, threads are woven around common stories of the human experience, be it through drama, mystery, romance, comedy, animation or some alchemical blend of all these elements.

“Curating and presenting extraordinary short films, has always been at the heart of NCFF,” says Locks. “We have so much fun with these programs; these films really know no boundaries.”

NCFF wraps, Sunday, 7pm at the Nevada Theatre with the Best of the Fest program. Here you can see winners of this year’s festival, plus festival directors and audience favorites. 

WHAT: 23rd Annual Nevada City Film Festival

WHEN: Friday, June 23- Sunday, June 25,

WHERE: Nevada Theatre, 401 Broad Street; Onyx Theatre, 107 Argall Way; Pioneer Park, 421 Nimrod Street

TICKETS: $11/GA, $9/Student, Senior (62+), Military, www.nevadacityfilmfestival.com