Get lost in space with George Clooney and Sandra Bullock, visit the rooftop gardens of New York City and head to Spain for some American jazz played to perfection by elementary school children – all without ever leaving the comforts of the Valley. The Wine Country Film Festival is in full swing, bringing more than 50 films from dramas to documentaries this weekend.
“What our forte is and what our passion is, comes from the communication value these films have. We really feel a lot of our films have an impact on the people who watch them,” said Stephen Ashton, who founded the festival 27 years ago with his wife, Justine. “We look for something in the film that communicates with the heart. It has to touch us.”
Stephen Ashton’s film history is long and rich. He studied under film legend Martin Scorsese at New York University, followed by a 10-year stint as a director and producer with the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS). In 1985, he established the Wine Country Film Festival along with the nonprofit Society for the Advancement of Arts and Film, of which he remains the president. Since 1999, he has also served as the publisher of FilmVision International magazine, and has served on juries at film festivals from Bulgaria to the U.S. Environmental Film Festival in Washington, D.C. He and Justine have cultivated relationships in the film industry that offer unique access to an array of celebrated cinema.
Take the critical darling “Gravity,” directed by Alfonso Cuarón and starring Academy Award winners Clooney and Bullock. While the film doesn’t open to the general public until Oct. 4, attendees of the Wine Country Film Festival can see it under the stars at Glen Ellen’s Deerfield Ranch Winery on Friday, Sept. 27, at 8:30 p.m.
“That came from a relationship we’ve had for two decades with Warner Brothers,” Justine Ashton said.