Maybe it’s the seven-year itch, film festival version.
After seven years running the Napa Valley Film Festival, festival directors and co-founders Brenda and Marc Lhormer were fired from the festival by its board of directors this weekend – just four days before the festival’s opening night.
The Lhormers previously ran the Sonoma Valley Film Festival for seven years, from 2001 to 2008 before being ousted in 2009 by the board of that festival, now known as the Sonoma International Film Festival.
The Board of Directors of the nonprofit Cinema Napa Valley announced Saturday afternoon that it had ended its association with its employees Marc and Brenda Lhormer and their production company, Zin Haze Productions, effective immediately.
The Board also announced a name change for the Napa Valley Film Festival. Next year, the festival name will match its organizing entity, Cinema Napa Valley. Sources confirmed that the Lhormers have partial control over the NVFF name.
Sunday’s announcement came via email from BWR Public Relations, which is run by NVFF board member Ron Hofman. Hofman did not return requests for comment by press time.
Cinema Napa Valley board chair Patrick Davila was also not available for comment. Sunday’s press release was vague about the details of the break-up.
“We acknowledge the foundation that Marc and Brenda have laid and are excited about this year’s festival lineup and events,” Davila said in the release. “We look forward to a fresh start for 2019 under the Cinema Napa Valley name.”
The Napa Valley Film Festival will proceed as planned from Nov. 7-11 (see sidebar).
In a shared statement about their termination, which they said they were informed of on Saturday, Nov. 3, the Lhormers told the Index-Tribune:
“This move was sudden and without warning and, naturally unexpected,” wrote the couple. “It is also disappointing timing given that we’ve been leading the charge with our team all year in developing, planning and promoting this week’s 8th annual Napa Valley Film Festival, and that we each individually play such visible and critical roles in the careful orchestration and production of each year’s festival to assure that all attendees – audience, artists, sponsors and partners, volunteers – have the best possible set of experiences.”
In their statement, the Lhormers said that they are proud of the festival they helped create.
When reached by phone at their Sonoma home on Monday, they declined requests to elaborate on the terminations or to clarify if any legal proceedings would result.
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The show must go on
The 2018 Napa Valley Film Festival begins the week with two opening night films, and runs through Sunday.
The “Green Book” is the festival’s first of two opening night films set for the Uptown Theatre on Wednesday night. Writers Nick Vallelonga and Brian Currie will participate in a Q&A following the 5:30 p.m. screening. The film is about a working-class Italian-American bouncer who becomes the driver of an African-American classical pianist on a tour of venues through the 1960s American South.
The Film Festival’s second opening night film, screening at the Uptown at 8:30 p.m. is “Grace.” Actor Tate Donovan will attend a Q&A following the screening. “Grace” is about Charlie, a once famous writer now suffering from writer’s block. With the book advance spent, his agent and best friend Bernie sends him Dawn, a belligerent young woman to inspire and check on him - but she has her own ideas.
The Uptown Theatre is located at 1350 Third St. in Napa.
From Wednesday evening through Sunday night, NVFF will screen almost 100 new independent films and studio sneak previews.
Billy Bob Thornton and Alice Eve are receiving celebrity tributes this year. Among the other actors scheduled to attend are Geena Davis, Tate Donovan, Laurence Fishburne, Chef Tyler Forence, Matthew Lillard, Camila Mendes, Laraine Newman, Cheri Oteri, Julia Sweeney and more.
Festival films will screen at nine locations in Napa, Yountville and St. Helena, as well as a new drive-in movie venue in Calistoga. More than 300 filmmakers and actors are expected to attend, and there are daily culinary demonstrations and wine tastings.
Visit www.nvff.org for ticket and pass information.