Benicia’s inaugural film festival features variety, local films

By From page B1 | March 28, 2014

FAIRFIELD — Three years in the making, the Benicia Film Festival’s mission is to expand the arts and culture of the city and acknowledge creative contributions by members of the community.

The three-day event, April 4-6, is sponsored by the Benicia Arts and Culture Commission.

“There has never been a film festival in Benicia before. We have them all around us, in Oakland and Napa, but this is a first,” said Helaine Bowles, Benicia Public Library volunteer and outreach coordinator. “We hope to attract people to come to the city.”

On the first two days, the film festival will take place at the Veterans Hall on First Street. It concludes April 6 at the Benicia Library.

“Friday night we are showing the film “The Invisible War,” which was nominated for an Academy Award last year. It is about rape in the military,” Bowles said. “After the film, we have a staff psychiatrist with the Department of Veterans Affairs who will speak and answer questions.”

Short films that were solicited and selected by the city’s Arts and Culture Commission will be screened Saturday morning, early afternoon and evening. Sandwiched in between those offerings from local and nationwide filmmakers, a special fundraising part of the event will take place, LunaFest.

“The Soroptomists of Benicia have been doing the LunaFest for three years now, but this year we are doing it in conjunction with the film festival,” Bowles said. “Part of the money collected during the LunaFest will go toward the Breast Cancer Fund and the rest will go toward building a women’s resource center in Benicia.”

On Sunday, two documentary films by award-winning Benicia journalist/filmmaker John Beck take center stage – both about the wine industry: “Harvest” and “The Monks of Vina.”

“ ‘Harvest’ was filmed during the grape harvest in northern Sonoma County in 2011 that turned out to be the worst harvest in 50 years,” Beck said. “I followed an all-female picking crew that became the heart and soul of the film. What you learn are the sacrifices they make to be in that vineyard at 3 a.m. with a headlamp on, doing a job that most Americans will not do.”

“Harvest” premiered at the Sonoma Film Festival in 2012 and has been screened in numerous places including Las Vegas and France and also played in limited release in Sonoma County theaters during the 2012 harvest.

Beck’s second film highlighted at the Benicia Film Festival, “The Monks of Vina,” was not one that he had planned to do.

“I didn’t think I was going to do another wine movie, but it kind of fell in my lap that there was a Trappist Monastery north of Chico with monks making wine in probably some of the worst terrain and climate you can imagine. It gets up to 110 degrees in the summertime,” Beck said. “While I like the inherent drama in a grape harvest where it becomes the culmination of all their efforts, what the film really explores is who would become a monk in this day and age and what does it take?”

Beck will also be available after each film to answer questions. While his works have been screened in numerous locations, the Benicia Film Festival will be a personal treat.

“I moved to Benicia from San Francisco in 2008 and I have shown films all over, but never in the town I live in,” Beck said. “My hat is off to the people who made this happen.”

Reach Fairfield writer Tony Wade at [email protected].


Benicia Film Festival

April 4

“The Invisible War” 7 to 8:30 p.m.

Q & A 8:30 to 9:30 p.m.

April 5 

10 to 11:30 a.m.:

“My Town”


“The Heron and the Geisha”

1 to 3:30 p.m.:

“The Mermaid Complex”

“Just Because I Am”

Benicia High School Student Shorts

4:30 to 6 p.m.:


7:30 to 9 p.m.:

“From Disgrace to Grace”

“On the Rise”

Duncan Robson Shorts

Veterans Hall, 1150 First St., 745-1769

April 6 

“Harvest” 1 to 2:10 p.m.

Q & A with John Beck  2:10 to 2:30 p.m.

“The Monks of Vina” 3:30 to 4:30 p.m.

Q & A with John Beck 4:30 to 4:45 p.m.

Benicia Public Library, 150 E. L St.




Tony Wade

Tony Wade

Tony Wade is the slightly older yet infinitely more handsome brother of long-time DR columnist Kelvin Wade

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