Photo by David Mulvihill.

The Newport Beach Film Festival celebrated its 20th season this past April: 20 years of films, features, documentaries and shorts from around the world, with focus on many different genres.

In 2018, looking to highlight and celebrate the culture surrounding the artisanal creation and presentation of fine food, winemaking, distilling and brewing, in places around the country and the world, NBFF launched its Culinary Film Series as part of the festival. At the forefront is a desire to showcase films that cinematically give the viewer a mouth-watering glimpse into the lives and worlds of those that grow, prepare and passionately create a true experience.

The 2019 festival included nine films in the Culinary category. And, while not technically part of the Culinary Series, another film, The Pollinators, was indeed related and quite compelling. It even received a 2019 Audience Award. I was able to see some of the films covered below.

The Pollinators is a documentary that focuses on a segment of the agriculture industry this reporter was completely unfamiliar with, the dedicated beekeepers who follow the bloom, trucking their bees all over the country. This truck migration is responsible for much of the pollination of fruits and bloom-dependent produce that find their way to our tables. The film brought to light many of the obstacles growers and beekeepers face, from threats caused by pesticides, to areas where no off-season blooms exist to sustain a local bee population. 

Six of the culinary films were California focused. 

Tin City

Tin City unfolds a story about the many businesses contained within this “tin-sided” light industrial development in Paso Robles, CA, where small winemakers, brewers, cider makers and distillers work hard to craft and distribute their artisanal liquid creations. This is the first feature documentary from female director Dina Mande. She succeeds in both film and story in providing a picturesque glimpse into the drive and passion that is strong within these artisans and the community they continue to build.    

When this reporter visited Barrelhouse Brewing in Tin City last summer, he did not realize the number of liquid purveyors within the development. Located in the heart of Paso Robles wine country, one could spend two or three days touring and tasting without having to drive at all. There are over 15 wineries within Tin City, plus the aforementioned Barrelhouse Brewing, Tin City Cider and Wine Shine Distillers (“Shine from the Vine”). Wineries include Aaron, Al Lago, Benom, Brian Benson Cellars, Desparada, Field Recordings, Giornata, Jacob Toft, Kaleidos, Lefondusac, Levo, Monochrome, Nicora, Onx, Powell Mountain, San Liege, The Fableist and Turtle Rock. Food choices include Tin Canteen Restaurant and Negranti Creamery.

The Biggest Little Farm 

The Biggest Little Farm recounts the radical transition filmmaker John Chester and his wife Molly embarked on in their move from city living to 200 acres of farmland in Moorpark; their goal: to transform the land and “bring to fruition a dream of harvesting in harmony with nature.”


Uncrushable, a film by Chef Tyler Florence, is set at the time of the devastating October, 2017 Northern California fires. Filmed in the wine country of Sonoma and Napa when much of the area was still burning, community becomes the scene as its people join together to pick up the pieces and begin the journey of rebuilding their lives. 


Funke, a full-length documentary by Gab Taraboulsy and Tastemade Studios, centers on Los Angeles Chef Evan Funke. Years back, Chef Funke rose to fame as the king of handmade pasta, culminating in the opening and closing of his now-defunct Bucato in Culver City. The film catalogues Funke’s reentry into the culinary scene, regeneration of his passion for re-mastering the craft and the progression of building and opening of Felix in Venice, CA. Well filmed and edited, the viewer becomes part of the cinematic adventure that unfolds.   

Harvest Season/The Last Harvest

Two documentary shorts gave props to those that harvest the fruits of our tables. 

Harvest Season tracks the vineyard workers and small producers who incorporate the small-scale winemaking process. The Last Harvest: You Can’t Grow Without Change highlights labor shortages that are resulting in farmers abandoning crops.

The three foreign entries into this year’s series include two with focus on regions in Spain and one set in Argentina.

Chef’s Diaries: Scotland

In seeing the name, one would think that the film was about a chef or restaurant in Scotland. This film actually trails the path of the Roca brothers of Girona, Spain. It follows their trek to Scotland and embracement of Scottish dishes and recipes, ultimately incorporating their own gastronomic interpretations of the same in their coveted restaurant in Girona. 

Virgin & Extra: The Land of Olive Oil

As its name implies this film on its surface is about olive oil, remarkable olive oil from the picual olive. It is also very much about the people, life, growth, harvest and craft in the Spanish region of Jaén, which is quickly becoming known as “the mother of olives.” 

The Best Sommelier In The World

This film from Argentina follows the World Sommelier Competition, where Master Sommeliers from around the world compete for the title of best.

During the festival run, the Annual Newport Beach Film Festival also features the food of many local Orange County restaurants, bakeries and specialty food companies, both at its opening and closing galas, as well as nightly Spotlight after parties.  

Mark your calendars for next year’s Newport Beach Film Festival.