In honor of the 89th Oscars airing Sunday night, I thought it would be fun to share my ultimate patron experience from the Napa Valley Film Festival last November. Our country’s election was certainly a dramatic backdrop for opening night. After a sneak preview of the Oscar nominated film, 20th Century Women, starring Annette Benning, we enjoyed mingling with artists and filmmakers at a reception in St. Helena. The highlight of the night was meeting the cast of an inspirational documentary – The Rebound. I fell in love instantly with Jeremie, Orlando and Mario, the members of the national championship wheelchair basketball team, the Miami Heat Wheels. The film vulnerably shares the life events that led them to their wheelchairs. My sharing of Mickie’s epilepsy journey touched Jeremie. He gave me his team patch to give to Mickie, commenting that I reminded him of his mother. “She taught me I could do anything”, Jeremie said, flashing his big bright smile. His mother was steadfast in not treating him different. When we ran into them again at the gala they were proudly wearing the Mickie’s Miracles epilepsy awareness purple bows on their lapels…stealing my heart again.

I had been anxiously awaiting the screening of the documentary, Swim Team, directed by Lara Stolman. The parents of an autistic boy start their own competitive swim team in New Jersey comprised of autistic teens. The lessons they learn are more than the mechanics of a swim stroke. In the water, these athletes gain confidence and experience social interaction for the first time. I found it uplifting and a true testament to the parental spirit, which rises to empower our children. Our family has been blessed by finding the right swim instructor at our neighborhood Gold’s Gym. I hope someday Mickie can be part of a swim team if she so chooses.

While settling into to my seat for a screening of the Oscar nominated film for Best Picture, Lion, a woman named Jeannie drove her motorized scooter onto the handicap platform next to me. I met her husband, Chip and they told me the Napa Valley Film Festival founders, Brenda and Mark Lorhmer, were their Sonoma neighbors. They annually invite Jeannie and asked her to review handicap accessibility of the festival events and venues. Her feedback to NVFF makes it more handicap friendly. In an earlier year, Jeannie attended a screening about a wheelchair bound woman. The venue for the showing was atop 2 flights of handicap inaccessible stairs. Jeannie needed to be carried in her wheelchair upstairs to access the screening. Thus, the oversight was corrected.

an image of a stage at a film festival with couches that a person is being interviewed on by another person

There were so many great films with each of them have an amazing journey from idea to final edit. Inspiration can come from anywhere, any person and any circumstance. There are so many stories that get to be told. I hope you settle in with some popcorn and enjoy the show!

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