Newport Beach Film Festival kicks off with red carpet and Laird Hamilton film

The 18th annual Newport Beach Film Festival got underway Thursday night with film stars, City Council members and a screening of “Take Every Wave: The Life of Laird Hamilton.”

“It’s just a great opportunity to show the beauty of Newport Beach and it’s always a reflection of the arts and culture in our community,” said Newport Beach Mayor Kevin Muldoon.

Other notables who attended the evening’s red carpet event included Newport Beach city councilman Jeff Herdman and actor Will Walker, known for his roles in thrillers “The Driver,” that starred Ryan O’Neal and Bruce Dern, and “Deathsport,” with David Carridine.

Walker said he was looking forward to seeing the festival’s opening night film spotlighting Hamilton’s life story. He said he felt it would leave him and others moved by the big-wave surfer’s courage and talent.

Hamilton, who walked the red carpet in flip-flops with his wife, Gabrielle Reece, is the subject of the film that follows him exploring fear, ambition and talent while overcoming limits.

He is credited for pioneering tow-in surfing, a technique that uses artificial assistance to allow the surfer to catch faster moving waves than was traditionally possible when paddling by hand.

“The film gives people a chance to understand who this amazing person is and the accomplishments he has made in his life,” said Jason Rem, the film’s co-producer who collaborated with director Rory Kennedy. “It’s our hope that people make an emotional connection and feel better about tackling obstacles.”

After Thursday night’s movie, the festival was set to host an opening-night gala at Fashion Island featuring culinary tastings from 30 of Orange County restaurants and a special performance from “O,” the aquatic production by Cirque du Soleil at the Las Vegas-based Bellagio Resort and Casino.

Set to headline the celebratory after-party festivities was Side Deal, a new band from Grammy Award-winning musician and founding member of music group Train, Charlie Colin, Sugar Ray past members and multi-platinum artists Stan Frazier and Murphy Karges, as well as brothers Scott and Joel Owen of PawnShop Kings.

While strolling the red carpet, the entertainment group said they were happy to represent Newport Beach as each musician had a connection to the coastal community — having either been born at Hoag Hospital, having grown up in Newport or attended the schools.

“It’s very important to us because we have such heavy ties to Newport Beach,” Frazier said. “It’s very special for us to be here and we hope that these songs bring smiles to people’s faces.”

This year’s film festival, running till Thursday, will offer more than 350 films from 50 countries. The screenings will run at Newport’s Lido Theater and Island Cinema and the Starlight Triangle Square Cinemas in Costa Mesa, among other venues.

The eight-day festival is projected to attract more than 55,000 attendees and will also present nightly events, galas and seminars featuring conversations with filmmakers.

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Twitter: @KathleenLuppi