The 6th annual Napa Valley Film Festival began with a packed house at the historic Uptown Theatre gathered to see Lion and its star, Slumdog Millionaire’s Dev Patel, who joined for a Q&A following the film where he noted, “When I got this role, I called up my manager and said I didn’t want to work for 8 months.  This type of role demands that type of preparation.  Roles like this– lightning never strikes twice, they are so rare.  It’s such an anthem of humanity.”  The emotional and heartwarming true story follows a poor young boy, played by the remarkable Sunny Pawar, who at age 6 gets lost in India after accidentally boarding a decommissioned train.  He ends up over 1500 km from his town in Calcutta, where he can’t speak the language and no one has ever heard

NAPA, CA - NOVEMBER 9: Napa Valley Film Festival Co-Founder Marc Lhormer, actor Dev Patel, and The Weinstein Company President and COO David Glasser attend the opening night screening and Q&A for The Weinstein Company's "Lion" at the Uptown Theatre during the 2016 Napa Valley Film Festival on November 9, 2016 in Napa, California. (Photo by Frank Micelotta/PictureGroup)
Napa Valley Film Festival Co-Founder Marc Lhormer, actor Dev Patel, and The Weinstein Company President and COO David Glasser (Courtesy of Napa Film Festival)

of his small village.  After a few rough and dangerous months on the street, he lands in an orphanage and is adopted by Nicole Kidman and David Wenham who live in Tasmania.  The story continues to follow the stark contrast of his new upbringing and his ongoing guilt about the fact that his real family in India must still be searching for him.  Throughout the film, the audience remained entranced by the story—regularly wiping away tears.  I couldn’t help but think this may have been a particularly emotional role for Nicole Kidman who has a strained relationship with her own adopted children Connor & Isabella Cruise.

“For filmmaking, what we do at its core is explore what it is like to be human, and India is a land of humanity just bursting with people.”- Dev Patel

Patel shared with the audience his preparation for the film which included meeting with the man the story was based upon and recreating his journey through India– spending days on trains alone and visiting orphanages.  The most captivating parts of the film take place in India following the journey of the young child, and Patel was eager to give credit to his younger counterpart, “A special mention should go to Sunny who plays the young boy, the first hour of the film rests on his little shoulders which is so profound.”

Already generating well-deserved Oscar buzz, Lion opens on November 25th.

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