Film Festival brings local fare to movie lovers

ASHEVILLE – This year’s Asheville Film Festival: “A Day at the Movies” celebrated productions that were filmed in and around the Asheville area.

The one-day, free event showcased “Patch Adams,” “28 Days” and “In Dreams.”

Sam Powers, director of Economic Development and of the Asheville Civic Center, described the festival as “a way to fulfill the Civic Center’s mission to [serve] the community at-large.”

“Patch Adams,” starring Robin Williams, was the first movie of the day. The 1998 comedy-drama is based of the life story of Dr. Hunter “Patch” Adams and his untraditional approach to practicing medicine. Adams founded The Gesundheit! Institute, which its website describes as “a project in holistic medical care based on the belief that one cannot separate the health of the individual from the health of the family, the community, the world, and the health care system itself.”

Michael Bigham, an Asheville-based film location scout, greeted moviegoers at the first film. He worked on “Patch Adams,” as well as “The Last of the Mohicans,” “Forrest Gump” and “Hannibal,” among others.

“Patch Adams” filmed on the grounds of the Biltmore Estate, and several scenes of the Appalachian Mountains were shot off the Blue Ridge Parkway on Elk Mountain Highway in Asheville.

Bigham said he very much enjoyed his experience on the “Patch Adams” set.

“Out of all the movies that I have done, Patch Adams was the most fun,” he said. “The people that work, like the director and the assistant director, and especially Robin, can make something fun or arduous. Because of the amount of hours you put in to make a movie, it’s a lot better when it’s pleasant than when it’s not.”

The second movie featured was 2000’s “28 Days,” starring Sandra Bullock as an alcoholic forced to choose between jail or rehab. It was filmed largely at a Black Mountain conference center that stands in as the rehabilitation facility in the movie.

Commentary was done by Lee Nesbitt-Madison who has been in the film industry for more than 30 years and who has worked on movies such as “Smokey and the Bandit” and “The Hunt for Red October.”

The final film was “In Dreams,” a 1999 psychological thriller starring Robert Downey Jr.  and Annette Bening, filmed in part at Fontana Dam. Commentary was provided by Pam Lewis, current director of entrepreneurship at the Asheville Area Chamber of commerce and former director of the WNC Film Office. She has assisted with recruitment and fulfillment on projects such as “My Fellow Americans,” “28 Days” and “Digging to China.”