By Sal Rodriguez
The Tolucan Times
Cinema meets wine as movie lovers head to California’s Central Coast for the 18th Annual Sonoma International Film Festival, featuring “more than 90 hand-selected films including independent features, documentaries, world cinema, shorts, and a showcase of Spanish language films.” The festival sets itself apart from the others, not only in venue, but in geography. (I can drink wine as I watch the movies, right?)
Bronx brothers Ante Novakovic (co-writer/director), and Kresh Novakovic (actor/producer), bring family ties to moviemaking, previously with their award-winning short film The Fix, and now with their drama-feature Leaves of the Tree. Filmed on-location in Italy, and starring Eric Roberts, Sean Young, and Armand Assante, our filmmakers promise a glimpse into a world of “religious mysticism” and “an entity that cannot be explained by science.”
In summary: “Leaves of the Tree is about a dying man’s struggle to discover the secret of a mystical tree’s healing leaves in a small town on the western coast of Sicily. Various groups have a vested interest in the tree, including a big pharmaceutical company, and a religious order empowered by the Church to protect it at all costs.”
Shot in three, six-day weeks, and utilizing an Italian production crew, Ante remained sympathetic with the locals, “We went into their world, observing their customs. Being of Croatian descent, I felt a connection,” he said.
“Our mother and father weren’t too keen on us going into film,” says Kresh, “They would have preferred ‘something in business.’” I hope Mr. and Mrs. Novakovic are privy to their sons’ accolades, with their short film The Fix. The movie, with Ante directing, and with Kresh starring opposite Armand Assante, was nominated for Best Short at the Long Island International Film Expo, the Palm Beach International Film Festival, the Sarajevo Film Festival, the SOHO International Film Festival, and winning the Audience Award for Best Short Film at the Gasparilla International Film Festival in 2013. These brothers are first-generation ‘makes good’ in its truest form.
And while enjoying the limelight, the Novakovics’ are quick to mention that Leaves is from a screenplay by Executive Producer/Lead Producer David Healey and Ante, based on Healey’s book “Kindness for the Damned: Intrigue, Love, and Redemption in Sicily.”
Drawing from such diverse, early influences as the New York Philharmonic (Ante) and Martin Scorsese (Kresh) these blood brothers aim to leave their mark on Hollywood, as well as Hollywood’s harshest critics. Having been personally mentored by Harvey Keitel (Ante) and Assante (Kresh), these siblings are looking forward to, and beyond, the wine country showcase. “I hope to begin production on the feature-length version of The Fix by summer,” says Kresh. Meanwhile, Ante, has completed working on the feature film Solace with Irishman Colin Farrell, also starring Anthony Hopkins.
So as you visit the Sonoma International Film Festival, undoubtedly by way of Napa Valley, tip your wine glass to the brothers Novakovic, Ante and Kresh. Indulge yourself with Leaves of the Tree, and show their parents that these Croatian creations mean business.
“Leaves of the Tree” can be seen on March 26th at 5pm and March 29th at 10am at the 18th Annual Sonoma International Film Festival. Visit www.SonomaFilmFest.org for ticket prices and additional information. Learn more about the film by visiting www.IMDB.com Search: Leaves of the Tree.
After the World Premiere in Sonoma, the film will screen in Tampa at the Gasparilla International Film Festival and then on to Houston for the 48th Annual WorldFest – Houston International Film Festival, where it will be the opening night film on April 10th. “Leaves of the Tree” is presented by Gogi Productions LLC in association with CICI Films, also executive produced by Rebecca Healey and Marc Jacobson, and produced by Donna McKenna, Joanna Lu, Perla Montemayor, Ante Novakovic, and Kresh Novakovic and co-produced by Claudio Colomba.