This year’s Nevada City Film Festival celebrates creatives, visual storytellers and filmmakers that dare us to dream, seek out new possibilities, forge connections, and embrace diversity, all the while sharing in this grand experiment called life.

NCFF has been called the “Sundance of the Sierra” for its emphasis on fiercely independent cinema by showcasing innovative, progressive and exciting new voices in film. Each year, NCFF attends major film festivals, collaborates with film schools around the world, reads countless film blogs, and watches the hundreds of films submitted, to narrow it all down to the very best in independent film.

BRINGING PEOPLE TOGETHER THROUGH FILM

From feature-length documentaries to world premiere shorts, NCFF brings in the buzzed-about festival winners, as well as some of independent cinema’s best-kept secrets. This year’s films bring us closer together,” said Jesse Locks, Nevada City Film Festival director. “From miners in Appalachia to miners in Ghana, from art collectives in New Mexico to young creatives in Portugal, from Nevada County locals exploring sense of place to Syrian refugees forced to establish a new home, these stories show that even though thousands of miles may separate us, we are more alike then we are different.”

NCFF kicks off on Friday, Sept. 7, with a Block Party on Argall Way in the 7-hills Business District. Participating businesses will feature art, food, live music, Virtual Reality experiences, films, and more.

The event will also include the Grand Opening of the Onyx Theatre. Attendees who missed their Open House in May can stop by for a tour of the brand new two-screen art house film theatre, meet filmmakers participating in the festival, and see clips of this year’s films.

Other highlights of this year’s festival include the nearly 100 award-winning shorts and feature length films, with over 35 of the film’s filmmakers traveling from around the world to attend and participate in Question & Answer’s following the films.

This year’s feature films check all the boxes of what an independent film festival should encompass; from promising debuts by emerging directors to seasoned industry favorites taking creative risks to tell new and exciting stories, and everything in between.

Opening night’s films include “The Miseducation of Cameron Post,” a timely coming-of-age-story directed by Desiree Akhavan and starring Chloë Grace Moretz (“Kick Ass,” “Clouds of Sils Maria”) and the time traveling drama “The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then The Big Foot,” directed by Robert Krzykowski, with Sam Elliot and Aidan Turner (“Poldark”) as a legendary American war veteran who is recruited to hunt a mythical creature.

Other films include: Cai Chengjie’s eccentric fable “The Widowed Witch,” about a third-time widow who falls on especially hard times and is declared cursed, but turns superstition to her advantage by travelling the wintry landscape of rural China and offering supernatural advice, in this modern tale of mysticism told with mordant humor and starkly beautiful cinematography. “The Widowed Witch” took top prize at the Rotterdam Film Festival this year.

Taipei,” directed by Jason Lester, is an adaptation of Tao Lin’s novel of the same name. “Twilight,” “Nocturnal Animals” actors Ellie Bamber and Justin Chon star in this modern romance that explores love, alienation, loneliness, drugs, writing, technology — how we can exist and connect amidst all of the cultural detritus of the internet age.

“Meow Wolf: Origin Story” follows a group of artists in Santa Fe, N.M., become a DIY collective called Meow Wolf. Their immersive, large-scale exhibitions crack open a profitable niche in the arts industry, even as their social mission is challenged by the demands of rapid success.

“The Money Stone” directed by award-winning director Stuart Harmon (Emmy-nominated Viceland series “Woman”) is the coming-of-age story of two boys chasing their dreams among the gold mines of Ghana.

“hillbilly,” co-directed by Ashley York and Sally Rubin, goes on a personal and political journey into the heart of the Appalachian coalfields, exploring the role of media representation in the creation of the iconic American “hillbilly,” and examining the social, cultural, and political underpinnings of this infamous stereotype.

In “The Long Shadow,” two daughters of the South (including director Frances Causey) look beyond their white privilege to discover a history that’s been hidden, exposing the long and shockingly powerful reach of Southern politics — from slavery through to today’s racial imbalance.

NCFF and the Nevada Theatre Film Series have partnered to present a special double feature celebrating the life and work of iconoclast filmmaker and champion of social justice, Hal Ashby (“Shampoo,” “Being There,” “Coming Home”).

On Sunday, Sept. 9, they will screen the critically acclaimed documentary “Hal,” directed by Amy Scott, which features candid interviews with some of Ashby’s most loyal film collaborators and admirers including Jeff Bridges, Jane Fonda and Louis Gossett Jr. as well as Alexander Payne, Judd Apatow, Beau Bridges, Haskell Wexler and Norman Jewison. Followed by Ashby’s 1971 cult classic “Harold & Maude.”