A love story about art, the life and collection of Rene di Rosa

A Film by Nancy Kelly and Kenji Yamamoto. Premieres Nationally on PBSJuly 26, 2006, at 10:30pm (check local listings)

Contact: Tiffany Woolf, ITVS, 415.356.8383 ext. 250 or
Randall Cole, ITVS, 415.356.8383 ext. 254 or
Pamela Coddington, di Rosa Preserve, 415-457-7919 or 

Documentary film explores the extraordinary life of 87-year-old patron and collector, whose passion for art and artists has become a driving force behind California art scene (San Francisco). Rene di Rosa is smitten by art. For more than 50 years the renowned Napa Valley based collector and California art patron has been seeking out unknown and emerging artists, adding their work to his ever-growing and vast collection. Rene and his collected works, which have become the world's largest and most notable collection of Northern California art, is the centerpiece of SMITTEN, the new film by award-winning filmmakers Nancy Kelly and Kenji Yamamoto. Kelly and Yamamoto invite audiences into the world of this unique and endearing man as he finds pure joy in discovering new artists and whose passion and expertise has become a driving force behind the California art scene. 

SMITTEN will have its national television premiere on PBS, July 26, 2006, at 10:30pm (check local listings). SMITTEN follows di Rosa as he tours his collection, interacts with artists, and explores the Bay Area art scene. He provides the viewer with insight into his collecting tastes and his interest in supporting the artists of his time. Di Rosa has a terrific instinct for artists, helping to establish the careers of world known artists including, David Best, Mildred Howard, Paul Kos, Robert Arneson, William T. Wiley, Roy De Forrest, Richard Shaw, among others. 

Most of the film takes place at the di Rosa Preserve: Art and Nature, which opened its doors to the public in 1997. Begun as his private art collection, Rene sold most of his Napa based vineyard and donated most of his art and remaining land to the people of California in the early 1990s, to provide for the future of the collection after his death. The Preserve is an egalitarian exploration of art. Visitors are invited to leave their pre-conceptions at the door and to "experience" the art and nature around them. 

In 2004, wanting the significance of the collection to be better known, Rene allowed fifty works to go on a national tour, the first time any of his collection had been shown outside of California. The filmmakers follow Rene as he and his art travel from Napa to the first stop on the national tour, the Kreeger Museum in Washington, DC. He transports some of the art to the new location with the care of taking children on a trip away from home. SMITTEN is not only about a man and his vast and extraordinary collection, is also offers a delightful commentary on the "art" of aging successfully. Rene dares to age actively as his search and love for his art collection seems to be what drives his passionate and energetic spirit -- even well into his eighties. He says, "It is my greatest pleasure. Without it, I can't function." 

For Rene, his collection is his family, the Preserve is his home and each piece of art is a representation of his life, which the filmmakers so lovingly explore. About the di Rosa Preserve The di Rosa Preserve is the realization of the vision of two devoted patrons of the arts, Rene and Veronica di Rosa. Through their generosity the vast collection of art, historic buildings and surrounding open spaces are now owned and shared by the public. Began as a private art collection, the di Rosa Preserve ( was opened to the public in 1997. With more than 2,300 works of art by more than 900 artists, the di Rosa Preserve is a non-profit cultural and environmental resource that acquires, exhibits and preserves the art of the greater San Francisco Bay Area. It is considered the largest and most notable collection of contemporary Northern California art available anywhere, and is one of the major regional art collections in the country. 

The di Rosa Preserve is a portion of the original 460 acres purchased by Rene di Rosa in 1960. Entirely surrounded by vineyards and studded with 150-year-old olive trees, the Preserve's 217 acres feature three art galleries, an outdoor sculpture meadow and a 35-acre lake set in the beautiful Carneros wine region at the southern edge of the Napa and Sonoma Valleys. Rich in flora and fauna, the open spaces remain protected by the Napa County Land Trust and are home to canada geese, blue herons, snowy egrets, peacocks and more. About KRCB (and FM 91) KRCB -- TV and FM 91 ( is the PBS and NPR station serving the North and East Bay areas of the San Francisco Bay region. It provides educational, informational and cultural telecommunication services in partnership with the community by broadcasting the best of noncommercial programming available from national and international sources as well as its own productions. Working with non-profit and government organizations, the station expands the impact of programming by initiating community dialog on important issues, thus encouraging the civic engagement of all citizens. KRCB--TV earned a National Telly Award for its "Natural Heroes" series while a Special Merit Award from the National Federation of Community Broadcasters was garnered by KRCB--FM for its "Voice of Youth" program. 

About ITVS Independent Television Service 
(ITVS) funds and presents award-winning documentaries and dramas on public television, innovative new media projects on the Web, and the Emmy Award-winning weekly series Independent Lens on Tuesday nights at 10pm on PBS. ITVS is a miracle of public policy created by media activists, citizens and politicians seeking to foster plurality and diversity in public television. ITVS was established by a historic mandate of Congress to champion independently produced programs that take creative risks, spark public dialogue and serve underserved audiences. Since ITVS' inception in 1991, its programs have revitalized the relationship between the public and public television, bringing television audiences face-to-face with the lives and concerns of their fellow Americans. 

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About Rene di Rosa 
Rene di Rosa was born in Boston in 1919 as the only child of an Italian diplomat and a midwestern heiress. He graduated from Yale University where he served as editor of the Yale Review, and lived in New Jersey and Paris after military service during WWII. After failing to write his version of "The Great American Novel," he moved to San Francisco in the late 1950s to work as a reporter on the San Francisco Chronicle. He acquired his first artwork in Paris and began to acquire pieces of art while living near the burgeoning North Beach art community associated with "the Beats" in San Francisco. Di Rosa's search for a closer connection with rural values brought him to the Carneros region in 1960: where he purchased a ranch and planted grapes. A pioneer in a region that had been forgotten after prohibition, he turned his Winery Lake Vineyard into one of the finest California vineyards, fetching some of the highest prices for its grapes. He sold 230 acres of the vineyard after over 20 years of operation to Seagram in 1986, and he began to expand his art collection and establish his Preserve on the remaining land. 

Upon his arrival to Napa in the early 1960s, di Rosa took viticulture classes at the University of California at Davis where he would often wander into the art department. He there met many of the artists who have become the backbone of the di Rosa Collection. Such well-known artists as Robert Arneson, Roy De Forest, Manuel Neri and William T. Wiley were young art teachers at Davis when they first met di Rosa in the mid 1960s. The intense creativity and spirit at Davis also included students of these artists such as John Buck, Deborah Butterfield, David Gilhooly, Bruce Nauman, and Richard Shaw. The collection, which includes all of the above-mentioned artists, has grown over a span of several decades to include important works from many other leading California contemporary artists, including David Best, Bruce Conner, Mark di Suvero, Stephen De Staebler, Viola Frey, Lynn Hershman, Mildred Howard, Paul Kos, Nathan Oliveira, Alan Rath, Raymond Saunders, Larry Sultan, and many others. Di Rosa's mission is to encourage individuals to support the artists in their communities, and to champion California as an important center of culture. 

Di Rosa has been one of the few Bay Area art collectors of his time who consistently buy local art and don't fly to New York to acquire objects. At 86 years old, di Rosa continues as a self-described "artaholic" collecting as avidly as ever and giving his purchases to the people of California. He still takes great satisfaction in supporting artists who are unknown and acting as a dedicated patron to several more established artists. He also supports many cultural and environmental organizations and remains an active participant in the Bay Area art world. 


Nancy Kelly 
Nancy Kelly has been making independent fiction and non-fiction films for more than 25 years. Her new film, Smitten, is a documentary about Rene di Rosa, who has the world's largest collection of northern California contemporary art. Smitten is the second in a trilogy of films she is making about the transformative power of art. Nancy wrote, produced and directed the documentary, Downside UP, which aired nationally on PBS's Independent Lens series in 2003. Downside UP is a first-person story about America's largest museum of contemporary art (MASS MoCA), which opened in the abandoned Massachusetts factory where her grandparents and parents once worked. Downside UP explores whether something as ephemeral as contemporary art can breathe life into a dying city. She developed, produced and directed the critically-acclaimed American Playhouse Theatrical film Thousand Pieces of Gold, which stars Rosalind Chao and Chris Cooper. The Los Angeles Times compared her work to the "lyricism of a John Ford, a Budd Boetticher, a George Stephens...but always opening up a new world." 

Thousand Pieces of Gold tells the story of a young Chinese woman who comes to America during the late Gold Rush as a slave. It was developed in association with the Sundance Institute and theatrically released in the top 20 US markets. Its premiere airing on American Playhouse ranks among the series' top twenty highest rated broadcasts. J & M Entertainment sold the television rights to every country in the world. ShowTime, Sundance, Encore and the Romance cable channels broadcast the film. Thousand Pieces of Gold was featured in over 20 international film festivals, both in the US and abroad. It received the Audience Award at the Ft. Lauderdale Film Festival and the Best Feature of the Year Award from the National Cowboy Hall of Fame. She also produced and directed the award-winning documentaries Cowgirls: Portraits of American Ranch Women; A Cowhand's Song: Crisis on the Range; and Sweeping Ocean Views. Cowgirls aired on the National Geographic Explorer Program. It won a Blue Ribbon at the American Film Festival, a Golden Apple at the National Educational Film Festival, Best Documentary from the National Cowboy Hall of Fame, Best of the Sinking Creek Film Festival and Best of the Palo Alto Film Festival. Sweeping Ocean Views received a local Emmy nomination. 

She produced and directed OneTrees, the pilot of Spark, KQED San Francisco's art series, and several other segments for the series' first two seasons. With Gwendolyn Clancy, she is currently completing When We Were Cowgirls, a work of creative non-fiction about her experiences working as a ranch hand. With funding from the Dreihaus Foundation, the Illinois Council for the Humanities and the Marin Arts Council, she is developing Stories to Tell, Dreams to Live, a documentary about Chicago's immigrant youth theater company, the Albany Park Theater Project. Nancy is on the Steering Committee of New Day Films, the most successful distribution cooperative in the media industry. Her work has been in the international film festivals in: San Francisco, Seattle, Chicago, Denver, Hawaii, Cleveland, London, Moscow, Vancouver, Cork, Galway and Amiens, as well as the Deauville Festival of American Cinema, South by Southwest Film Festival, and Festival of Young Cinema (Paris). Ms Kelly's work has screened at the Directors Guild of America, National Film Theater (London), Centre Pompidou (Paris), the IFP Market (New York), the Cannes Film Market, and the Gene Autry Museum (Los Angeles). 

Her work has been funded by the Ford Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, Independent Television Service, Corporation for Public Broadcasting, National Endowment for the Humanities, American Playhouse, LEF Foundation, Marin Arts Council, and the Humanities Councils and Foundations of Massachusetts, California, Illinois, Oregon, Nevada and Wyoming. She has attended the June Lab at the Sundance Institute, the Squaw Valley Community of Writers, and been a resident at Yaddo, the MacDowell Colony, Montalvo, Mesa Refuge and UCross. She is married to the film editor Kenji Yamamoto. 

Kenji Yamamoto 
Kenji Yamamoto most recently co-produced and edited Smitten, Nancy Kelly's short documentary about Rene di Rosa, who has the world's largest collection of northern California contemporary art. He was associate producer and editor of Downside UP, an hour-long, first- person documentary written, produced and directed by Nancy Kelly, about how America's largest museum of contemporary art brought the filmmaker's home town back to life. He produced and edited the independent feature film Thousand Pieces of Gold, directed by Nancy Kelly and starring Rosalind Chao and Chris Cooper. 

Kenji has edited a wide range of documentary and theatrical films, including: the DVD extras for the HBO series Deadwood, which included an interview with series creator and Executive Producer David Milch, produced and directed by David Schwarz; Soul of Justice: The Life and Times of Thelton Henderson, an hour-long documentary portrait of the dynamic federal judge, Thelton Henderson, who is both honored and vilified for standing up to his beliefs of equal treatment of all races. Soul of Justice was produced and directed by Abby Ginzberg. He also edited Thirst, an hour-long documentary about how three communities Bolivia, India and California have dealt with the pressure to privatize their municipal water facilities. Thirst aired on PBS's P.O.V. and was produced and directed by Alan Snitow and Deborah Kaufman. 

He edited the award-winning Cowgirls: Portraits of American Ranch Women, by Nancy Kelly; Emiko Omori's award-winning dramatic short, The Departure; Felicia Lowe's documentary China: Land of My Father; and Don Briggs' documentary Parrot's Ferry is the Limit. He was a contributing editor of Hidden in Plain Sight, a feature-length documentary about US government support of the School of the Americas, which was produced and directed by John Smihula; School Colors, an award-winning PBS Frontline documentary about class and racism at Berkeley High, produced and directed by Steven Olsson & Scott Andrews; The Business of America, an award-winning hour-long documentary that asks whether American companies can be trusted; and A Cowhand's Song: Crisis on the Range, an award-winning documentary short about family ranchers who run their cattle on the public lands, produced and directed by Gwendolyn Clancey and Nancy Kelly. 

He also edited a number of segments, including the pilot, for Spark, KQED's weekly documentary half-hour art show. Kenji has attended the June Filmmaker's Lab at the Sundance Institute (with Thousand Pieces of Gold) and has twice been an artist-in-residence at the Banff Centre for the Arts. He has studied directing with Judith Weston in Los Angeles, Jean Shelton in San Francisco and he studied painting and photography at the San Francisco Art Institute.

Posted on April 25, 2006