ARThound

Geneva Anderson digs into art

The 44th Mill Valley Film Festival is October 7-17, 2021—in theater and online—non-member tickets on sale now

Almost everyone knows someone touched by adoption.  Amanda Lipitz’s documentary “Found screens once in-theater at MVFF44.   The film follows three American teen girls, each a single daughter adopted from China, who learn through a 23andMe search that they are cousins. As they gradually bond, they have increasingly intimate conversations about their adoptee experiences, origins and lost histories.  They decide to travel to China together to find their birth parents and some answers to long unanswered questions.  The film also introduces their birth parents who suffered under China’s one-child policy (relinquishing daughters over sons) as well as the orphanage workers who cared for the babes as they awaited adoption. This moving doc goes beyond the niche of adoption to weave a relatable portrait of searching for one’s identity. It also expands on the experience of being and feeling “other” in America.  Screens:  Saturday, October 16, 2021, Smith Rafael Film Center, 6:30 pm

Lucky day for film lovers.  The 44th Mill Valley Film Festival (MVFF44), which opens in three weeks, and runs October 7- 17, 2021, has general admission tickets available on September 16 for almost all its films.  Generally, the esteemed festival’s films and events are in such demand that many are sold out to California Film Institute (CFI) members before tickets are made available to the general public.  Most in-theater screenings, save a few big nights, are available now but that won’t last for long, so browse the program and don’t dally in pre-purchasing tickets.  Several of these films will figure in the looming Oscar race and it’s very gratifying to say “I already saw that.”

After last year’s almost entirely virtual edition, this year, the festival will return to a few more live events while offering substantial online content. MVFF44 is smaller than usual too, reflecting the challenges of programming with Covid: 118 films representing 39 countries with 37 premieres and 55 percent of all films are directed or co-directed by women.  Thirty-seven features will screen in theaters only—Smith Rafael Film Center (San Rafael), CineArts Sequoia (Mill Valley) and PFA (Berkeley)—and 28 features and 65 shorts will screen online with a few of these in theaters too.  A MVFF Online pass covers all online programming, offering potentially substantial discounts the more films watched.   

With the Delta and the new Mu variants of the coronavirus pressing concerns in the Bay Area, safety will be the festival’s top priority. To attend any of its in-theater events or live musical performances, the festival will require proof of vaccination, or a recent negative coronavirus test, as well as a valid ID, which will be checked at every event.  Screenings and events be held at reduced theater capacity.  Masks will be required;  no concessions.

Arthound will be posting film recommendations shortly, so stay tuned.

Shortlist of MVFF44’s live offerings:

In-theater Opening night/October. 7:Cyrano,” from director Joe Wright, starring Peter Dinklage. A musical adaptation of Edmond Rostand’s 1897 play “Cyrano de Bergerac,” inspired by the 2018 musical stage play adapted and directed by Erica Schmidt. Director Joe Wright will appear in conversation.

In-theater Tributes: October 8: Director Jane Campion and “The Power of the Dog” (it’s been 10+ years since her last film); October 25: Director/actor Kenneth Branaugh and screening of “Belfast.”

In-theater Spotlights: October 9: Actor Simon Rex and “Red Rocket”; October 13: director Denis Villeneuve and “Dune“; October 16: Director Paolo Sorrentino and “The Hand of God“; October 16: Director Maggie Gyllenhaal and “The Lost Daughter.”

In-theater Centerpiece Program/October. 12: Director Mike Mills in conversation and“C’mon C’mon,” a family drama starring Joaquin Phoenix.

In-theater Mind the Gap special screening/October 14: Producer Nina Yang Bongiovi (“Fruitvale Station,” “Sorry to Bother You”) will receive the 2021 Mind the Gap Award, Independent Producer of the Year and will be joined in conversation by Director Rebecca Hall, along with “Passing,” a film about passing as white in the Jim Crow era starring Tessa Thompson and Ruth Negga.

In-theater Closing night, Oct. 17: Director Wes Anderson’s “The French Dispatch,” a tribute to the New Yorker’s fabled literary world with idiosyncratic performances from Benicio del Toro, Adrien Brody, Saoirse Ronan, Tilda Swinton, and Jeffrey Wright.

MVFF music: Four live music shows at Mill Valley’s historic Sweetwater Music Hall paired with four musical docs playing at CineArts Sequoia: October 9: MONOPHONICS and “Lady Buds“; October 10: house band and Ben Fong-Torres and “Like a Rolling Stone: The Life and Times of Ben Fong-Torres“. October 11: THE BARRY GOLDBERG – JIMMY VIVINO BLUES REUNION (Featuring ROB STONE) and “Born in Chicago“; October 15: ABEL SANCHEZ & TEATRO CAMPESINO and guest musicians in a benefit honoring Cesar Chavez and “Song for Cesar.”

Details:  

MVFF44 is October 7-17, 2021.  Tickets to most films are $16.50 general admission, $14 CFI members.  Special events start at $25.  MVFF Online pass, $130 for CA residents, allows access to all online films, programs, conversations.

Complete schedule:  https://www.mvff.com/program-mvff44.

September 16, 2021 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Cast your vote in DocPitch, support a non-fiction filmmaker in finishing a film—voting closes Wed midnight

Filmmakers Kenji Yamamoto and Nancy Kelly hope to win $25,000 from DocPitch to help fund “Startup Embassy,” which follows three ambitious migrant high-tech entrepreneurs—two men from Spain and a woman from Turkey—who arrive in Silicon Valley with visions of success. They end up in a hacker house, a shared living space that welcomes fledgling entrepreneurs from all over the globe. There, hackers do constructive work, like coding, to make ends meet while working on pet projects. Putting everything on the line, they learn from one another and their struggles are laid bare, including near financial ruin and the stress of family separation.

Each spring, CFI (California Film Institute) brings awe-inspiring true-life stories to the Bay Area with its Doclands Documentary Film Festival.  Due to Covid-19, Doclands was postponed and will now take place before or in conjunction with the 43rd Mill Valley Film Festival (MVFF), scheduled for October 8-18, 2020.

DocLands is calling on anyone who loves film to vote in DocPitch, its annual fundraising forum.  DocPitch supports filmmakers in completing a documentary already in production with cash rewards that are based on votes cast by the public and industry professionals.  So, yes, your voice matters and translates into cash, which funds an elucidating film.  There is just one day left to cast your vote for one of eight eligible film projects that will win a $25,000 Audience Choice Award.  Voting closes on Wednesday, August 19, 2020 at midnight PDT.  Winners of the Audience Choice Award and eight additional film-making grants totaling $100,000 will be announced on Friday, August 21 via a virtual conversation with the filmmakers.

Click here to view projects and to vote and to learn about the Friday’s awards announcement.  The entire process takes but a few minutes and will wet your appetite for films to come.

August 17, 2020 Posted by | Film | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The 40th Mill Valley Film Festival, October 5-15, 2017, will honor Sean Penn with a special tribute

Actor, director, screenwriter, and political activist Sean Penn will be honored on Saturday, October 7, with a tribute and the MVFF award at the 40th Mill Valley Film Festival (October 4-14, 2017).  The afternoon will feature an onstage conversation with Penn, who won two Academy Awards for Best Actor for Mystic River (2003) and Milk (2008), and has been nominated three more times in the same category for Dead Man Walking (1995), Sweet and Lowdown (1999), and I Am Sam (2001).  As a director, Penn has crafted powerful dramas such as The Indian Runner (1991), The Pledge (2001), and Into the Wild (2007).  Penn’s most recent MVFF appearance was in 2014 to support The Human Experiment (2014), a film that he executive produced and narrated.  Image courtesy: MVFF

The Mill Valley Film Festival (MVFF 40), October 4-15, 2107, a favorite among film lovers, hasn’t released its full schedule to the public yet but has just announced that Sean Penn will be honored with a festival tribute on Saturday, 3 p.m., October 7, 2017 at the Smith Rafael Film Center.  The two-hour program will feature an onstage conversation with Penn, a clip reel of his work, and the presentation of the MVFF award.  There will be time for an audience Q&A afterwards too, which is always fascinating as savvy audience members ask direct and often difficult questions–familiar territory for Penn.  The complete MVFF schedule will be available online Monday, September 12, 2017.  For this milestone, plan on a star-studded extravaganza, a roll-out in the neighborhood of 150 films and several special musical offerings, all selected with the progressive, knowledgeable and fun-loving spirit of our Bay Area audience in mind.

MVFF founder and executive director Mark Fishkin said that Sean Penn was essential for their 40th: “Not only is Sean one of the greatest actors of this generation; he may be one of the greatest actors of many generations.  The integrity of his performances in unparalleled.  Very few actors can be as absorbed in a role as he can and that comes right from his core.  He has history with this festival.”

Sean Penn, whose film career spans three decades, lived in Ross for several years and has a long association with MVFF.  In fact, over the years, it was a treat to see him catching a movie at the Rafael.  In 2002, he presented and spoke about Jessie Nelson’s I Am Sam (2001), which he starred in with Michelle Pfeiffer and Dakota Fanning.  Penn, nominated for Best Actor Academy Award, played a mentally challenged single father struggling to raise a daughter who ends up with Michelle Pfeiffer as his attorney.

Sean Penn was a lead actor in Mexican director Alejandro González Iñárritu’s 21 Grams (2003) which had its world premiere at the 2003 Venice International Film Festival, where Penn won his second Volpi Cup (Best Actor Award).  At that time, he had been nominated for three Academy Awards but hadn’t yet won any.  The film later screened at MVFF and Penn and Iñárritu captivated the audience with a revealing post-screening Q&A.

In 2003, Penn came to MVFF as the lead actor in Mexican director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s tormenting  21 Grams.  Inarritu presented the film and Penn appeared on stage with him in an intense Q&A with festival founder and executive director, Mark Fishkin.  Reception guests included the unbeatable Tom Waits and Peter Coyote; the evening was unforgettable.

At a very special pre-festival event in 2007, Penn presented Into the Wild (2007), which he both directed and wrote the screenplay for.  The film, based on Jon Krakauer’s nonfiction bestseller, was nominated for two Academy® Awards.  Penn also presented the Mill Valley Award to Emile Hirsch for his breakout performance as the impulsive young adventurer, Christopher Johnson McCandless who lived thrillingly in the natural world for two years and then died tragically of starvation in the Alaskan wilderness.

In 2009, as part of the Smith Rafael’s 10th anniversary celebration Film of My Life series, Penn presented Elem Klimov’s film Come and See (1985), which unfolds in the Soviet republic of Byelorussia in 1943 and depicts the brutality of war.  Penn explained that the film, which he considers a masterpiece of film-making, affected him deeply.

In November of 2009, Penn was also in attendance at the Smith Rafael for a special screening of Oren Moverman’s lauded debut film, The Messenger (2009), which included an on stage conversation with Woody Harrelson, who starred in the film.

Who can forget Sean Penn’s Academy Award winning performance as Jimmy, an ex-con whose 19-year-old daughter is brutally murdered, in Clint Eastwood’s 24th film, the crime drama, Mystic River.

Penn’s most recent MVFF appearance was in 2014 to support The Human Experiment (2013), a documentary that he executive produced and narrated which explored the astonishing numbers of toxic chemicals found in everyday household products and the need for tighter regulation.

Penns’ fifth film as a director,  the drama The Last Face (2016), with Charlize Theron and Javier Bardem as African aid workers who become romantically involved in Liberian and Sudanese conflict zones, garnered a string of one star reviews and was was promptly relegated to a VOD release.  You can expect some discussion at MVFF of what prompted Penn to cast two gorgeous white actors in the lead as compassionate savior/healers and ensconce them in a bloody black war.

Penn’s latest film, The Professor and the Madman (2017), directed by Farhad Safinia and produced by Mel Gibson, is based on the Simon Winchester book about the true story of the making of the Oxford English Dictionary.  Set in 1857, Gibson plays the obsessive professor, James Murray, who oversaw the dictionary’s creation, while Sean Penn plays the equally obsessive madman — Dr. William Chester Minor — who contributed 10,000 entries from an asylum for the criminally insane.  This is the first time Penn and Gibson have appeared together on screen but audiences may have to wait until a legal matter is resolved.  In late July, Gibson filed a lawsuit alleging that the producing company, Voltage Pictures (the company behind The Hurt Locker)  was in breach of contract because one it did not allow him to select a final cut of the film.

MVFF 40 Details:

MVFF 40 runs October 4-15, 2017.  Main venues this year include: CinéArts@Sequoia (Mill Valley), Christopher B. Smith Rafael Film Center (San Rafael), Lark Theatre (Larkspur), and Cinema Corte Madera.

Full schedule online Monday, September 11, 2017.

Tickets before the festival:  CFI (California Film Institute) Passholders get first dibs in order of their pass status. Premier Patron, Director’s Circle, Gold Star, and non-pass holding CFI members can begin to purchase tickets September 12-16.

General Public tickets available September 17-October 4, 2017 online (with convenience fees of $3.75 per order) or in person (no fee) at Smith Rafael Film Center Box Office (1114 Fourth Street, San Rafael, 4 to 8 pm) or Mill Valley Chamber of Commerce, 85 Throckmorton Ave., 4 to 8 pm)

Tickets during the festival:  October 5-15, 2017 tickets will be available 1 hour before the first screening of the day to 15 minutes after the last show starts.  Rush tickets:  rush line forms outside each venue roughly 1 hour before show time.  Rush tickets are sold on a first come, first sold basis roughly 15 minutes before show time.  Patrons have a 90% chance of getting into a show by using the rush line.

September 6, 2017 Posted by | Film | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment