ARThound

Geneva Anderson digs into art

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.

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

The 38th Mill Valley Film Festival starts tonight and runs through October 18─here are ARThound’s favs

The Indigo Bunting, a small songbird in the Cardinal family, sings with gusto. The male is all blue and looks like a slice of sky with wings. The plight of songbirds is the subject of Su Rynard's documentary,

The Indigo Bunting, a small songbird in the Cardinal family, sings with gusto. The male is all blue and looks like a slice of sky with wings. The plight of songbirds is the subject of Su Rynard’s documentary, “The Messenger,” which screens twice at the 38th Mill Valley Film Festival. Gorgeously photographed, with stunning super slo-mo shots of birds in flight and plenty of exquisite melodies, this thoughtful film celebrates these glorious magicians and explores their rapidly shrinking global populations, calling for drastic action to save them. image: MVFF

The 38th Mill Valley Film Festival (MVFF38) is upon us─it kicks off this evening with two opening night films─Tom Hopper’s The Danish Girl and Tom McCarthy’s Spotlight─ and an always opulent gala afterwards at Marin Country Mart.  The festival runs full force (11AM to 10PM) for the next 10 days at several Marin venues, all within close range of Sonoma County.

Even with the catalog in hand, a 60 pager, redesigned to make it easier to figure out, it takes time and planning to decide which of the 170+ films and special programs to attend.  Long-time programmers Zoë Elton, Janis Plotkin and Karen Davis are so tuned in to our North Bay tastes, every film is a de facto good choice but I’ll point to some standouts.

I have a soft spot for world cinema that delivers a great story (the quirkier the better) and takes me to a (beautifully-filmed) place I’ve never been.  I also love documentaries that expose and inspire.  There are always a handful of films from Cannes and some that represent foreign language Oscar nominees.  As for the tributes and special programs, if you have the time, go to as many as possible.  Every special program I’ve attended at this festival has been well worth the extra money and I’ve been inspired to do wonderful things as a result.  In 2012, after seeing Luc Besson’s amazing bio-pic, The Lady, and hearing guest Michelle Yeoh interviewed about playing Burmese activist, Aung San Suu Kyi, I visited Myanmar for two weeks and experienced it on the brink of its transformation.  I got involved with supporting a school and I visited Suu Kyi’s family home in a posh suburb of Yangon─it was surrounded a high wall─and left flowers in tribute.

These are my recommendations for this year’s not-to-miss films and events─

Embrace of the Serpent:

Ciro Guerra's

Ciro Guerra’s “Embrace of the Serpent,” won top prize at Cannes’ Directors’ Fortnight and is Columbia’s submission to foreign-language category for the Academy Awards. Image: MVFF

Thirty-four year-old Columbian director Ciro Guerra is no stranger to Cannes.  His 2009 drama The Wind Journeys, which competed in the Uncertain Regard category, was filmed in some 80 locations all over Columbia and tracked a musician’s restorative journey to return an accordion.  His Embrace of the Serpent took this year’s Directors’ Fortnight prize at Cannes which is the top Art Cinema prize and it’s Columbia’s submission to foreign-language Oscar category.  Rich is the only way to describe the rare Amazonian languages you’ll hear and the exquisite black and white photography of fabled Amazonian landscapes.  The story unfolds from point of view of European explorer and a Shaman who work over the course of some 40 years to search for a sacred healing plant.  The thoughtful film delivers a fairly comprehensive critique of the destruction of indigenous cultures at the hands of white invaders.  Cast member Brionne Davis in attendance. (Ciro Guerra, Columbia, Venezuela, Argentina, 2015, 125 min)

Golden Kingdom:

“Golden Kingdom” is American filmmaker Brian Perkins first feature film and it has its US premiere at the 38th Mill Valley Film Festival. Image: courtesy: Brian Perkins

“Golden Kingdom” is American filmmaker Brian Perkins’ first feature film and it has its US premiere at the 38th Mill Valley Film Festival. Image: courtesy: Brian Perkins

 

The first feature film shot in Myanmar and a first feature for it its director, Brian Perkins, too, Golden Kingdom is a prescient widow into the culture of this remote fabled land.  This is the story of four young boy monks, all orphans (played by non-professional actors), who are left alone in a monastery in Shan State in Northeast Myanmar when their elderly head monk receives a letter and takes off on a journey.  The film cleverly uses the Buddhist motif of pursuit of enlightenment and knowledge and traditional Burmese storytelling to explore the unknown and overwhelming new world the boys encounter as they decide to leave and venture out into the countryside, only to encounter a land that is still engaged in remnants of a violent separatist uprising.  (Brian Perkins, US, 2015, 103 min) in Burmese (10/13 5PM; 10/15 2PM Sequoia 1)

Rams:

In Grímur Hákonarson’s “Rams,” two peculiar brothers in a small Icelandic farming community, who haven't spoken in 40 years, are forced to come together in order to save what’s dearest to them – their sheep. Image: MVFF

In Grímur Hákonarson’s “Rams,” two peculiar brothers in a small Icelandic farming community, who haven’t spoken in 40 years, are forced to come together in order to save what’s dearest to them – their sheep. Image: MVFF

When’s the last time you saw a film from Iceland or heard their language, Íslenska (Icelandic), spoken?  Grímur Hákonarson’s Rams, winner of the Uncertain Regard Prize at Cannes, weaves the story of two brothers, both single and getting on in years, who compete fiercely each year for valley-wide recognition for having the best ram.  They haven’t spoken in 40 years but are forced to come together in order to save what’s dearest to their hearts—their sheep.  Shot in remote lush valleys of Iceland, with added color in the peculiar characters of the two brothers, the film is also infused with some Norse humor. (Grímur Hákonarson, Iceland, 2015, 93 min)

Mustang:

Five beautiful sisters on the verge of womanhood in an Anatolian village by the sea suffer from their guardians' attempts to lock them away to protect their virginity. image: MVFF

Five beautiful sisters on the verge of womanhood in an Anatolian village by the sea suffer from their guardians’ attempts to lock them away to protect their virginity. image: MVFF

We’ve all heard of young girls cloistered away to protect their virginity and make them marriage worthy by their tradition-bound families.  Here’s Turkish female director Deniz Gamze Ergüven’s take on this. Mustang weaves a story of five young carefree Turkish girls, all orphans, who under the “protection” of their grandmother and uncle, are punished severely for being seen at the beach interacting with boys in what is interpreted as an indecent act by townspeople who report them.  One moment they are free and then they are not.  They are subjected to virginity tests, beaten and then essentially locked up until it is time to try and marry them off.  They don’t go down without a fight though and thus the aptness of the title–these gorgeous young mustangs, with their amazing flowing hair, yearn for the very freedom that defines them.  The filmmaker has crafted a potent critique of the suppression and demonization of female sexuality that is alive and well in Turkish society.  Mustang (Deniz Gamze Ergüven, France, Germany, Turkey, 94 min)

The Messenger:

Filmmaker Su Rynard's

Filmmaker Su Rynard’s “The Messenger” screens twice at MVFF38 and she will be at both screenings. Making a documentary is a labor of love that often takes years to realize. To understand what was happening with global populations of songbirds, Rynard and her team followed the seasons and songbirds on three different continents. Along the way, she met many people who shared her concern for the plight of these glorious musicians of nature. image: Su Rynard

The message of Su Rynard’s riveting documentary, The Messenger, is urgent─songbirds are disappearing and many species are in serious decline.  Changes in our world have brought utter catastrophe to theirs and soon they will be gone.  Each year, twice a year, songbirds embark on a dangerous and difficult migratory journey.  Every species has its own story to tell but the resounding commonality is that songbirds are in danger.  Whose song will we hear when they are gone?   The film is full of gorgeous shots of birds and clips of bird songs.  Director Su Rynard in attendance. (Su Rynard, Canada, France, 2015, 90 min)

Son of Saul:

Géza Röhrig is Saul Auslander in Laszlo Nemes' holocaust drama,

Géza Röhrig is Saul Auslander in Laszlo Nemes’ holocaust drama, “Son of Saul.” image: MVFF

 

First time director László Nemes’  Son of Saul (Saul Fia) is a Holocaust film that won the Grand Prix at this year’s Cannes Film Festival and everyone’s buzzing about.  (Earlier this week, NPR’s Terry Gross devoted a full hour to the film, click here, to read or listen to her interview with the director.) The dark story is centered on Saul Auslander (Géza Röhrig), a Hungarian Jew Sonderkommando at Auschwitz-Birkenau who is forced to assist the Nazis with the killings of Jews and the gruesome disposal of bodies afterwards.  In exchange, he is given some special privileges.  When he spots a young boy’s body that he believes is his son, he sets out to give him a proper burial.  The film captures the organization and chaos of the camps like no other film has and, at its core, it is the story of one man’s brave rebellion and humanity.  The camera rarely leaves his face in which there are worlds of grief.  The story is based on the actual testimonials, the so-called Scrolls of Auschwitz.  (László Nemes, Hungary, 2015, 107 min)   image: MVFF

Amnesia Centerpiece Presentation, October 13:

Crafted from events in his mother’s life, Swiss filmmaker Barbet Schroeder’s “Amnesia” stars German icon Marthe Keller as a German expat hiding out in idyllic Ibizia whose cage is rattled by a young German man who is her new neighbor and it's not just because he falls in love with her. Image: MVFF

Crafted from events in his mother’s life, Swiss filmmaker Barbet Schroeder’s “Amnesia” stars German icon Marthe Keller as a German expat hiding out in idyllic Ibizia whose cage is rattled by a young German man who is her new neighbor and it’s not just because he falls in love with her. Image: MVFF

An interesting take on a Nazi story and moral culpability by Swiss director Barbet Schroeder. Amnesia is set in picturesque Ibizia and the story involves a younger man’s attraction to an older woman, who is hiding the fact that she is German, and much more, from him.  The young DJ tries to crack this hard nut by peeling away her layers.   Writer/director Barbet Schroeder in attendance (Barbet Schroeder, Switzerland, France, 2015 96 min)

At RUSH but keep your eyes out in Bay Area theaters for─

The Assassin (Nie Yinniang) (Hou Hsia-hsien, Taiwan, 2015, 105 min) spectacular Ibizan landscape (Thurs 10/8 6:16 PM; Sat 10/17 8:30 PM─both screenings at Rush)

Carol (Todd Haynes, 2015, 118 min) (Sun 10/11 5:30PM; Wed 10/14 4 PM──both screenings at Rush)

The Dressmaker (Jocelyn Moorhouse, Australia, 2015, 118 min) (10/16 7PM; 10/18 11AM─both screenings at Rush)

Details:   MVFF38 is October 8-18, 2015.  Screening venues include: Christopher B. Smith Rafael Film Center (1118 Fourth Street, San Rafael); Century Larkspur (500 Larkspur Landing Circle); Lark Theater (549 Magnolia Ave., Larkspur), Century Cinema (41 Tamal Vista Blvd, Corte Madera); CinéArts@Sequoia (25 Throckmorton Ave., Mill Valley), Throckmorton Theatre (142 Throckmorton Ave, Mill Valley) and other venues throughout the Bay Area.

Online ticket purchase is highly recommended (click here to be directed to film descriptions, each with a “Buy Ticket” option. (Online purchases have a $1.75 per film surcharge).  There are also several box offices for in person purchases, offering the advantages of getting your tickets on the spot, no service fee, and picking up a hard copy of the catalogue—

SAN RAFAEL

Smith Rafael Film Center 1112 Fourth Street Sept.19-Oct 7, 4–8 pm (General Public)

MILL VALLEY

Mill Valley Chamber of Commerce & Visitor Center, 85 Throckmorton Ave, October 7, 11 am–3:00 pm; Oct 8-18, 10 am to 15 min after last show starts

Chamber of Commerce & Visitor Center 85 Throckmorton Ave October 1, 11:00 am–3:00 pm October 2–12, 10:00 am to 15 minutes after last show starts

October 8, 2015 Posted by | Film | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Pounce: tickets are on sale now for the 38th Mill Valley Film Festival, October 8-18

Seven years in the making, Taiwanese film director, Hou Hsiao-hsien’s luxurious wuxia (martial arts) drama, “The Assassin” screens twice at the 38th Mill Valley Film Festival. The plot is minimal─a young girl (Taiwanese actress, Shu Qi) is kidnapped and trained to be an assassin. When she is a young adult, she is sent away by her master because she failed to complete a killing. She returns to her hometown and is ordered to kill her first love, her cousin, a powerful military governor. Featuring slow pans of China’s stunning mountains, valleys and historic temples, exquisite costumes and artifacts, as well as riveting physical feats, the film is like a lush painting come to life. Hou Hsiao-hsien, a leading figure of Taiwan's New Wave cinema movement, picked up best director award at Cannes this with this drama. Photo: courtesy MVFF

Seven years in the making, Taiwanese film director, Hou Hsiao-hsien’s luxurious wuxia (martial arts) drama, “The Assassin” screens twice at the 38th Mill Valley Film Festival. The plot is minimal─a young girl (Taiwanese actress, Shu Qi) is kidnapped and trained to be an assassin. When she is a young adult, she is sent away by her master because she failed to complete a killing. She returns to her hometown and is ordered to kill her first love, her cousin, a powerful military governor. Featuring slow pans of China’s stunning mountains, valleys and historic temples, exquisite costumes and artifacts, as well as riveting physical feats, the film is like a lush painting come to life. Hou Hsiao-hsien, a leading figure of Taiwan’s New Wave cinema movement, picked up best director award at Cannes this with this drama. Photo: courtesy MVFF

Now in its 38th year, the legendary Mill Valley Film Festival (MVFF), October 8-18, is hard to beat—11 days of the best new films from around the world, intimate on stage conversations with directors and stars, live music, and parties. AND it’s NORTH of the Golden Gate, so the driving is quicker. This festival is so good that five of the last seven Academy Award winners for best picture (Slumdog Millionaire, The King’s Speech, The Artist, Argo, 12 Years a Slave) made their Bay Area premieres there.  What it really prides itself on, though, is its selection of locally-directed indies, gems of world cinema, and engrossing docs selected with care to meet our exacting standards.   Mill Valley is an insider’s festival though and tickets are sold to members of the California Film Institute (CFI), based on membership levels, long before they are made available to the public.

This year’s festival is October 8-18 and tickets are now on sale to the general public. If you want to attend any of the fabulous tributes, spotlight or centerpiece screenings, it is essential that you lock in your tickets ASAP.

Producing a documentary is a labor-of-love that typically takes anywhere from one to ten years, and requires an unwavering belief that the world needs to see the story. Irene Taylor Brodsky was hiking in Nepal with an organization that treats cataracts when she encountered an elderly married couple, both blind, who qualified to have free cataract surgery that would enable them to see again. Musician Peter Gabriel liked her film so much that he wrote a song for it called “Open Your Eyes.” The film has its world premiere at the 38th Mill Valley Film Festival on October 10. Irene Taylor Brodsky will participate in a panel discussion followed by Sing Out for Sight, a benefit concert for Seva Foundation at the Sweetwater Music Hall. Image: courtesy MVFF

Producing a documentary is a labor-of-love that typically takes anywhere from one to ten years, and requires an unwavering belief that the world needs to see the story. Irene Taylor Brodsky was hiking in Nepal with an organization that treats cataracts when she encountered an elderly married couple, both blind, who qualified to have free cataract surgery that would enable them to see again. Musician Peter Gabriel liked her film so much that he wrote a song for it called “Open Your Eyes.” The film has its world premiere at the 38th Mill Valley Film Festival on October 10. Irene Taylor Brodsky will participate in a panel discussion followed by Sing Out for Sight, a benefit concert for Seva Foundation at the Sweetwater Music Hall. Image: courtesy MVFF

  

Icelandic director, Grímur Hákonarson’s “Rams,” Winner of the Uncertain Regard Prize at Cannes will screen twice at the 38th Mill Valley Film Festival, October 8-18, 2015. Shot in remote lush valleys of Iceland, it weaves the story of two brothers, both single and getting on in years, who compete fiercely each year for valley-wide recognition for having the best ram. They haven’t spoken in 40 years but are forced to come together in order to save what’s dearest to their hearts—their sheep. Photo: Courtesy MVFF

Icelandic director, Grímur Hákonarson’s “Rams,” Winner of the Uncertain Regard Prize at Cannes will screen twice at the 38th Mill Valley Film Festival, October 8-18, 2015. Shot in remote lush valleys of Iceland, it weaves the story of two brothers, both single and getting on in years, who compete fiercely each year for valley-wide recognition for having the best ram. They haven’t spoken in 40 years but are forced to come together in order to save what’s dearest to their hearts—their sheep. Photo: Courtesy MVFF

Stay tuned to ARThound for top picks.

Screening venues include: Christopher B. Smith Rafael Film Center (1118 Fourth Street, San Rafael); Century Larkspur (500 Larkspur Landing Circle); Lark Theater (549 Magnolia Ave., Larkspur), Century Cinema (41 Tamal Vista Blvd, Corte Madera); CinéArts@Sequoia (25 Throckmorton Ave., Mill Valley), Throckmorton Theatre (142 Throckmorton Ave, Mill Valley) and other venues throughout the Bay Area.

Online ticket purchase is highly recommended (click here to be directed to film descriptions, each with a “Buy Ticket” option. (Online purchases have a $1.75 per film surcharge).  There are also several box offices for in person purchases, offering the advantages of getting your tickets on the spot, no service fee, and picking up a hard copy of the catalogue—

SAN RAFAEL

Smith Rafael Film Center 1112 Fourth Street Sept.19-Oct 7, 4–8 pm (General Public)

MILL VALLEY

Mill Valley Chamber of Commerce & Visitor Center, 85 Throckmorton Ave, October 7, 11 am–3:00 pm; Oct 8-18, 10 am to 15 min after last show starts

Chamber of Commerce & Visitor Center 85 Throckmorton Ave October 1, 11:00 am–3:00 pm October 2–12, 10:00 am to 15 minutes after last show starts

September 21, 2015 Posted by | Film | , , | Leave a comment

Pounce: Sunday, September 14, tickets go on sale for the 37th Mill Valley Film Festival

 Pièce de résistance—Director Wayne Wang’s new documentary, “Soul of a Banquet” (2014), screens Sunday, October 5 at the 37th Mill Valley Film Festival.    Appearing on stage in conversation are renowned 95-year-old chef Cecilia Chiang , who opened San Francisco’s beloved Mandarin restaurant in 1961, and Wayne Wang (“The Joy Luck Club”).  The evening will be capped off by a festive party at Sausalito’s Cavallo Point.  Structured around an extended interview in Chiang’s elegant home, the film tells Chiang’s story as well as that of Chinese food in America.  Alice Waters of Chez Panisse and food writer Ruth Reichel reminisce about their friendship and great meals with Chiang.  The film recounts poignant details of her upbringing.  Chiang, the seventh of twelve children, was born into privilege in Shanghai in 1920.  Her mother’s feet were bound but it was her wish that her children be college educated.  The second half shifts gears to follow her in meticulous preparation of a feast of family favorites.   The stories, the food, the history, even the jewelry are mouthwatering.  Photo: courtesy Mill Valley Film Festival


Pièce de résistance—Director Wayne Wang’s new documentary, “Soul of a Banquet” (2014), screens Sunday, October 5 at the 37th Mill Valley Film Festival. Appearing on stage in conversation are renowned 95-year-old chef Cecilia Chiang , who opened San Francisco’s beloved Mandarin restaurant in 1961, and Wayne Wang (“The Joy Luck Club”). The evening will be capped off by a festive party at Sausalito’s Cavallo Point. Structured around an extended interview in Chiang’s elegant home, the film tells Chiang’s story as well as that of Chinese food in America. Alice Waters of Chez Panisse and food writer Ruth Reichel reminisce about their friendship and great meals with Chiang. The film recounts poignant details of her upbringing. Chiang, the seventh of twelve children, was born into privilege in Shanghai in 1920. Her mother’s feet were bound but it was her wish that her children be college educated. The second half shifts gears to follow her in meticulous preparation of a feast of family favorites. The stories, the food, the history, even the jewelry are mouthwatering. Photo: courtesy Mill Valley Film Festival

Now in its 37th year, the legendary Mill Valley Film Festival (MVFF), October 2-12, is hard to beat—11 days of the best new films from around the world, intimate on stage conversations with directors and stars, musical performances, and parties.  It’s so good that five of the last six Academy Award winners for best picture (Slumdog Millionaire, The King’s Speech, The Artist, Argo, 12 Years a Slave) made their Bay Area premieres there.  What it really excels at, though, are locally-directed indies, gems of world cinema, wonderful storytelling and docs carefully selected to meet our exacting standards.  It is an insider’s festival though and tickets are sold to California Film Institute (CFI), based on membership levels, long before they are made available to the public. This year’s festival is October 2-12 and tickets to the general public go on sale Sunday, September 14 at 11 a.m.  If you want to attend any of the fabulous tributes, spotlight or centerpiece screenings, it is essential that you lock in your tickets ASAP.  

Stay tuned to ARThound this coming week for top picks.

Screening venues include the CinéArts@Sequoia (25 Throckmorton Ave., Mill Valley), Christopher B. Smith Rafael Film Center (1118 Fourth Street, San Rafael) and other venues throughout the Bay Area.

 

Lashio, Myanmar is the setting for Midi Z’s “Ice Poison” (Bing Du) (2014) screening Saturday, October 11 at the 37th Mill Valley Film Festival.  Faced with a failing vegetable crop, an impoverished farmer pawns his cow for a moped and starts a taxi service in the city.  In six months, he must make enough to buy the cow back, or it will be slaughtered and sold for meat. His new venture is proving to be another failure until he picks up his first fare, a woman desperate to leave an arranged marriage in China and bring her son back to live with her. They team up in the only steady business in around—opium poppies.  The film balances moments of joy with the stark reality of a country re-emerging after decades of underdevelopment and repression.  Photo: courtesy MVFF

Lashio, Myanmar is the setting for Midi Z’s “Ice Poison” (Bing Du) (2014) screening Saturday, October 11 at the 37th Mill Valley Film Festival. Faced with a failing vegetable crop, an impoverished farmer pawns his cow for a moped and starts a taxi service in the city. In six months, he must make enough to buy the cow back, or it will be slaughtered and sold for meat. His new venture is proving to be another failure until he picks up his first fare, a woman desperate to leave an arranged marriage in China and bring her son back to live with her. They team up in the only steady business in around—opium poppies. The film balances moments of joy with the stark reality of a country re-emerging after decades of underdevelopment and repression. Photo: courtesy MVFF

 

Online ticket purchase is highly recommended (click here to be directed to film descriptions, each with a “Buy Ticket” option.   There are also several box offices for in person purchases, offering the advantage of being able to get your tickets on the spot and picking up a hard copy of the catalogue—

SAN RAFAEL

Smith Rafael Film Center 1112 Fourth Street Sept. 14–29, 5:00–9:00 pm (General Public) 1020 B Street September 30–October 12, 10:00 am to 15 minutes after last show starts

MILL VALLEY

ROOM Art Gallery 86 Throckmorton Ave September 14–30, 11:00 am–3:00 pm

Chamber of Commerce & Visitor Center 85 Throckmorton Ave October 1, 11:00 am–3:00 pm October 2–12, 10:00 am to 15 minutes after last show starts

CORTE MADERA

Microsoft at the Village at Corte Madera 1640 Redwood Hwy September 15–30, 3:00–7:00 pm September 14, 21, and 28, 2:00–6:00 pm

September 13, 2014 Posted by | Film | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The 36th Mill Valley Film Festival just opened—ARThound looks at opening night and gives top picks

Geoffrey Rush takes center stage at the 36th Mill Valley Film Festival.  He stars in “The Book Thief” which opened the festival on Thursday evening. He will be presented with the MVFF Award at Saturday night’s special “Geoffrey Rush Tribute.” He also stars in Giuseppe Tornatore’s The Best Offer which screens twice at the festival.

Geoffrey Rush takes center stage at the 36th Mill Valley Film Festival. He stars in “The Book Thief” which opened the festival on Thursday evening. He will be presented with the MVFF Award at Saturday night’s special “Geoffrey Rush Tribute.” He also stars in Giuseppe Tornatore’s “The Best Offer” which screens twice at the festival.

The Mill Valley Film Festival (MVFF36) is off and running in grand style.  Tonight, there were two opening night screenings to choose from and an opening party.  ARThound is just back from the enthralling world premiere of director Brian Percival’s The Book Thief with Academy Award®-winner Geoffrey Rush as an accordion-playing foster father and Sophie Nélisse as Lisel Meminger, the young heroine.  Over seven years from inception through filming, the film is an adoption story of sorts set in Nazi Germany. Narrated by Death, it relates a spirited young girl’s relationship with her new German foster parents and neighbors just as WWII breaks out in Germany and is a remarkable roller-coaster story of inspiration, perseverance, loss, and the ability of books to liberate the soul. Following the screening at the jam-packed at the Century Cinema Corte Madera,  Brian Percival, Geoffrey Rush, Sophie Nélisse and the film’s production team appeared on stage for a discussion with festival organizer Mark Fishkin, which included an audience Q & A.  These spontaneous exchanges are a big part of the thrill of experiencing a world premiere at MVFF.

Enchanting Sophie Nélisse, a born story-teller, delighted us all with her rendition of her nonchalant audition for the part of Lisel which all began with an emailed video and ended up with a live read in Berlin.  Nélisse confided that she hadn’t read Markus Zusak’s book or even put much thought into prepping for the audition. She was an Olympic caliber gymnast who had her sites set on making the national team instead.  Once she got talking, it was easy to see why she was selected. Her bright warm energy and enthusiasm for life, much like that of Lisel,  gave us all a boost.

Geoffrey Rush, who will be presented with the MVFF Award on Saturday evening, part of the Geoffrey Rush Tribute (tickets are still available), exhibited pride and a myriad of smiles while his young co-star chatted with the audience. Rush also stars as antiquarian art auctioneer in Giuseppe Tornatore’s (Cinema Paradiso, Baarìa) first English-language feature, The Best Offer which screens twice at the festival.  Critics have praised Rush’s sensitive performance. The Hollywood Reporter wrote, “Rush brings a striking depth of character to this classic Old World mystery…”  (Both screenings are AT RUSH) I can’t wait to attend Saturday’s tribute and to experience more of his razor-sharp humor and learn more about this fascinating actor’s life and career.

The filmmakers admitted that they are actually still putting finishing touches on the The Book Thief and that MVFF was indeed the film’s very first reveal.  The release date will be November 15.  Bay Area audiences can expect to see the film out for the holidays.

The 10 day festival runs through Sunday, October 13, and eases into its first weekend with several Friday evening screenings clustered around 6 PM and 9 PM at venues in San Rafael and Mill Valley.  The programming revs up to full days on the weekend and continues full force until closing.

Many of the films and special tributes are already sold out.  For a list of films currently at rush, click here.  Below are my recommendations among the films which still have ample ticket availability as of opening night.  Several of these films are newly announced entries for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 86th Academy Awards.  If these films sound interesting, don’t dally, as they will sell out.

A Long and Happy Life (Dolgaya schastlivaya zhizn) (Russia, 2013) US Premiere

Screens: Sat, Oct 5 2:30 PM at Rafael 3 (AT RUSH) and Mon, Oct 7, 4 PM at Sequoia 1

Russian director Boris Hlebnikov’s latest film depicts the futile struggle of an idealistic young farmer, Sasha (Alexander Yatsenko), in the Russian provinces against corrupt local authorities.  Hlebnikov’s previous film, Till Night Do Us Part ( Poka noch ne razluchit, 2012), took a satirical look at the Moscow elite and now he explores graft in a small village.  The setting is the picturesque Kola Peninsula in the Murmansk region, the northern most territory of Northwest Russia, above the Polar Circle.  The film was shot on a hand-held digital camera in natural light by former Berlinale cinematography prize-winner and all-around camera-tzar Pavel Kostomarov (How I Spent This Summer (2010)).  Sasha (Yatsenko) has come from the city to run a collective farm with dreams of finally thriving.  He works hard and is well-respected by the locals who even turn a blind eye to his romance with Anna (Anna Kotova) who works for the town council.  Things get tense when he is pressured by local council bureaucrats (the provincial arm of the new Russian state) to sign over his land to them so that they can profit from redevelopment. It’s an epic story of a man who stands up for what is right and rightfully his but, as in real life, there’s the dream of a “long and happy life” and what life dishes out. 80 min. In Russian with English subtitles.

The Past (Le Passe) (France, Italy, 2012)

Screens: Sat, Oct 5, 8 PM at Sequoia 2 (AT RUSH) and Thurs, Oct 10, 3 PM at Rafael 1

This year’s Cannes Film Festival honored Bérénice Bejo (The Artist) as Best Actress for her galvanizing performance as Marie, a French woman who has summoned her estranged husband Ahmad (Ali Mosaffa) from Tehran to Paris to finalize their divorce. Marie takes Ahmad to her slightly disheveled house on the outskirts of Paris, where she lives with her two daughters from a previous marriage, her fiancé Samir (Tahar Rahim of A Prophet) and his young son. Asghar Farhadi, Academy Award–winning director of A Separation, crafts another superb drama of domestic secrets and unexpected revelations. Farhadi invests this intricately layered tale with an essentially humanistic point of view, in which every character—young or old—has his or her own reasons. 130 min. In French with English subtitles.

The Human Experiment (U.S., 2013) World Premiere

Screens: Sun, Oct 6 8:30 PM Rafael 1 (AT RUSH) and Thurs Oct 10 3:30 PM at Sequoia 1

What if the greatest chemical disaster of our time wasn’t an oil spill or the threat of a nuclear meltdown but instead was constant, low-level chemical exposures affecting every single being on the planet?  In certain ways, our lives are longer, healthier, and more prosperous than those of our great-grandparents but the inexorable march of progress is exhibiting major glitches—cancer, infertility, asthma, autism and a plethora of noxious diseases are all on the rise.   The Human Experiment is the latest documentary from acclaimed Bay Area filmmakers Dana Nachman and Don Hardy (Witch Hunt).  They again team up with impassioned activist Sean Penn, this time examining the high stakes battle to protect our health from literally thousands of untested chemicals in our everyday consumer products.  Narrator Sean Penn thoughtfully guides this fascinating look into the duplicitous tactics of the chemical industry and its stranglehold on regulation efforts.  The film’s brilliant four-dog argument about how corporate power beats down and co-opts is worth the price of admission alone.  In short, we’re on our own—Even China has better regulation than we do here in America.  Yes! China is sending its dubious ingredient products here to our markets and we are snapping them up.  Unscrupulous scientists and lobbyists are carefully managing scientific evidence about the health risks of chemicals.  Sham-science conducted by product and industry defense specialists has been elevated to the status of sound science and has created confusion about the very nature of scientific inquiry.  As our confidence in science and U.S. government’s ability to address public health and environmental concerns is shaken, chemicals continue their insidious spread.

Gloria (Chile, Spain 2013)

Screens: Tues Oct 8 8 PM at Sequoia 1 and Thurs Oct 10 at 2 PM at Sequoia 2

(Chile, Spain 2013) When acclaimed Chilean stage actress Paulina García tried her hand film, starring in Chilean director Sebastián Lelio’s Gloria, she walked off with Silver Bear for Best Actress at the 2013 Berlin Film Festival.  The film was just chosen to represent Chile in the in the Foreign Language race for the 86th Academy Awards. García has been called the Meryl Streep of Chile and, like our amazing Meryl, brings out an inner candescence in her characters that has everything to do exposing the nakedness of their souls. Gloria finds García playing a 58-year-old divorcee who stumbles into a dubious romance with a man her own age (Sergio Hernandez) who she meets at a singles club.  The film has been praised for its courageous and juicy middle age sex scenes.  At its heart, it speaks to a woman with a story a lot of us can identify with—a woman who’s raised her children and is financially comfortable, and who is a bit fragile but who is more or less making the best of her situation…until a man who might just be the next big love comes along and shoots it all to hell.  As the new couple try to forge a lasting bond, their pasts constantly intrude.  This uplifting film was inspired by the life of director Sebastián Lelio’s own mother and her generation in Chile.

Like Father, Like Son (Soshite Chichi ni Naru) (Japan, 2013)

Screens: Wed, Oct 9 2:30 PM at Rafael 1 and Sat, Oct 12 8 PM at Lark Theatre (AT RUSH)

Japanese director Hirokazu Koreeda knows how to weave a sensitive drama and his wonderful Like Father, Like Son picked up the esteemed Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival for good reason.  The mixed up babies saga has been visited often but rarely executed in way that rips at your heart the way this tender and slow-paced telling does.  When the bourgeois Nonomiyas (workaholic architect Ryota and passive obedient mom Midori) receive news that their biological son may have been switched at birth with another couple’s boy and that Keita, the six-year-old boy they have been raising, may not be their biological child; a slow meltdown ensues that threatens their stability as individuals, as parents and as a family unit.  Keita is actually the biological child of working class suburban appliance storeowners Yudai and Yukari Saiki, who have unwittingly raised the Nonomiyas’ son, Ryusei, as their own.  As the two families arrange gatherings for their children to mingle, and begin a trial system of exchanging the boys on weekends, we see just how complex the nature vs. nurture arguments are when actually road-tested.  Should nature trump nurture? Can the tentacles of attachment really recede when you’ve raised a child from infancy? What does it mean to pass something on to your children? And what are the lessons to be learned from forced socialization with people you normally wouldn’t have anything to do with?  120 min. In Japanese with English subtitles.

The Missing Picture (L’image manquante) (Cambodia, France 2013)

Screens: Sat, Oct 12 4:45 PM at Lark Theatre and Sun Oct 13 5:30 PM at Rafael 3

Cambodian director Rithy Panh’s The Missing Picture uses simple sculpted clay figures to retell the atrocities he and others endured under the Pol Pot regime in Cambodia between 1975 and 1979.  The documentary won the top prize in the Un Certain Regard section at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival and was recently selected as the Cambodian entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 86th Academy Awards. Panh was 13 on April 17, 1975, the day the Khmer Rouge captured Phnom Penh and rounded up civilians and deported them to forced labor camps. There, they worked as slaves for the Pol Pot’s revolution which centralized the peasant farming society of Cambodia virtually overnight. One after another, Panh’s father, mother, sisters and nephews died of starvation or exhaustion, as they were held in a remote labor camp in rural Cambodia. In just three short years, over 25% of the country’s population was eliminated.

“Missing Picture” centers on Panh’s search for a “missing picture” via his recreated vision of the atrocities Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge committed.  These clay figures intercut with archival footage and Panh’s spoken word fill in the gaps in history and allows us to witness the human experience below the surface of this tragedy with an incredible compassion. 92 min In French with English subtitles.

Details:  The festival’s homepage is hereAdvance ticket purchase is essential as this festival sells out. To purchase tickets online for MVFF screenings, browse the film listings—the full list and scheduling information are online here.  Most tickets are $14 and special events and tributes are more.  Tickets can also be purchased in person at select Marin ticket outlets.

Rush tickets: If seats become available, even after tickets have sold out, rush tickets will be sold. The rush line forms outside each venue beginning one hour before show-time. Approximately 15 minutes prior to the screening, available rush tickets are sold on a first-come, first serve basis for Cash Only.)

October 3, 2013 Posted by | Film | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Pounce!—additional screenings of 4 of the most popular films at Mill Valley Film Festival just added

Based on a real-life Victorian-era scandal, “Effie Gray” is a period drama that has its world premiere at the 36th Mill Valley Film Festival, Oct 3-13, 2013.  Dakota Fanning (right) is Euphemia ''Effie'' Gray, a teen who fights to escape a loveless marriage to celebrated art critic John Ruskin (Greg Wise).  Emma Thompson (left) wrote the script and plays Effie's confidante, Lady Eastlake.  Dakota Fanning will attend.

Based on one of the Victorian-era’s most notorious sex scandals, “Effie Gray” is a period drama has its world premiere at the 36th Mill Valley Film Festival, Oct 3-13, 2013. Dakota Fanning (right) is 19 now and plays Euphemia ”Effie” Gray, a teen who fights to escape a loveless marriage to celebrated art critic John Ruskin (Greg Wise) and be with pre-Raphaelite painter John Everett Millais. Emma Thompson (left) wrote the script and then underwent a horrific legal battle to release the film. She plays Effie’s confidante, Lady Eastlake. Dakota Fanning will attend and is the subject of a special spotlight program on Saturday, October 12.

There’s something SO satisfying about seeing an Oscar-buzz film long before it opens in theatres.  Lucky day!  The Mill Valley Film Festival, which starts this Thursday (Oct 3) and runs through Sunday, Oct 13, has just added several additional screenings of its most demanded films.  These are the ones that were well on their way to being sold out to California Film Institute (CFI) members before tickets were made available to the public.  Now up for grabs−− the world premiere of Richard Laxton’s period drama Effie Gray (Emma Thompson, Dakota Fanning, Claudia Cardinale) ; the U.S. premieres of John Wells’ August: Osage County (Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Sam Shepard, Chris Cooper, Juliette Lewis) and Jean-Marc Vallée’s Dallas Buyers Club (Matthew McConaughey, Jennifer Garner, Jared Leto) and the California premiere of Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave (Brad Pitt, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbinder) .

The film titles below all carry hyperlinks to detailed film descriptions and a link to purchase tickets online.  If these films sound interesting, don’t dally, as they will sell out.

DALLAS BUYERS CLUB     Friday  Oct. 11 – 9:15pm – CinéArts@Sequoia

AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY    Saturday Oct. 12 – 9pm – CinéArts@Sequoia

12 YEARS A SLAVE   Sunday Oct. 13 – 11am – CinéArts@Sequoia

EFFIE GRAY   Sunday Oct. 13 – 8pm – Smith Rafael Film Center

Details:  The festival’s homepage is hereAdvance ticket purchase is essential for all films as this festival sells out.  The full film list with scheduling information and link to online ticket purchase are online here.  Most tickets are $14 and special events and tributes are more.  Tickets can also be purchased in person at select Marin ticket outlets.  The closest outlet to Sonoma County is located at 1104 Fourth Street, San Rafael, right next to the Smith Rafael Film Center in San Rafael.  Hours: 5 to 9 PM until October 2;  during the festival Oct 3 to 13, Mon-Thurs 11 AM to 15 minutes after the last show starts and Fir-Sun 10 AM to 15 minutes after the show starts.

Rush tickets: If seats become available, even after tickets have sold out, rush tickets will be sold. The rush line forms outside each venue beginning one hour before show-time. Approximately 15 minutes prior to the screening, available rush tickets are sold on a first-come, first serve basis for Cash Only.)

September 30, 2013 Posted by | Film | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The strong sex: two very different films screen today at the Mill Valley Film Festival about women who survived against all odds

“Sweet Dreams,” a documentary by Lisa Fruchtman and her brother Rob Fruchtman, tells of Rwandan women, Tutsi and Hutu, who survived the 1994 genocide and now drum side by side in the country’s first female drum troupe. They have also started the first ice cream venture in Rwanda.

Now in its 6th day, the 35th Mill Valley Film Festival continues its excellent programming. A lot of the films have sold out.  Here are two films screening today (Tuesday) for which tickets are still available.

Sweet Dreams: Though the 100 days of killing that claimed an estimated 800,000 Rwandans ended 18 years ago, the genocide left the East African country paralyzed.  Thousands of women were also raped and thousands more left without family.  If ever there was need of healing, it was in Rwanda.  Lisa and Rob Fruchtman’s  Sweet Dreams (2012) tells the story of a remarkable group of Rwandan women survivors who decided to learn how to be happy through drumming and, of all sweet things, ice cream.  

Lisa Fruchtman, a Berkeley-based veteran film editor with features such as Apocalypse Now and The Godfather Part III under her belt, and an Academy Award for The Right Stuff,  travelled to Rwanda 4 times to document the story of Tutsi and Hutu women coming together to form the country’s first female drum-troupe.  She worked with her brother, producer/director Rob Fruchtman to direct, produce and edit the film.  Forbidden to even touch a drum in ancient times, the talented Rwandan women take to drumming with joyous fervor that not only helps heal their own wounds but profoundly touches others.  At the same time, in an equally bold move toward economic security, the women join forces with an American woman and entrepreneur to open an ice cream business and bring something brand new to Rwanda.  The venture is fraught with snafus along the way but these women keep their faith and have a song for everything.   This INSPIRATIONAL and humorous documentary is beautifully filmed and had Sunday’s enthusiastic audience in tears.  Filmmakers will be in attendance and available for audience Q & A after the screening. (Screens Tuesday, October 9, 7:30 PM, Rafael 3)

As the only human survivor after an unexplained global tragedy, German actress Marina Gedeck bonds tightly with her loyal dog in Julian Roman Pölsler’s “The Wall” a film that is true to Marlen Haushofer’s exceptional novel. Image: courtesy of Music Box Films

The Wall (Die Wand):  Austrian director Julian Roman Pölsler’s film is based on Marlen Haushofer’s 1962 dystopian hit novel of the same name (about to be re-printed in English later this year).  The film stars German actress Martina Gedeck from the brilliant 2006 Stassi thriller The Lives of Others (Das Leben der Anderen) and tells the story of a completely ordinary middle-aged woman (Gedeck) who is vacationing with friends in a remote mountain hunting lodge.  Her friends go out to a pub and she stays back with the dog and when they don’t come back, she makes a very creepy discovery.  She is imprisoned on the mountainside by an invisible wall, behind which there seems to be no life.  She appears to be the sole remaining human on earth, along with the dog (a red hound that will steal your heart), a cat, some kittens, and a cow, with which she forms a tight-knit family.  

The film rests entirely on Gedeck’s shoulders and she is riveting, delivering a very credible performance that will leave you shivering and running home to snuggle with your dog.  The odd beauty of this film is that this last survivor scenario may be your own romanticized idea of heaven, or hell.  Who among us hasn’t said “Fuck the world! I’m sick of people…give me just my dog!  Watching Gedeck bide her time laboring hard, protecting her pack, and introspectively processing her life, leads us to right into her moments of intensely felt angst, terror, joy and sorrow.  (Screens Tuesday, October 9, 9:30 PM, Sequoia 1)

 The festival’s homepage is here and there are three ways to purchase tickets:

Online: To purchase tickets for MVFF screenings, browse the film listings—the full schedule is online here. When you find a film you would like to see, click “buy tickets” to put the tickets in your cart. You can continue browsing, or click “check out” to complete your order. Tickets purchased online incur a $1.50 processing fee per order.

Tickets you have purchased online are available for pick-up at the Mill Valley Film Festival Box Office(s). Seating is guaranteed until 15 minutes prior to screening. No late seating.

In-Person at pre-festival Box Offices:

SAN RAFAEL TICKET OUTLET
1104 Fourth Street, San Rafael 94901
Sept. 11– 15, 4:00pm–8:00pm (CFI Members)
Sept. 16: 10am – 7pm
Sept. 17 – Oct. 3: Weekdays 4:00pm – 8:00pm, Weekends 2pm – 8:00pm
Opening Night, Oct. 4: 2:00pm – 11:00pm
Festival Hours, Oct. 5 – 14: Weekdays 3:00 – 10:00pm, Weekends 10:30am – 10:00pm
Note: Monday (10/8) & Friday (10/12) are weekend hours

MILL VALLEY TICKET OUTLET
ROOM Art Gallery
86 Throckmorton Avenue, Mill Valley 94941
Sept. 16: 10am – 2pm
Sept. 17 – Oct. 2: 11:00am – 4:00pm
MILL VALLEY CHAMBER OF COMMERCE
85 Throckmorton, Mill Valley 94941
Oct. 3: 11:00am – 4:00pm
Oct.4: 2:00pm – 11:00pm
Oct. 5 – 14: Weekdays 3:00pm – 10:00pm, Weekends 10:30am – 10:00pm
Note: Monday (10/8) & Friday (10/12) are weekend hours

BY PHONE: toll free at 877.874.6833
NOTE: If you have trouble purchasing online and cannot purchase tickets in person, leave a message on box office voicemail: 877.874.6833.
All orders placed over the phone are subject to a charge of $10.00 per transaction. Tickets delivered via mail (USPS) incur a $3.50 convenience fee.

RUSH Tickets: If seats are available, tickets will be sold at the door beginning at 15 minutes prior to screening. Those tickets are cash only. No discounts.

October 9, 2012 Posted by | Film | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Pounce! General Admission tickets to the 35th Mill Valley Film Festival go on sale Sunday at 10 a.m.—-some films sold-out during member pre-sale

The 35th Mill Valley Film Festival, one of the country's top 10 film festivals, is October 4-14, 2012.

The 35th Mill Valley Film Festival, one of the country’s top 10 film festivals, is October 4-14, 2012.

Dustin Hoffman, Ben Affleck, Billy Bob Thornton, Jon Hawkes, Indian film director Mira Nair, and rock angel Stevie Nicks head a list of film stars and luminaries who will attend the 35th Mill Valley Film Festival, an 11-day celebration of international cinema that is considered one of the country’s top 10 film festivals.  This year’s festival is October 4 to 14, 2012 and tomorrow (Sunday) starting at 10 a.m., general admission tickets will be on sale for its fabulous program of over 150 movies, tributes, award ceremonies, premieres, and parties.  Tickets have been on sale to festival patrons since September 11 and to CFI (California Film Institute) members since September 14 and, consequently, some of the spotlight and tributes have already sold out, along with some of the films.  ARThound will be covering the festival in depth, so stay-tuned.  If you are interested in attending the festival, don’t dally with purchasing tickets.   The festival’s homepage is here and there are three ways to purchase tickets:

Online: To purchase tickets for MVFF screenings, browse the film listings—the full schedule is online here.  When you find a film you would like to see, click “buy tickets” to put the tickets in your cart. You can continue browsing, or click “check out” to complete your order. Tickets purchased online incur a $1.50 processing fee per order.

Tickets you have purchased online will be available for pick-up at the Mill Valley Film Festival Box Office(s).  Seating is guaranteed until 15 minutes prior to screening. No late seating.

In-Person at pre-festival Box Offices:

SAN RAFAEL TICKET OUTLET
1104 Fourth Street, San Rafael 94901
Sept. 11– 15, 4:00pm–8:00pm (CFI Members)
Sept. 16: 10am – 7pm
Sept. 17 – Oct. 3: Weekdays 4:00pm – 8:00pm, Weekends 2pm – 8:00pm
Opening Night, Oct. 4: 2:00pm – 11:00pm
Festival Hours, Oct. 5 – 14: Weekdays 3:00 – 10:00pm, Weekends 10:30am – 10:00pm
Note: Monday (10/8) & Friday (10/12) are weekend hours

MILL VALLEY TICKET OUTLET
ROOM Art Gallery
86 Throckmorton Avenue, Mill Valley 94941
Sept. 16: 10am – 2pm
Sept. 17 – Oct. 2: 11:00am – 4:00pm
MILL VALLEY CHAMBER OF COMMERCE
85 Throckmorton, Mill Valley 94941
Oct. 3: 11:00am – 4:00pm
Oct.4: 2:00pm – 11:00pm
Oct. 5 – 14: Weekdays 3:00pm – 10:00pm, Weekends 10:30am – 10:00pm
Note: Monday (10/8) & Friday (10/12) are weekend hours

BY PHONE: toll free at 877.874.6833
NOTE: If you have trouble purchasing online and cannot purchase tickets in person, leave a message on box office voicemail: 877.874.6833.
All orders placed over the phone are subject to a charge of $10.00 per transaction. Tickets delivered via mail (USPS) incur a $3.50 convenience fee.

RUSH Tickets:   If seats are available, tickets will be sold at the door beginning at 15 minutes prior to screening. Those tickets are cash only. No discounts.

Long time in the oven….Walter Salles’ highly anticipated On the Road reunites the same team from Salles’ Motorcycle Diaries (2004)—producers Rebecca Yeldham and Daniel Burman, screenwriter José Rivera, cinematographer Eric Gailtier, and production designer Carlos Conti. Based on Jack Kerouac’s 1957 novel, On the Road, considered to the defining book of the beat generation, the movie stars Sam Riley as Sal Paradise (Kerouac’s alter ego), Garrett Hedlund as Dean Moriarty , Kirsten Stewart as Dean’s lover Marylou, Tom Sturridge as Carlo Marx (Allen Ginsberg inspired) and Kirsten Dunst as Camille, Dean’s wife.

 

Dustin Hoffman makes his directorial debut in Quartet, about three aging opera singers (Tom Courtenay, Billy Connolly and Pauline Collins) who are preparing for an upcoming concert in their retirement home when famous diva Jean (Maggie Smith) arrives unexpectedly. Hoffman will attend a special tribute and reception in his honor on Tuesday, October 9 at 7 p.m. at the Rafael Film Center when Quartet screens at the 35th Mill Valley Film Festival.

 

Argo, directed by Ben Affleck and starring Bryan Cranston, John Goodman, Alan Arkin and Ben Affleck is set during the 1979 Iranian revolution and is about a last-ditch CIA plan to free six American hostages concocted.  Affleck will attend the October 5, 2012 screening at 7 p.m. the Smith Rafael Film Center.

September 15, 2012 Posted by | Film | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Film Does Make a Difference: Guatemalan Dictator is Nailed After 30 Years and Pamela Yates’ “Granito” was a decisive factor

Exactly one year after the release of Pamela Yates and Paco de Onis’ film Granito: How To Nail A Dictator at the Sundance Film Festival, General Efraín Ríos Montt, the de facto President and ex-dictator of Guatemala, was brought up on charges of genocide in a Guatemalan court and placed under house arrest last Thursday.  Granito was one of the important documentaries screened at October’s 34th Mill Valley Film Festival.  In the past year, Granito was honored in several ways.  It was the Opening Night Film at the Human Rights Watch International Film Festival in New York and it went on to screen at over 50 film festivals around the globe─from Amman to Auckland, Paris to Havana, São Paulo to Vancouver, New York to Moscow, and Geneva to Lima.  In screening after screening, audiences connected to the theme of the power of collective change espoused in Granito, resonating with the Arab Spring and Occupy Wall Street movements. 

I met and interviewed Yates in 2009 when her documentary The Reckoning, which addressed the future of the ICC (International Criminal Court) and its war crimes prosecution efforts, screened at the 52nd San Francisco International Film Festival.   Yates, now in her fifties, found her passion for intrepid reporting right after she graduated from college.  She has produced several important films on human rights issues and the quest for justice including When the Mountains Tremble (1984).  Shot thirty years ago, at the peak of Ríos Montt’s despotism, the film is one of the only documentary records of Guatemala’s brutal civil war and captures the chaos from the vantage point of both the U.S.-backed military leaders and the indigenous peasant revolutionaries trying to unseat them who were systematically killed in a scorched earth campaign.  Yates observed first hand that a few top generals, notably Efraín Ríos Montt and Kjell Eugenio Laugerud García, were behind that slaughter of an estimated 200,000 Mayan and the disappearance of another 40,000 indigenous persons and Ms. Yates interviewed these leaders in 1982.  

Filmmaker Pamela Yates whose documentary “Granito” helped bring the Guatemalan dictator General Efraín Ríos Montt to court and ensure that he will be held accountable for his crimes against the Guatemalan people some 30 years ago. Photo by Jemal Countess/Getty Images North America

Granito tells the story of how some 25 years later, Yates was asked to join a team of forensic experts and lawyers and Mayan survivors in a human rights case against Guatemala’s former juntas and how her first film footage became the evidence that led to the indictment of Montt in Spain’s national courts for his attacks on Maya. (This is the same Spanish court that indicted Chile’s General Augusto Pinochet for human rights violations war in October 1998.)  The powerful film uses the connected stories of eight people─they are the “granito,” or tiny pieces of sand─whose destinies all collide around that distant Guatemalan war, to weave an epic tale of justice.   The film also chronicles Yates herself, who has had a remarkable impact as a filmmaker, and looks back on one of her earliest reporting experiences.  It shows her in remote mountain areas of Guatemala in 1982 attending meetings with the guerilla revolutionaries and recording stories of mass murder and forging connections with survivors who later became activists.  She takes a big risk and boards a plane with high-ranking Guatemalan military officers and shoots a fly-over at a remote village they had decimated just days earlier….vital footage which became integral years later in the making of Granito.   

Emerging out of the historical footage are the remarkable stories of the granitos.  One of these is Fredy Pecerelli, Director of the Guatemalan Forensic Anthro­pology Foundation, which since the mid-1990s has led efforts to exhume the mass graves of victims of Guatemala’s civ­il war.   Pecerelli’s father was a law student in the early 1980’s and packed up his family and left for New York after receiving death threats from the Guatemalan death squads in the capital, Guatemala City.  Pecerelli now devotes his full time to exhuming corpses and corroborating the brutal massacres that occurred.  

Granito’s release added its ‘grain of sand’ to the tipping point for justice reached in Guatemala this year,” said Yates, “where more perpetrators of the genocide against the Maya people have been arrested, tried and convicted  than in the previous 30 years since we released When the Mountains Tremble.”

 Many of us were hopeful that Granito would be shortlisted for the Oscar documentary nomination and that, in front of a captive audience of some 40 million viewers, the message of collective change that Granito embodies could be conveyed─but it was not selected.   How gratifying it is to see that, in the real world, this film has served its purpose─nailing a dictator─and will live on to educate about the abuses of power.

Ríos Montt’s Trial in Guatemala utilizes Granito:  The culmination of three decades of work by human rights advocates, forensic scientists and survivors of the Guatemalan genocide forced former dictator General Efraín Ríos Montt to appear in court last Thursday after 30 years of impunity, for a hearing (that ran 11 hours) to decide whether there was enough evidence to take him to trial on charges of genocide.  This was a major event in Guatemala with hundreds of Maya people coming down from the highlands to gather in front of the courthouse, holding a candle vigil for the their murdered family members. Ríos Montt is the first high-ranking Guatemalan official to be brought to trial.   (Read The Guatemala Times coverage here.) (Read the New York Times coverage here.)

The prosecution spent hours presenting overwhelming evidence in the form of military documents, exhumation reports, photos and footage from Yates’ film Granito: How To Nail A Dictator, which links Ríos Montt directly to hundreds of deaths and disappearances. Surviving family members, Ixil Maya in traditional dress, crowded the standing room only courtroom in stunned silence. Some wept. Outside the courthouse, in an open area now named Human Rights Plaza, hundreds more watched the proceedings on a huge screen.
The defense argued that Ríos Montt did not have command responsibility over his Army officers in the highlands, and that he was not responsible for the massacres.  This is negated by a clip from Granito that the prosecution and the Guatemalan media used to show the general taking command responsibility, saying that “If I don’t control the army, then who does?”

Judge Carol Patricia Flores deliberated for hours and returned her decision to prosecute Ríos Montt on charges of genocide, place him under house arrest, and set bail for USD $65,000. People hugged, cheered and set off firecrackers outside when the Judge read her decision stating that “the extermination of the civilian population was the result of military plans, and that these plans were executed under the command of Ríos Montt.”

More on Ríos Montt:  During the 17 months of Mr. Ríos Montt’s rule in 1982 and 1983, the military carried out a scorched-earth campaign in the Mayan highlands as soldiers hunted down bands of leftist guerrillas.  Survivors have described how military units wiped out Indian villages with extraordinary brutality, killing all the women and children along with the men. Military documents of the time described the Indians as rebel collaborators.

A truth commission backed by the United Nations, set up after a peace accord in 1996, found that 200,000 people were killed or disappeared during the civil war, mostly by state security forces. The violence against Mayan-Ixil villages amounted to genocide because the entire population was targeted, the commission concluded.

The military’s actions against those communities were at the forefront of the allegations at Thursday’s hearing, as the prosecution outlined 72 separate episodes that resulted in the deaths of at least 1,771 people.

Get Involved with GranitoTo reinforce and educate about the power of the collective to make a difference, Yates and de Onis have launched a companion digital project designed to restore the collective memory of the genocide in a public online archive, described here – Granito: Every Memory Matters.  The film’s journey is reflected in the Granito Facebook page, where nearly 4,000 followers have rallied, sharing stories, news, and demanding justice.  And to get a sense of the people behind all of this, check out this slide show of photos of ‘granitos’ by renowned portraitist Dana Lixenberg.

January 30, 2012 Posted by | Film | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment