With the onset of fall, Bay Area moviegoing options start to multiply like crazy. The Mill Valley Film Festival (MVFF), October 6-16 2016, is hard to beat. The 39th edition offers a line-up of 200 films—winners from Cannes, Berlin, and Toronto as well as an eclectic mix of features, documentaries, shorts, world cinema and films with a Bay Area stamp—all selected for our discriminating Bay Area audience by programmer Zoe Elton and her seasoned team. The legendary festival kicks off on Thursday evening, October 6, with two of Hollywood’s hottest fall films—La La Land, Damien Chazelle’s (Whiplash MVFF 2014) love letter to dreamers, artists, and Hollywood with Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone and Denis Vileneuve’s (Sicario) riveting and thoughtful drama, Arrival, starring five time Oscar-nominee Amy Adams as a linguistics professor who communicates with aliens in a bid to save the planet. Actually, in a move to satisfy everyone’s tastes, there are four films screening on Thursday evening, so add Mick Jackson’s Denial starring Rachael Weiss and Rob Nilsson’s Love Twice to the mix but they are not being billed as opening nighters. Special Tributes will honor Academy Award winning actress Nicole Kidman in a program that includes a screening of her new film with Dev Patel, Lion, and acclaimed filmmaker and author Julie Dash, who will appear in conversation following a screening of her recently restored Daughters of the Dust (1991). The festival closes with Jeff Nichols’ Loving, which tells the real life story of the struggle, imprisonment and 1960’s Supreme Court battle Richard (Joel Edgerton) and Mildred (Ruth Negga) Loving experienced in one of America’s early interracial marriages.
The festival unfolds in San Rafael, Corte Madera, Larkspur and Mill Valley. For North Bay residents, getting there and parking is considerably more time efficient and cheaper than it is in San Francisco. If you want to go, pre-purchase your tickets now as this popular festival tends to sell out before it starts. There is ample choice right now but not for long. I recommend seeing films where the filmmaker or actors will be in attendance. Also, check the new program guide for Smith Rafael Film Center. Several of the festival films are screening there within the next two months and it doesn’t make sense to pay a premium to see them at the festival and wait in long lines unless there are special guests attending that make it worthwhile.
ARThound’s top picks:
Neruda/Spotlight Gael Garcia Bernal—Mon, Oct 10
The foreign film line-up is especially strong this year. Chilean Director Pablo Larrain’s Neruda, Chile’s foreign language Oscar nominee, takes center stage in a special Spotlight presentation honoring Mexican actor-director-producer Gael Garcia Bernal. The drama is set in 1948 and Bernal plays a police inspector who is charged with finding the fugitive Communist politician and poet, Pablo Neruda, when he goes underground. In Larrain’s capable hands, the film morphs into a soulful exploration of Chile’s historical dance with heroes and villains and Bernal as the inspector becomes a key figure, obsessed with finding Neruda who has managed to make him his pawn. Bernal will appear in an onstage conversation covering his extensive career.
The Salesman—Fri, Oct 7 and Wed, Oct 12
I can’t remember when the festival last hosted an Iranian filmmaker but, over the year’s, we’ve reveled in their creativity, courage and unparalleled story-telling. This year, acclaimed Academy Award and Golden Globe winning writer-director Ashgar Farhadi (A Separation) will appear in person to answer questions after the two screenings of his new Tehran-set drama The Salesman. The film picked up Best Screenplay and Best Actor awards at Cannes and was selected as the Iranian nominee for the Best Foreign Language Oscar. The Salesman is the suspenceful story of a young Persian couple who are part-time actors in Tehran in the Arthur Miller play Death of a Salesman. Their relationship is strained after they move into a new flat and the wife is attacked while she is taking a shower. The flat’s previous occupant, a woman who was allegedly involved in prostitution, is never seen but her presence grows as the film progresses. At Cannes, Shahab Hosseini, the husband, won the award for Best Actor.
Lamb—Sat, Oct 8 and Tues, Oct 11
A rarity for MVFF is an Ethiopian film, in Amharic, the national language of Ethiopia. Writer-director Yared Zeleke’s first feature, Lamb, was the first Ethiopian film ever named an official Cannes selection. The 37 year-old director made Variety magazine’s “10 Screenwriters to Watch” list for 2015. The story revolves around an Ethiopian boy who loses his mother and moves in with relatives and becomes attached to a pet lamb, Chuni, as a way of dealing with loss and grief. He also takes up cooking which is unacceptable to his uncle who considers it girl’s work. The story hits close to home for the director. When he was just 10, Zeleke’s own father was imprisoned by the Derg regme (the ruling military Communist regime that was in power in Ethiopia from 1974 to 1987) and his mother remarried and he went to live with his grandmother. Ultimately, Zeleke was reunited with his father and they lived together in the US but the happy days he had with both loving parents together were long gone. Filmmaker in attendance for both screenings.
Frantz—Fri, Oct 7 and Fri, Oct 14
French director François Ozon (Swimming Pool, 8 Women, Under the Sand) always stirs me with subtle demonstrations of his artistry and deep understanding of human nature. His latest film, Frantz, a romantic drama set in the aftermath of WWI in the small German town of Quedlingburg, is a layered portrait of grief. The story evolves from a strange graveside encounter between a young German woman (Paula Beer) grieving her fiancé and a Frenchman, Adrian (Pierre Niney), who also visits the fiancé’s grave to leave flowers. He claims to have been friends with her fiancé and, slowly, she begins to develop feelings for him. Shot in black and white, with brief interludes of color, the film is a loose adaptation of Ernst Lubitsch’s 1932 drama Broken Lullaby which itself was based on a play by French playwright Maurice Rostand. Niney, whose elegant face would have inspired Michelangelo, won a Cesar award for his outstanding performance in Jalil Lespert’s Yves Saint Laurent (2014).
Mom and Other Loonies in the Family—Sat, Oct 15 and Sun, Oct 16
Hungarian director Ibolya Fekete’s Mom and Other Loonies in the Family revolves around a 94 year-old grandmother with dementia who relates her life story to her daughter. It’s a heartwarming recounting, told through flashbacks over four generations of crazies. She was a mother on the run who moved twenty-seven times—and the film spans all of the 20th century, meandering through epic moments in Hungarian and world history. Her “present” is a time that is infused with struggles, declining health and the confusing intervention of past events. Her past was committed to keeping the family together at any cost. The story is based on the filmmaker’s own family and stories related to her by relatives. Characters appear in archival footage and in well-known Hungarian films as if they were actually in those films. Eszter Ónodi shines as the reliable yet somewhat whimsical woman who moved too many times and just wants to stand on her own two feet. Her ninety four-year old demented self is played by Danuta Szaflarska who credibly plays the role by reverting to childlike responses.
Green is Gold—Sat, Oct 8 and Sun, Oct 9
I have a weakness for films that are set in Northern, California, where I grew up. Sonoma State University graduate Ryan Baxter’s first feature, Green is Gold, is set in rural Sonoma County and is a family bonds over pot business story that picked up the Audience Best Fiction Film award at the Los Angeles Film Festival for its poetic filmmaking and emotional truth. Ryan Baxter, the writer, director, editor and star, plays the older brother, Cameron, a black market potrepneur ( a real word I picked up at the Heirloom Festival) who is forced to take care of his younger brother, Jimmy (his real life brother, Jimmy Baxter) when their dad is imprisoned. Cameron tries to put some distance between the kid and the cannabis business, which involves considerable risk but high payoffs, but, soon Jimmy is knee deep in buds and the two find themselves embarking on a dangerous pot delivery journey that will either leave them rolling in dough or six feet under. Ryan Baxter, actor Jimmy Baxtor, and rest of cast and crew in attendance at both screenings.)
Unleashed—Wed, Oct 12 and Thurs, Oct 13
What if your pets turned into full-grown men? I couldn’t resist the whacky premise behind Finn Taylor’s Unleashed, which has a thirty-something software app designer Emma (Kate Micucci) settling into her life in San Francisco when her cat, Ajax, and her dog, Summit, disappear only to reappear in her life as full-grown men (Steve Howet and Justin Chatwin). All their four-legged memories are fully intact and they vie for her affection in their very specific cat and dog styles.
Details MVFF 39:
The 39th Mill Valley Film Festival opens on Thursday, October 6 and runs through Sunday, October 16, 2016. Buy tickets online now at http://www.mvff.com/. Most tickets for films are $14 and special programs starts at $25.
ARThound loves a great film, with a story that speaks right to my heart and if the setting is in some distant land, all the better. The 37th Mill Valley Film Festival (MVFF 37) kicks-off this Thursday evening with two promising opening night films—Tommy Lee Jones’ The Homesman and Jason Reitman’s Men, Women & Children— and a splendid opening night party and then gets down to serious full-day programming from Friday onward. This festival, continually rated among the top ten in the world, offers 11 days of the best new films from around the world. In addition, there are intimate on stage conversations with directors and stars. This year, over 150 guests and film luminaries will attend and a select few will be honored in spotlights, tributes, centerpieces, and special screenings and many will be participating in post-film Q&A’s. There are also numerous musical performances and parties. And for those who fear all that sitting will take a toll on their derrieres, there’s even an Active Cinema hike this Saturday hike from Tennessee Valley to the ocean where guests can get some light, take in fresh air and share their impressions with cinephiles and festival guests. Having poured over the program, watched numerous screeners, and gotten the scoop directly from festival programmers, ARThound is really excited to cover the festival.
If you’ve missed my previous coverage, here is the link explaining the ins and outs of this festival and the advantages of CFI (California Film Institute) membership for early access to tickets:
ARThound’s top picks in the World Cinema category:
316 —Iran | 2014 | 72 min |World Premiere | Executive Producer Behrang Saar Klein in attendance—It’s a no-brainer almost anywhere you go in the world, shoes express personality like nothing else. From Iranian producer Payman Haghani in Rasht, Iran, (Mardi Ke Gilass Hayash Ra Khord (A Man Who Ate His Cherries), 2009) comes his endearing second feature, 316 (2104), which tells an elderly Persian woman’s life story through the shoes of people she remembers and events unfolding in Iran. Sadly, we’ve come to accept that it’s rare for Iranian filmmakers who are based in Iran to make personal appearances at film festivals but we revel in their creativity and courage and unparalleled storytelling. Aptly put in a recent New Yorker article (6/10/2014), Mashallah Shamsolvaezin, the editor of Jam’eh, said “We have freedom of expression in Iran…We just don’t have freedom after expression.” And yet Iran’s next generation have managed to become central in Iran’s complex social and political discourse. Working under the constant threat of censorship and imprisonment has forced Iranian filmmakers to express themselves indirectly through metaphor and allegory and they have astounded us with rich stories that are about politics yet transcend politics to reveal what is intimate and poignantly familiar in our human condition. 316 artfully melds archival “footage” with animation and dramatic sequences to create a life story that tells a larger truth. (Screens: Saturday, Oct 4, 1:30 PM, 142 Throckmorton, Tuesday, Oct 5, 5 PM, Sequoia 1)
The Little House (Chiisai Ouchi) —Japan | 2014, 136 min—This elegant period romance set in 1920’ Tokyo is the first romance film directed by Yoji Yamada in his 50 year career. The filmmaker is famous in Japan for his immensely popular Otoko wa Tsurai yo series (48 films made over 25 years) and Samurai Trilogy (The Twilight Samurai, The Hidden Blade and Love and Honor). The Little House is based on Kyoko Nakajima’s novel “Chiisai ouchi,” 2010 winner of the Naoki Prize, one of Japan’s most prestigious literary awards. The story revolves around Takeshi, a young Japanese man and his posthumous encounter with his late aunt, Taki Nunomiya (Haru Kuroki), who left several journals behind. Through the notebooks, he learns of her life and the film proceeds, in flashbacks, to tell her story.
Prior to World War II, in a little house with a red triangular roof in Tokyo, young Taki works as a housemaid for a Masaki, a Toy company executive who lives with his wife Tokiko (Takako Matsu) and their 5 year-old son. When Tokiko’s husband hires a young art school graduate, Shoji Itakura; a love affair blossoms between Tokiko and Shoji, whom Taki also has feelings for. Meanwhile, as the war situation heats up, so too do the relationships in the little house. This isn’t a conventional love triangle but an exploration of how this budding relationship impacts Taki’s relationship with Tokiko and her later life. Taki transitions from an unsophisticated young maiden, who initially stands in fear and awe of her beautiful employer, to a trusted confidante who speaks the truth when called upon to do so. Haru Kuroki won the Silver Bear for Best Actress at the 64th Berlinale (Berlin International Berlin Film Festival). The remarkable political discussions that occur in passing are just one of the film’s many delights. (Screens: Friday, Oct 3, 6 PM, Rafael 3 and Saturday, Oct 4, 11AM, Lark Theatre)
Ice Poison (Bing Du)—Myanmar/Taiwan R.O.C. | 2014 | 95min—Myanmar-born, Taiwan-based director Midi Z (Return to Burma (2011), Poor Folk (2012)), continues his shrewd examination of social and economic disparities in Myanmar with Ice Poison. Shot on location in Myanmar by a seven-member crew in an impoverished ethnically Chinese community on the outskirts of Lashio, near the Chinese border, this is the story of two young Burmese who get caught up in the drug trade in order to escape their bleak circumstances. The feature opens with an old Chinese farmer and his nameless son (Wang Shin-hong) toiling on their parched field in Lashio. The desperate farmer sells his beloved cow to buy a dilapidated scooter so his son can drive a motorcycle taxi. He asks just one thing in return: his son mustn’t get involved in drugs. Among the son’s first fares is a Burmese-born Chinese woman named Sanmei (Wu Ke-xi), who has come home from China for a funeral and is making a new start. She desperately needs money to bring her son to Lashio. Her scheme involves helping her drug-dealing cousin deliver crystal meth, known as “ice poison,” to local addicts. She convinces the son to go into business with her as a driver. Midi Z draws us into the hard and fractured lives of these two young adults, both unfulfilled and both with reasonable expectations, for which there seems to be no easy answer. Through its intimate portrayal of their circumstances, aspirations, anguish and choices, the film asks us to consider what really matters most in this life and what it means when achieving that is just not possible. Ice Poison won Best Film in Int’l Competition, 68th Edinburgh Film Festival and Best Director, Peace and Love Film Festival, Dalarna, Sweden (Screens: Sunday, Oct 5, 6 PM Rafael 3 and Saturday, Oct 11, 11:45 AM, Sequoia 1)
The Patent Wars—Germany | 2014 | 88 min | North American Premiere | Director Hannah Prinzler in attendance—In all but the most capable hands, a documentary about trends in patent litigation could be very dry. German filmmakers Hannah Leonie Prinzler and Volker Ullrich succeed in making the complex topic fascinating by showing us how, in the U.S. in particular, the patent holder has evolved from the classical innovator like Thomas Edison into yet another tool of corporate greed that puts profit above human life. The savvy doc takes us on a trip around the world to visit at least a dozen well-known figures who explain how the landscape has changed—how patents have proliferated and become global strategic weapons, how profits are made from the mere threat of patent infringement, and who bears the economic and social consequences. The film was in the works while the Myriad Genetics lawsuit over the patenting of human genes was still in litigation in the U.S. Supreme Court but a visit with breast cancer patient Lisbeth Ceriani wonderfully summarizes the case’s impact on breast cancer victims and on the patenting human genes. It really does seem that almost everything can be patented in the US, sometimes with just a description (not an actual realization) by the patent holders. Once a patent is in hand, the holder can decide later how much to charge to test for a medication or to plant a seed, thereby controlling access only to the privileged.
Yoga guru Bikram Choudhury inflamed many when he patented sequences of yoga poses. A visit to Delhi to Vinod Kumar Gupta’s Traditional Knowledge Digital Library (TKDL), a unique database developed to prevent foreign companies from patenting products based on ancient sub-continental know-how, shows how Indian is struggling to get savvy on the IP front. Unfortunately, for India and much of the developing world, patents are currently being used to deny the development of crucial generic medications and lives are being lost. A visit with Anil Gupta, India’s “Ghandi of Innovation” unveils what India, the world’s largest manufacturer of generic (patent-free) medicines, is doing to proactively protect its genetic resources as well. The film concludes with a visit to car enthusiasts in Arizona who are collaborating to build the first open-source cars, showing us that patents are not the only way to inspire innovations. (Screens: Sat, Oct 4, 5:15 PM, Rafael 3 and Monday, Oct 6, 6:30 PM, Rafael 3)
Timbuktu— France/Mauritania | 2014 | 97 min | West Coast Premiere | Actor Ibrahim Ahmed in attendance—Mauritanian director Abderrahmane Sissako (Waiting for Happiness (Heremakono) (2002), Bamako (2007)) is one of a handful of filmmakers from Sub-Saharan Africa who has the rapt attention of the film world. His latest feature, Timbuktu, is the world’s first look at the jihadist takeover of Northern Mali in 2012 by fundamentalists whose brutal Islamist law shattered the lives of innumerable families. As always, his understated style combines graceful storytelling with a remarkably rigorous exploration of exile and displacement. Sissako focuses on the break-up of a close-knit Tuareg cattle-herding family who live peacefully in the dunes with their beloved cow “GPS.” When the cow goes missing, the father, Kidane (first-time actor Ibrahim Ahmed in a mesmerizing performance) accidentally shoots a fisherman dead in a lake and becomes victim to the horrors of Timbuktu’s improvised court system. The peripheral story lines are every bit as riveting. The hardliners punish Timbuktu residents for playing music or even soccer with stonings, executions and lashings. Sissako’s handling of atrocities in an almost matter-of-fact way punctuates their shock value. (Screens: Sunday, Oct 5, 1:45 PM, Rafael 1 and Monday, Oct 6, 3 PM, Sequoia 1)
The Lamb (Kuzu)—Turkey | 2014 | 85 min | US Premiere—London-based Turkish filmmaker and artist Kutluğ Ataman made such a splash in the contemporary art world (Documenta, Venice Biennale, Carnegie Prize, Cream Art) with his videos that he was shortlisted for the Turner Prize in 2004 and has since racked up an impressive list of exhibitions and commissions. Ataman brings his artistic flair to The Lamb, his fifth feature film, a family drama set in rural Anatolia which inhabits the delicate world of children. The story revolves around five-year-old Mert (Mert Tastan), his wily older sister, Vicdan (Sila Lara Canturk), and their financially-strapped family’s struggle to throw Mert a proper circumcision feast. They cannot afford the traditional lamb which is central to the celebration. When Vicdan (affectionately called mommy’s “Little Lamb”) taunts Mert by telling him that they’ll roast him in the tandoor if they don’t come up with the money for the lamb, he freaks and sets out to find a solution on his own. The highlight of the film is the wonderful interaction of the children, who can be so sweet and so cruel. Vicdan’s descriptions of the pending procedure border on tortuous, while bumbling Mert grabs your heart. Subplots involve the father and his womanizing and the mother and her plot to take revenge on villagers who have been unsympathetic to her plight. In all, Ataman weaves a rich and humorous story highlighting the inequality and lack of options for women, particularly in rural areas, and the liberties accorded men. Feza Caldiran’s breathtaking cinematography of a wintery remote Anatolia makes elevates the film to art. The Lamb won the CICAE Art Cinema Award for best film in the Panorama Special section of the 2014 Berlinale. (Screens: Wednesday, Oct 8, 3 PM, Sequoia 1 and Sunday, Oct 12, 11:30 AM, Rafael 2)
Details: The 37th Mill Valley Film Festival is October 2 -12, 2014. The festival’s homepage is here. Advance ticket purchase is essential as this festival sells out. Click here to be directed to film descriptions, each with a “Buy Ticket” option. Most tickets are $14 and special events and tributes are more.
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.)
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—
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
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
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
The strong sex: two very different films screen today at the Mill Valley Film Festival about women who survived against all odds
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)
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.
In the world of film and film festivals, each season has its delights. While there may be as many as a dozen mini-fests set to launch in the Bay Area, October always belongs to the Mill Valley Film Festival (MVFF). Now 34 and considered in the top lists of festivals worldwide, its organizers and programmers —Mark Fishkin, Zoë Elton, Janis Plotkin (to name a few)—have hit on a winning formula. The 11 day festival will present some 120 films that include Academy Award hopefuls, tributes, emerging talents, documentaries, children’s programming, and world cinema. MVFF34 all takes place north of the Golden Gate at CinéArts@Sequoia, Mill Valley, and Christopher B, Smith Rafael Film Center, San Rafael, and other convenient Marin locales.
Singing the Praises of WOMEN—actresses, directors, thematically
“When we looked at what seemed strong, it became quite apparent at Cannes that there was an incredible wealth of excellent performances by women,” said Zoë Elton at the festival’s September press conference. “We have a lot of these Oscar worthy women in the festival.” The lineup includes films featuring Glenn Close, Michelle Yeoh, Tilda Swinton, Susan Sarandon, Ellen Barkin, Michelle Williams and emerging actresses like Elizabeth Olsen and Antonia Campbell-Hughes. Ironically, one of the two opening night films, Albert Nobbs, is a gender-bender drama starring Glenn Close as a woman who has skirted poverty in mid-19th Century Dublin by dressing and working as a man—a shy butler. Close, well-known for her performances in films such as Fatal Attractions (1987) and Dangerous Liaisons (1988) is attending the festival and is the subject of a special Tribute event on festival’s second night.
The programming also reflects a strong interest in the portrayal of women in various cultures. A number of films weave mythology and ritual with the complex contemporary reality of women’s lives. Moroccan director Mohamed Mouftakir won the Golden Stallion (top prize) at this year’s FESPACO (2011) for Pegasus, the story of a young Moroccan woman (Sadia Ladib) who is found on the streets, wounded and with no memories of her past–but with visions, flashbacks, evidence of trauma, and the belief that she has been impregnated by “The Lord of the Horse.” The fragmented plotline which echoes David Lynch and Iranian director Mohammad Rasolof (The White Meadows, 2009), weaves her journey to self with the experiences of her therapist, Dr. Zineb, who is treating her and on her own psychic quest. (Screens Friday and Sunday)
SEPCIAL DAYS: OPENING NIGHT
The festival opens Thursday evening with two films that are sure bets to be included among the top independent releases of 2011. Albert Nobbs, starring Glenn Close, who will attend, will be screened at the Christopher B. Smith Rafael Film Center at 7 p.m. Jeff Who Lives at Home will have its U.S. premiere at CinéArts@Sequoia in Mill Valley at 7 p.m. and 7:15 p.m. This film, which won’t hit the theatres until March 2012, stars Jason Segal and Ed Helms with Susan Sarandon and Judy Greer. It is the story of Jeff, a sympathetic 30-year old unemployed pot head who lives in his mother’s (Susan Sarandon) basement and rewatches Signs while nurturing anxiety about clues the universe is dropping about his destiny. The story all transpires over an afternoon of misadventures culminating in a fate-directed universe rattling ah-hah moment. Directors Jay and Mark Duplass will also be in attendance. After the screenings, the Opening Night Gala kicks off at the Mill Valley Community Center at 9 p.m. and goes until midnight.
Closing Night will feature a special screening of The Artist starring Jean Dujardin (Cannes Best Actor), Bérénice Bejo, John Goodman, James Cromwell, Penelope Ann Miller and Missi Pyle. Directed by Michael Hazanavicius, who is expected to be in attendance, The Artist is an endearing black and white homage to the world of silent film that tells the story of a silent-film star resisting the transition to sound set in 1927 Hollywood. Just as his star wanes, another’s starlet’s rises who represents Hollywood’s new direction. After the film, the Closing Night Party will take place at Albert Park/San Rafael Community Center from 7-10 p.m.
TRIBUTE AND SPOTLIGHT EVENTS
In addition to honoring Glenn Close’s career, MVFF34 is celebrating actress Michelle Yeoh and West African director Gaston Kaboré. On Saturday, October 8 at 7:30 p.m. a Spotlight honoring Michelle Yeoh, one of Asia’s best known actresses, will take place at the Smith Rafael Film Center with a Q&A and screening of her new film, The Lady, already generating quite an Oscar buzz. The Lady is an intimate chronicle of the life of Myanmar prodemocracy activist and Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi who spent 15 years under house arrest before her release last year. The Lady follows Suu Kyi starting in 1988 when she returned to Myanmar, formerly Burma, to care for her ailing mother and soon became iconic in the battle against the military dictatorship. The story focuses on her family life–her marriage to British academic Michael Aris and their two sons. Aris, an Oxford professor, strongly supported Suu Kyi’s decision to stay in Myanmar, raising their children and playing a pivotal role behind the scenes in campaigning for her Nobel Peace Prize. This decision, for the greater good, entailed years of separation and was a tremendous burden yet it was mutually agreed upon and seemed to cement their courageous love. Yeoh attends MVFF with Luc Besson, the film’s internationally acclaimed director and producer. (click here to watch trailer) After the program, the evening will continue with dinner at Frantoio Ristorante & Olive Oil Company in Mill Valley.
The first weekend of the Festival culminates on Sunday, October 9 at 4:30 p.m., with an MVFF Tribute to West African director Gaston Kaboré, honoring his remarkable career and contribution to African film including an onstage conversation and rare screening of his 1982 classic Wend Kuuni (God’s Gift), the endearing story of a mute boy found in the bush and adopted by Mossi villagers whose love and tenderness help restore his voice. Afterwards, the evening continues with dinner at Acqua Mill Valley, catered by Delicious! Catering.
ARThound’s top five:
Coriolanus: Actor Ralph Fiennes makes his directorial debut a modern adaptation of William Shakespeare’s war tragedy “Coriolanus” set in war-torn Bosnia with chilling urban battle scenes. Fiennes also stars as Caius Martius, or Coriolanus, a powerful general at odds with the City of Rome, a role that Fiennes played on the London stage. Coriolanus is a riveting drama about the relationship of authority, power, and the emotions that drive them and should play well reconfigured in the hotbed of the Balkans. Martius meets his old enemy Tullus Aufidius (a very macho Gerard Butler) on the battlefield and returns to Rome as a hero. Reveling in his triumph, he is elected to the governing consul but is soon opposed by the citizenry. His anger at the public’s disfavor leads to his expulsion, and in desperation he turns to his sworn enemy Tullus, with whom he takes revenge on the city. Vanessa Redgrave is Coriolanus’s iron-willed mother and Jessica Chastain is his trophy wife. Directed by Ralph Fiennes (UK, 2011) (122 minutes). Screens: Friday, October 7, 2011 at 9 p.m. at Sequoia Theatre, 25 Throckmorton Street, Mill Valley and Saturday, October 8 at 7:30 p.m. at the Smith Rafael Film Center, 1118 Fourth Street, San Rafael, CA. Tickets: $13.50. www.mvff.org
Granito: How to Nail a Dictator: Documentary filmmaker Pamela Yates has passionately been involved in investigating genocide and war crimes for over 25 years. Her 1984 film, When the Mountains Tremble, made when she was just out of college, is one of the only documentary records of the brutal Guatemalan civil war between the U.S.-backed military junta and the indigenous peasant revolutionaries who were systematically killed in a scorched earth campaign. 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. 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. The powerful and idealistic film uses the connected stories of five 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. Though somewhat narrowly focused, the film is monumental. It is also an inspirational look at the career of a brave filmmaker who has dedicated every ounce of her being to seeing that justice is served. (US, 2011, 104 min) Screens: Friday, October 7, 2011 at 6:30 p.m. at the Smith Rafael Film Center, 1118 Fourth Street, San Rafael, CA and Sunday, October 9, 2011 at 5:45 p.m. at the Sequoia Theatre, 25 Throckmorton Street, Mill Valley. Directors Pamela Yates and Paco de Onis will be present at both screening and will conduct a post-film discussion and Q & A. Tickets: $13.50. www.mvff.org
The Butcher’s Wife: North American Premiere (China, 2011, 119 min)(Mandarin with English subtitles) Epic in scale, this new drama tells the intimate story of a newly-married young couple in rural China facing big life decisions against the gripping backdrop of modernization that threatens to leave all but urban dwellers behind. Months have passed and Liang, a kind and simple butcher, and his wife Qiao have not consummated their marriage because she fears pregnancy will squash her dream of entering college and starting a new life in the city. She’s already failed the exam three times and feels intense pressure to start the life she imagines she will have. Lang can’t bear the situation and wants intimacy and, humiliated, sends his wife to stay with her mother. Qiao leaves for the big city to get her dream underway and it quickly turns into a nightmare. The fictional film, a parable for any rapidly modernizing society, draws us into the hard and fractured lives of a young couple, both unfulfilled and both with reasonable expectations, for which there seems to be no easy answer. Through its intimate portrayal of the aspirations and anguish of two individuals, the film asks us to consider what really matters most in this life and what it means when achieving that is not possible. (contains graphic images of pig slaughter) Directed by Gao Xiongjie. (China, 2011, 119 min)(Mandarin with English subtitles) Screens: Friday, October 7, 2011 at 8:30 p.m. at the Smith Rafael Film Center, 1118 Fourth Street, San Rafael, CA and Sunday, October 9, 2011 at 3:45 p.m. at the Sequoia Theatre, 25 Throckmorton Street, Mill Valley. Tickets: $13.50. www.mvff.org
The Prize: Argentinean Paula Markovitch’s impressive autobiographical feature debut is about vivacious 7 year-old Cecilia, (Paula Galinelli Hertzog) who is asked to keep a big secret about her family but can’t possibly understand the implications of that secret. It’s the 1970’s and Ceci and her mom are living out of suitcases at a desolate and ramshackle abandoned beach town, hiding from Argentina’s repressive military and what will come to be called its “dirty war.” If asked, Ceci is instructed to tell people only that her mom is a housekeeper and her dad sells curtains. Ceci soons befriends her schoolmate, Lucia, but it becomes very difficult for her to particpate in activities like writing a school essay about her family and, when she does, she comes close to jeopardizing everything. Paula Galinelli Hertzog delivers an astounding performance as a young girl trying to understand what she can believe in the adult world and struggling to feel secure in the certitude of her mother’s love when everything else seems to be shifting. (Mexico/Germany/France/Poland, 2011) (103 minutes) In Spanish with English subtitles. Screens: Wednesday, October 12, 2011 at 8:30 p.m. at the Smith Rafael Film Center, 1118 Fourth Street, San Rafael, CA and Sunday, October 16, 2011 at 5:45 p.m. at the Sequoia Theatre, 25 Throckmorton Street, Mill Valley. Tickets: $13.50. www.mvff.org
The Forgiveness of Blood: A mesmerizing drama from Justin Marston, the producer of Maria Full of Grace (2004) shot entirely on location in rural Albania that explores that small Balkan country’s insular clan culture through the story of a teenage boy and his sister. When Mark (Refet Abazi) gets embroiled in a land rights squabble that escalates to his killing his neighbor, legal justice takes a backseat to Balkan oral code of the Kanun. This traditional Albanian law, pre-dating the 15th century, states that when a murder is committed, the family of the deceased are warranted to get retribution by taking the life of a male in the offending clan’s family. Mark goes into hiding but his 17 year-old son, Nik (Tristan Halilaj), is essentially doomed to indefinite confinement at home, the only place considered safe ground. Nic leaves his high school life of video games and flirting and becomes a volatile and stir-crazy prisoner at home while his resourceful 15-year-old sister, Rudina (Sindi Lacej), takes over her family’s bread delivery business but is soon knee deep in threats herself. As Nic feels increasing pressure to find a solution to this blood feud, his actions escalate such that his entire family is jeopardized. In Albanian with English subtitles, the film boldly contrasts the resurgence of antiquated traditions with the lives of young people in the country’s first post-totalitarian generation, whose bright future is put at risk by these practices. Directed by Joshua Marston (2011) (109 minutes) Screens: Thursday, October 13, 2011 at 4 p.m. and Saturday, October 15, 2011 at 12:15 p.m. at Sequoia Theatre, 25 Throckmorton Street, Mill Valley. Tickets: $13.50. www.mvff.org
Details: Presented by the California Film Institute, the 34th Mill Valley Film Festival runs October 6-16, 2011 at the CinéArts@Sequoia (25 Throckmorton Avenue, Mill Valley), Chrisopher B. Smith Rafael Film Center (1118 Fourth Street, San Rafael) and other venues. Tickets are $13.50 (CFI Members, $11), unless otherwise noted, and may be purchased online at mvff.com. Additional information: www.mvff.com or call 877.874.6833