Mill Valley Film Festival: First-Look, Local and International Screen Wonders Await
Unreeling the bucolic splendor of its Marin County home base, San Rafael, and other points in the Bay Area, the Mill Valley Film Festival will give movie lovers a first look at some of the buzziest films of the year.
Bradley Cooper’s hotly tipped Leonard Bernstein biopic "The Maestro" is in the mix, along with Alexander Payne’s hotly anticipated "The Holdovers." Juliet Triet’s Cannes Palme d’Or winner "Anatomy of a Fall" and Sofia Coppola’s biopic of Elvis Presley’s young bride "Priscilla" Oscar-bait titles are only the start for MVFF 2023. With 148 films from 41 countries, including 86 features and 62 shorts, 56 of them premieres, the festival is a wide-ranging celebration of cinema, one that digs deep to find the best of what today’s filmmakers have to offer, from around the world and the Bay Area’s own backyard. Here's just a sampling:
"Farming While Black"
Part of the festival’s Active Cinema initiative exploring issues vital to us all, Mark Decena’s documentary focuses on the experience of three Black farmers as they make their living off the land.
"Water for Life"
Award-winning Marin County documentarian Will Parrinello travels to Central and South America to focus on the risks activists take in their fight against the corporations that would privatize that basic human need, water.
San Francisco artist and filmmaker Lynn Hershman Leeson confronted Artificial Intelligence in her work long before most people knew what it was. The 2023 MVFF "Mind the Gap Award" winner will screen four of her AI-exploring shorts and take part in an onstage interview.
"Carol Doda Topless at the Condor"
This documentary celebrates the cocktail waitress turned San Francisco’s first topless dancer, a cultural warrior in the sexual revolution of the 1960.
"Avenue of the Giants"
Richmond filmmaker Finn Taylor ("Cherish", "Kanapolis") spins the true story of Marin resident Herbert Heller (Stephen Lang), an Auschwitz survivor opening up about his past.
"Skin of Glass"
Bay Area filmmaker Denise Zmekhol explores her architect father Roger’s crowning achievement, a soaring São Paulo skyscraper, once a symbol of Brazil’s bright future that has since become a rotting, vertical homeless squat.
A Scottish soldier and an American mercenary clear a path through Tierra del Fuego at the turn of the 20th century, upending the lives of the Indigenous people living there, in this Chilean drama. Part of "¡Viva el cine!," MVFF’s showcase of Latin American and Spanish-language films.
"The Nature of Love"
A bored philosophy professor falls into an affair with the contractor renovating her chalet, a relationship that generates plenty of erotic heat, while exposing differences of class and position between them in French Canadian director Monia Chokri’s romantic drama.
The first Sudanese feature to play MVFF is a drama that delves into the friendship between a Muslim woman and a Christian woman, one marked by differences in religion, caste, and secrets.
"If Only I Could Hibernate"
Left with his younger siblings, a teenage physics prodigy in Ulan Bataar, Mongolia, must juggle caring for them with his studies, a high-wire act that risks all their futures.
"Housekeeping for Beginners"
When one of their own falls ill, a makeshift LGBTQ Roma family in Macedonia must pull together – and even manufacture a marriage – to care for the woman’s daughters.
Beyond Film: Panels and Education
Mind the Gap Day, October 7
MVFF celebrates women filmmakers in the festival and at large with this program of discussions, a lunch, and more. "Black Girls Film Camp" founder Jimmeka Anderson will kick things off with a keynote speech, followed by sessions on the creative process and animation, a directors forum, and the "Mind the Gap Award" presentation.
AI: Perils, Possibilities, Promises, October 8
Writers and actors are currently on strike, in part because of the threat posed to their livelihoods by Artificial Intelligence. This panel looks at the ethical and creative ramifications of the technology.
Masterclass on Filmmaking with Chloe Domont, October 8
The "Fair Play" director will guide the class through the process of making her directorial debut, from development to the finished feature.
There's a whole lot more to check out. See the entire festival schedule at mvff.com
Main image: still from Denise Zmekhol's "Skin of Glass"