It's also become incredibly attractive, regularly hosting appearances by an array of Hollywood actors and directors to receive tributes, spotlights and to accompany awards-worthy screenings. With that, MVFF has grown immensely in terms of popularity, having nearly doubled its audience in the span of just seven years – up to more than 74,000 attendees in 2016.
And as is often the case around the age of 40, MVFF has even had a kid – in the form of the inaugural Doclands, a noncompetitive, five-day event that festival organizer the California Film Institute held in May to spotlight more than 20 documentaries.
Given all that, it's only appropriate that the lineup for the 40th Mill Valley Film Festival, set for Oct. 5-15 at venues in Mill Valley, San Rafael, Corte Madera and Larkspur, was characterized by Fishkin this week as “an embarrassment of riches. I think it’s a really strong, well-balanced lineup that’s appropriate for our 40th anniversary.”
While MVFF40 consists of hundreds of films across 11 days, here are the highlights of the 40th Mill Valley Film Festival:
Opening Night: 'Darkest Hour' & 'Wait for Your Laugh' (Oct. 5)
Starting as Baby Rose Marie, a child prodigy, singing and dancing on stage before most kids could ride a bike, Marie forged intense, lasting relationships while delighting audiences from Las Vegas to Hollywood, always marching to her own beat. Wise reveals there is much more to this tough, smart woman’s 87-year entertainment career. Interviews with Peter Marshall, Carl Reiner, Dick Van Dyke, Tim Conway, and the lady herself—still going strong at 94—combine with rare footage to depict a complicated, inspirational life. Century Cinema, Corte Madera.
Tribute to Kristin Scott Thomas (Oct. 6)
The event includes an onstage Q&A with Scott Thomas, a screening of Darkest Hour (see above) and a presentation of the MVFF Award. Smith Rafael Film Center.
Tribute to Sean Penn (Oct. 7)
Penn's career also includes a seemingly endless list of popular and acclaimed films, including Dead Man Walking, Sweet and Lowdown, I Am Sam, She’s So Lovely, Hurlyburly, 21 Grams, Taps, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, At Close Range, State of Grace, Carlito’s Way, The Assassination of Richard Nixon and The Tree of Life. As a director, Penn has crafted dramas such as The Indian Runner, The Pledge and Into the Wild, which garnered Penn a number of award nominations. Smith Rafael Film Center.
Spotlight: Dee Rees & 'Mudbound' Screening (Oct. 7)
In 2015, she wrote and directed the Emmy-Award winning HBO film Bessie, which received 12 Emmy nominations and four Critics’ Choice Awards, in addition to Directing Awards from the DGA and NAACP. Her latest film to set critics abuzz, Mudbound, premiered at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival and makes its Bay Area bow at MVFF40. MVFF40's Tribute to Rees will feature an onstage conversation with Reees, a screening of Mudbound and the presentation of the MVFF Award. A reception follows at the Outdoor Art Club. CinéArts Sequoia.
Tribute to Holly Hunter (Oct. 8)
Hunter's "refreshingly candid career in a variety of film and television roles" also includes Home for the Holidays, Living Out Loud, Crash, Saving Grace, and Thirteen, reteaming with Campion for a vividly realized turn in Top of the Lake, and most recently standing out in 2017’s The Big Sick. Smith Rafael Film Center.
Centerpiece: 'Last Flag Flying' (Oct. 12)
Then something horrible went down, one of them took the fall, and they stopped speaking to each other. Decades later, Doc tracks down his fellow vets—Sal’s an alcoholic bar owner; former hellraiser Mueller is now a man of God—to ask for a favor: His only son has just died in combat in Iraq. He needs them to accompany him to identify the body and to join him on one last mission. The film, a sequel to The Last Detail—like Hal Ashby’s 1973 classic, an adaptation of a Darryl Ponsican novel—is a funny, talky, emotionally resonant road movie, as well as a moving, heartbreaking tribute to the bonds forged in warfare and a penetrating, performance-driven actors’ showcase that boldly asks why we fight—and how we as a nation heal from the damage done.
Linklater, the director and writer widely known for such films as Dazed and Confused (1993); Before Sunrise (1995), Before Sunset (2004), The Newton Boys (1998), animated feature Waking Life (2001), School of Rock (2003), Slacker (1991), Suburbia (1997), A Scanner Darkly (2006), Fast Food Nation (2006) and many more, will be on hand at the screening. Smith Rafael Film Center.
Tribute to Todd Haynes & 'Wonderstruck' Screening (Oct. 13)
Starring Oakes Fegley, Julianne Moore, Michelle Williams and Millicent Simmonds, Wonderstruck is based on Brian Selznick’s critically acclaimed novel and tells the story of Ben and Rose, who are children from two different eras who secretly wish their lives were different. Ben longs for the father he has never known, while Rose dreams of a mysterious actress whose life she chronicles in a scrapbook. When Ben discovers a puzzling clue in his home and Rose reads an enticing headline in the newspaper, both children set out on quests to find what they are missing that unfold with mesmerizing symmetry. Smith Rafael Film Center.
Spotlight: Andrew Garfield & 'Breathe' Screening (Oct. 14)
Garfield continues to evolve his body of work in powerful roles and compelling narratives, including his acclaimed performances can be seen in Hacksaw Ridge, Silence, Angels in America, The Amazing Spider-Man, The Social Network, 99 Homes, and Never Let Me Go. A reception follows at the Outdoor Art Club in Mill Valley. Smith Rafael Film Center.
Closing Night: 'The Current War' (Oct. 15)
Closing Night: & 'Ladybird' & Spotlight on Gret Gerwig
The event also serves as a Spotlight on Gerwig, a Sacramento native widely known for her work in Greenberg, No Strings Attached, Lola Versus, Frances Ha, Mistress America, Maggie’s Plan and last year’s MVFF Centerpiece film 20th Century Women. The event will feature an onstage conversation with Gerwig, a screening of Lady Bird and the presentation of the MVFF Award. The Closing Night Party at the Depot Plaza in Mill Valley follows. Smith Rafael Film Center.
MVFF40 continues its Mind the Gap initiative, committing to featuring 40 percent female directors across the whole spectrum of the Festival—world, US, docs, shorts—and 50/50 by 2020. That stands in stark contrast to just 7 percent of Hollywood films directed by women, according to festival organizers. MVFF's Mind the Gap Summit is full-day intensive of presentations, discussions, master classes and networking, including a dive into the creative process with Twilight director Catherine Hardwicke, a panel with the team behind the film Mudbound and presentations by the filmmakers of recent top female-driven movies.
The 411: The 40th Mill Valley Film Festival is Oct. 5-15 at venues in Mill Valley, San Rafael, Corte Madera and Larkspur. MORE INFO & TIX.
Want to know what's happening around town? Click here to subscribe to the Enjoy Mill Valley Blog by Email!