Mill Valley Film Festival
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After an eleven day run in Marin theatres, the Mill Valley Film Festival wrapped up October 15. A burgeoning number of ticket-buyers enthusiastically participated in this high profile, prestigious, non-competitive cinematic celebration of the best independent and world cinema. Running October 5-15 at the CinéArts@Sequoia and 142 Throckmorton Theatre (in Mill Valley) and at the Christopher B. Smith Rafael Film Center (in San Rafael), this year’s Festival boasted a ten percent increase in box office totals with admissions of approximately 40,000.

"By all indicators, the Mill Valley Film Festival has reaffirmed its position as one of the most important non-competitive film festivals in the United States," said Mark Fishkin, founder and director of the Festival. "As we approach our 30th anniversary, in 2007, it is evident and humbling to know we have, in our 29th year, generous support from independent filmmakers, distributors, donors and the public. It was a very satisfying year all around."

Festival Closes With a Flourish

Festival no. 29 wrapped up with panache as the closing night film brought top talent out to talk with audiences. For the world premiere of the latest drama by the Polish Brothers, THE ASTRONAUT FARMER, the twin filmmakers as well as actors Virginia Madsen, Jon Gries and Max Thieriot attended the screening. After the lights came up, the thunderous applause subsided, and the Q&As wrapped, people headed over to the Bay Model Club for the closing night party, a chance to dance, eat chocolate dipped strawberries, and ask the featured talent whatever burning questions remained unanswered.

US Indies and World Premieres

Always a terrific showcase for US Indies, this year’s Festival proffered some terrific looks at upcoming fare. High profile actors and filmmakers were in abundant attendance this year – Olympia Dukakis was with 3 NEEDLES, Karen Black was with READ YOU LIKE A BOOK, Sydney Pollack accompanied AVENUE MONTAIGNE, Noah Emmerich with LITTLE CHILDREN, Douglas McGrath attended for INFAMOUS and Sheah Whigham came with the double duty of WRISTCUTTERS: A LOVE STORY and FIRST SNOW, with the latter also bringing out director Mark Fergus. This year’s Opening Night showings featured Sydney Pollack and Robin Wright Penn attending with BREAKING AND ENTERING and Forest Whitaker for THE LAST KING OF SCOTLAND.

Actor tributes and director spotlight: Mirren, Robbins and Iñárritu feted

Early Oscar buzz has pegged Helen Mirren as surefire candidate for an acting nod, but long before the balloting begins, Mirren arrived to royal treatment at the Festival for a tribute and a screening of her critically acclaimed film THE QUEEN, in which she plays her majesty Queen Elizabeth II. Contrasting greatly with the conservative style of the character she plays, Mirren looked glamorous from the stage in a low cut purple gown. Answering questions from on-stage interviewer and Festival Director of Programming Zoe Elton, Mirren talked about her acting highlights, including working for her husband - filmmaker Taylor Hackford - who looked on from the audience.

Tim Robbins’ duties at the Festival were two-fold: along with director Phillip Noyce, actors Derek Luke and Bonnie Henna, producer Robyn Slovo and writer Shawn Slovo, he spoke with audience members after a screening of his new film, the Apartheid drama CATCH A FIRE. The film received an extended standing ovation, with audience excitement intensifying upon the announcement that special guest Patrick Chamusso – on whose life the film is based – was joining Robbins and the cast and crew onstage.

The following night, Robbins returned to the Smith Rafael Film Center for a tribute, featuring an evening of clips and conversation with interviewer and pioneering Rolling Stone editor and San Francisco Chronicle columnist Ben Fong-Torres. Striking an early rapport, Fong-Torres and Robbins joked about baseball, cinema, and Robbins’ spouse, Susan Sarandon. Despite the jocularity, the seriousness of Robbins’ acting achievements was evident and the audience eagerly rewarded him with yet two more standing ovations.

Cutting-edge filmmaker Alejandro González Iñárritu, whose previous films AMORES PERROS and 21 GRAMS have moved filmgoers worldwide, attended the Festival this year for a special Spotlight tribute - the presentation of his new film, the globe-spinning drama BABEL. With his wife and children in the audience, Iñárritu spoke with interviewer and Festival founder Mark Fishkin about how his three films are about family, in particular, about the role children play in the emotional lives of their parents. Clearly touched by receiving his first-ever festival award, Iñárritu took several questions from an eager audience seeking further insights into his challenging body of work.

Highlights from the music events

In celebration of the new documentary, 50 WATT FUSE, based on the life of former Saturday Night Live bandleader, GE Smith, the festival presented a live music event honoring the well-loved guitarist. Friends of GE’s came to pay their respects, including SNL’s Dana Carvey, as well as a collection of world-class musicians including Dan Hicks and the Lickettes, Bob Weir, Rob Wasserman, Simon Kirke (Bad Company), Vernon Black (Mariah Carey, Busta Rhymes) and the Flying Other Brothers.

The following weekend, the festival paid tribute to the legendary rock band, THE DOORS, with a stellar presentation of film clips highlighting the group’s live concerts and interviews. A live discussion followed the presentation featuring The Doors keyboardist Ray Manzarek and rock journalist Ben Fong-Torres, co-authors and collaborators on the new book: The Doors by The Doors (Nov 2006, Hyperion). A special performance with Manzarek, Rob Wasserman, and poet Michael McClure, accompanied by sitar and flute, completed the evening’s tribute.

Award-winners aplenty

Now in its second year, the Audience Awards are a means to give the film savvy Mill Valley audience a forum for expressing its voice. Prior to each feature screening (excluding films honored with galas and special events – like Opening and Closing Night selections and Spotlight programs), Festival goers received voting ballots and were asked to rate the film on a 1 to 5 scale (5 being best).

After the ballots were counted, the Audience Award for dramatic feature went to Phillip Noyce’s CATCH A FIRE. The award for feature-length documentary went to Amy Berg’s DELIVER US FROM EVIL. Wolfgang Murnberger’s LAPISLAZULI: IN THE EYE OF THE BEAR garnered the award for best children’s film.

As a flagship festival for the Los Angeles Branch of the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA), the Mill Valley Film Festival presents an award each year to short films of outstanding caliber. A BAFTA jury views the eligible films at the Festival and announces the winners on closing day. This year’s winner of the statuette is ONE RAT SHORT by Alex Weil. The two runners-up were Stephanie Argy and Alec Boehm’s GANDHI AT THE BAT and Jorgen Hjerdt’s IT’S MY TURN NOW.

This year’s Festival Sponsors

The Mill Valley Film Festival is pleased to announce the return of the following major sponsors: Maroevich, O'Shea & Coghlan (who were awarded the 2006 Distinguished Sponsor Award in recognition of 10 years of generous support of the MVFF), Fireman's Fund and the Marin Community Foundation, as well as the addition of two new major sponsors: Strawberry Village and Qantas Airlines. Our returning longtime major events sponsors are Christopher B. and Jeannie Meg Smith and Frantoio Ristorante, and we welcome our new major event sponsor the Gruber Family Foundation. Additionally, the Festival would like to welcome back our returning major media sponsors: Comcast, CBS 5, the Marin Independent Journal, KGO Newstalk AM810, San Francisco magazine and WIRED magazine. The Festival greatly acknowledges the generous operating support it receives from The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, The Bernard Osher Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. The Mill Valley Film Festival trailer was produced by Scheyer/SF, and the poster and Web site,, were designed by Sequitur Creative of San Francisco.

About the Festival’s producer - California Film Institute

The California Film Institute celebrates and promotes film as art and education through the presentation of the Mill Valley Film Festival, year round exhibition at the Christopher B. Smith Rafael Film Center and building the next generation of filmmakers and audiences through CFI Outreach. For more information visit or call 415.383.5256.

See you next year when the Mill Valley Film Festival celebrates is 30th year!

Known as a filmmakers’ festival, the annual Mill Valley Film Festival offers a high profile, prestigious, non-competitive environment perfect for celebrating the best independent and world cinema. Presented by the California Film Institute, the 30th Festival runs October 4- 14, 2007 at the CinéArts@Sequoia and 142 Throckmorton Theatre (Mill Valley) and at the Christopher B. Smith Rafael Film Center (San Rafael). For additional information, please call 415.383.5256.