Mill Valley Film Festival

Mill Valley Film Festival
Mill Valley Film Festival

Photo Credit: Tommy Lau Marin County rolls out the red carpet. BY JENNIFER RAISER The night skies twinkled even brighter when the stars came out to celebrate the Mill Valley Film Festival. The beloved festival fuses Hollywood glamour with the laid-back enthusiasm of Marin County, resulting in an intimate, but electric, series of cinematic events. Now in its 42nd year, the MVFF offers extraordinary access to a chockablock schedule of insider premieres, exclusive screenings, industry tributes, and up-close encounters with red carpet stalwarts. This year’s festival opened with an appearance by Jamie Foxx and a screening of his powerhouse new film, Just Mercy, a true-life story about an aspiring young attorney, played by Michael B. Jordan, working to exonerate condemned prisoners on Alabama’s Death Row. Foxx’s performance as real-life prisoner Walter McMillan was lauded at the Opening Night Gala as one of his finest, raising definite buzz about a certain gold statue. The film’s subject—the challenges of navigating a highly biased legal system in pursuit of justice—felt especially relevant, and the crowd’s enthusiasm made Foxx’s appearance even more welcome. Actress Karan Kendrick, who offers a nuanced performance as McMillan’s wife, joined Foxx for the premiere. After the film’s screening, the open-air Opening Night party at Marin Country Mart was abuzz. With the addition of a live band for dancing, local restaurants offering delectable bites, and a starry, balmy night, the festival was off to a strong start.

Jamie Foxx
Jamie Foxx

Photo Credit: Steve Disenhoff The immersive festival offered a whirlwind of film-related events over 11 days. This year’s lineup included a tribute to powerhouse actress Alfre Woodard and a screening of her film Clemency, in which she plays a prison warden questioning the morality of death row. Dreamboat actor Robert Pattinson appeared before a showing of The Lighthouse, a moody and intense period drama. Kristen Stewart’s portrayal of actress Jean Seberg in the new biopic Seberg was another highlight. Local favorite, Olivia Wilde, was honored in her own spotlight evening where the crush of admirers was palpable. Actress Barbara Rush was celebrated for her groundbreaking film and television work from the 1950s to the 1980s. British director and producer Michael David Apted, who conceived the landmark Up documentary series and directed Gorky Park, Gorillas in the Mist, Coal Miner’s Daughter, and Enigma, was also honored with a screening of his latest, 63 Up. Laura Dern taught a master class. A tip-top panel of producers discussed the state of the industry. Even the most dedicated cineaste barely had time to catch their Breathless, as it were.

Robert Pattinson
Robert Pattinson

Photo Credit: Tommy Lau Photography

Kristen Stewart
Kristen Stewart

Photo Credit: George Lazarus

Olivia Wilde and Zoe Elton
Olivia Wilde and Zoe Elton

Photo Credit: imageSPACE

Laura Dern
Laura Dern

Photo Credit: imageSPACE A record 41 hotly anticipated films premiered at the festival, including Blackbird, The Great 14th: Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama in His Own Words, Days of the Bagnold Summer, Inmate: The Rise of Danny Trejo, and Truth. The festival also offered a restoration of director Nancy Kelly’s 1990 Western feminist epic, Thousand Pieces of Gold. Local director Philip Kaufman appeared with his star, Lena Olin, in a special restoration of the 1988 classic The Unbearable Lightness of Being, based on the book by Milan Kundera. These family-focused screenings played in a track supporting youth education, and a special Mind the Gap summit discussing women and diversity in the world of film. The program included a Spanish language and Latin American film showcase, as well as master classes, panels, workshops, and even a music series at the live performances. Snoop Dogg spinning at the Sweetwater was an instant sell-out, but there were plenty of other musical events to take in between screenings.

Snoop Dogg spinning at Sweetwater Music Hall
Snoop Dogg spinning at Sweetwater Music Hall

Photo Credit: Christopher Markisz For the avid film-goer, watching nearly four films a day for 11 days was very close to heaven. It was so close to heaven that the glow of the screen and the twinkle of stars encompassed the universe at the 42nd Annual Mill Valley Film Festival.

Edward Norton
Edward Norton

 

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