Mill Valley Film Festival announced the lineup of 118 films – 65 features and 53 shorts, for the 44th edition of the festival headlined by Joe Wright’s Cyrano as opening night film, Mike Mills’ C’mon C’mon, starring Joaquin Phoenix as the Centerpiece film and Wes Anderson’s star-studded The French Dispatch as closing night film.
MVFF will continue to be a hybrid event in 2021, featuring online screenings through the CAFILM Streaming Room and in- person screenings and events throughout the Bay Area, including 11 days at the CinéArts Sequoia in Mill Valley and the Christopher B. Smith Rafael Film Center in San Rafael, October 7 – 17, 2021 with a diverse lineup of acclaimed films, special guests, tributes & spotlights, special events, and the return of MVFF Music. MVFF will also be returning to Berkeley with a selection of films at BAMPFA (Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive).
“To borrow a phrase from one of the Bay Area’s better-known bands, what a long, strange trip it’s been. Who would have guessed when COVID-19 lockdowns started in March 2020 that we would still be dealing with it over a year later? Yet here we are,” said Mark Fishkin, MVFF Founder/Director. “The world has opened again, and so have theaters. While we live in a place that is as well-vaccinated as anywhere in the world, and our community remains aligned in its view that safety is of the most importance, we know there is still anxiety. Our goal for MVFF is to create a safe experience. A vibrant festival that ultimately entertains, excites, and addresses our universal need to gather and share stories about our shared humanity,” Fishkin continued. “We are overjoyed to welcome festival-goers back to the Rafael, Sequoia, and other MVFF venues. Rest assured, we will follow all CDC and local guidelines to ensure a safe, fun visit to the theater. And for those who cannot come to the theater or want to supplement their theater- going experience, we are offering a highly curated virtual selection of films.”
MVFF44 will present several Spotlights and Tributes throughout the Festival. This year’s Spotlight programs include Oscar-winning Italian filmmaker Paolo Sorrentino (The Great Beauty), presenting his most personal movie to date, The Hand of God (É stata la mano di Dio); San Francisco native Simon Rex for his sensational turn in Red Rocket; Maggie Gyllenhaal and members of the phenomenal ensemble she put together for her directorial debut The Lost Daughter; and one of the most exciting directors working today, Denis Villeneuve, who shot to international acclaim with Incendies, for his work writing and directing the eagerly anticipated adaptation of Dune.
Festival Tribute programs include Emmy and BAFTA award winner and Academy Award nominee Kenneth Branagh who will receive the Mill Valley Film Festival Award and the very first woman to receive the acclaimed Cannes Film Festival Palme d’Or and Academy Award winner Jane Campion who will receive the Mind the Gap Award – Innovative Artist.
Both a celebration and call to action, Mind the Gap is MVFF’s platform for inclusion and equity, amplifying and championing filmmaking by women, non-binary people, and other marginalized groups through a vibrant collection of films, Q&As, Panels and Conversations. The 2021 Mind the Gap Summit will feature five programs including – Evolution of Latina Roles Onscreen, a virtual roundtable in partnership with MVFF’s ¡Viva el cine! Featuring Gina Torres (Actor, 9-11, Lone Star, Suits, Firefly), Lisette Feliciano (Director; Women is Losers), and Carla Hool (Casting Director; Coco, Narcos, Now and Then); and the Mind the Gap Directors Forum moderated by MVFF & Mind the Gap Director of Programming Zoë Elton and featuring first-time feature director’s Halle Berry, Bruised and Rebecca Hall, Passing.
MVFF’s ¡Viva el cine! initiative is a showcase of Latin American, Latinx, and Spanish-language stories, connecting audiences with a diversity of cultures, identities, and histories explored through the magic of cinema. This year will include films from Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Mexico, and Spain, and the festival will celebrate the opening night of ¡Viva el cine! Sunday, October 10 with the North American Premiere of LA CIVIL, by Teodora Ana Mihai.
44th Mill Valley Film Festival Lineup
MVFF44 FEATURE LENGTH FILMS – ONLY IN THEATERS
(listed in alphabetical order)
7 Prisoners (Brazil, narrative feature, dir. Alexandre Moratto) Director Alexandre Moratto’s lean, slow- burning morality tale probes Brazil’s human trafficking underground. Hoping to send money home to his family, Mateus (the compelling Christian Malheiros) finds himself at the mercy of a modern-day slave master (Rodrigo Santoro). There is a way out, but the price of freedom may be too steep. In Portuguese with English subtitles
Anima (China, narrative feature, dir. Jinling Cao) A tale of tested fraternal bonds and ecological catastrophe shot on location in Mongolia’s national parklands, writer-director Cao Jinling’s gorgeous, thrilling drama forces viewers to ask themselves: What happens when we disrupt the harmony of our world? And how can we restore the balance? In Chinese with English subtitles – West Coast Premiere
Belfast (UK, narrative feature, dir. Kenneth Branagh) Kenneth Branagh returns to his titular hometown for the tender story of a working-class boy growing up amidst the Troubles. It’s beautifully rendered, drawing us into the heart and soul of a city and its people with heartfelt performances from Caitríona Balfe, Jamie Dornan, Judi Dench, Ciarán Hinds, and newcomer Jude Hill in Branagh’s most personal film to date.
Bergman Island (France, narrative feature, dir. Mia Hansen-Løve) One of Mia Hansen-Løve’s most autobiographical films to date, Bergman Island continues her ongoing exploration of the existential dynamic between work and love. Vicky Krieps plays a writer-director who struggles to find her own voice in a drama resonant with moments of humor, mystery, and self-realization.
Bernstein’s Wall (US, documentary feature, dir. Douglas Tirola) A towering giant of classical music, Leonard Bernstein gave shape to 20th-century American culture. Douglas Tirola’s complex portrait sensitively delves into the maestro’s personal and professional relationships and their effect on his art.
Clara Sola (Sweden, narrative feature, dir. Nathalie Álvarez Mesén) In Nathalie Álvarez Mesén’s lush and quietly seething feature debut, a shy Costa Rican healer rebels against her family’s regressive, controlling ways. As an eros-driven, increasingly rebellious rural mystic, dancer Wendy Chinchilla Araya brings a mesmerizing combination of vulnerability and power to the title role. In Spanish with English subtitles – West Coast Premiere
C’mon C’mon (US, narrative feature, dir. Mike Mills) With Joaquin Phoenix at his most endearing, a radiantly intuitive Gaby Hoffmann, and 8-year-old astonishing discovery Woody Norman, Mike Mills’ highly relatable family drama is as aesthetically stunning as it is emotionally resonant. All the filmmaker’s hallmarks are here: intelligence, compassion, and outstanding style.
Cow (UK, documentary feature, dir. Andrea Arnold) There’s a depth and beauty in the soulful eyes of Luma, an English dairy cow, whose life and times provide the subject for Andrea Arnold’s (Fish Tank, American Honey) first foray into nonfiction filmmaking. It’s a profound and moving portrait of the life cycle of a working animal, beautifully shot over several years.
Cyrano (UK, narrative feature, dir. Joe Wright) The classic play about a love-letter ghostwriter gets a new musical adaptation, with original songs by members of The National and sumptuous costumes and choreography. Peter Dinklage perfectly embodies the panache and yearning of the title character, with Haley Bennett as Roxanne and Kelvin Harrison Jr. as Christian, under the elegant direction of Joe Wright. – California Premiere
Drive My Car (Japan, narrative feature, dir. Ryûsuke Hamaguchi) In this enchanting narrative, a theater director reeling from family tragedy is invited to direct a production of Uncle Vanya in Hiroshima. He’s assigned a driver, and during their time together, the two unburden themselves of their personal traumas. Winner of the Cannes Best Screenplay Award, Drive My Car is an exquisitely crafted mosaic about emotional connection. In Japanese with English subtitles. – West Coast Premiere
Dune (US, narrative feature, dir. Denis Villeneuve) Timothée Chalamet leads an all-star cast in this dazzling adaptation of Frank Herbert’s legendary science-fiction novel. Director Denis Villeneuve’s (Arrival, MVFF 2016) self-proclaimed “love letter to the big screen” tells of an intergalactic power struggle: Politics, religion, and ecology come into play in our hero’s journey to fulfill an ancient prophecy.
The Electrical Life of Louis Wain (UK, narrative feature, dir. Will Sharpe) Benedict Cumberbatch stars in this deliciously vibrant and entertaining portrait of the offbeat 19th-century English artist best known for his whimsical illustrations of anthropomorphic cats. Also artfully developed is the significance of the woman he loved (Claire Foy), and the kitten they adopted that changed the course of his life.
The French Dispatch (Germany, narrative feature, dir. Wes Anderson) Wes Anderson pays homage to the literary world of The New Yorker, delivering a series of comic, bittersweet vignettes about different writers at work on their most indelible pieces. Boasting keen performances from Benicio del Toro and Jeffrey Wright, The French Dispatch may be Anderson’s most dazzlingly dense creation—one viewing won’t be enough!
Found (US, documentary feature, dir. Amanda Lipitz) Three American teenagers, each a single daughter adopted from China, discover they are cousins through 23andMe, spurring them to confront long-withheld questions about their origins and lost histories. Filmmaker Amanda Lipitz (Step) artfully documents the girls’ physical and emotional journeys as they travel together to China in search of answers.
The Hand of God (Italy, narrative feature, dir. Paolo Sorrentino) Oscar®-winner Paolo Sorrentino (Youth, MVFF 2015) returns with his most personal movie to date, about a soccer-obsessed teen (Filippo Scotti) in 1980s Naples. Costarring Sorrentino regular Toni Servillo and filmed in the director’s hometown, it’s a cinematic roman à clef brimming with tender humor and Fellinesque surrealism—and it’s an absolute masterpiece. In Italian with English subtitles.
Haute Couture (France, narrative feature, dir. Sylvie Ohayon) A dedicated longtime dressmaking supervisor at Christian Dior takes on an unlikely new trainee in this winning and winsome tale of tradition meeting change within the fashion world’s toniest ateliers. Showcasing iconic French actress Nathalie Baye and rising star Lyna Khoudri, Haute Couture is an alluring and heartfelt charmer and a fascinatingly detailed look at couture creation. In French with English subtitles – North American Premiere
A Hero (Iran, narrative feature, dir. Asghar Farhadi) Acclaimed filmmaker Asghar Farhadi returns with another gripping human drama, chronicling a man (Amir Jadidi) in prison for an unpaid debt who makes a plan for freedom. Brilliantly mapping out a moral dilemma and astutely examining our fascination with (and suspicion of) folk heroes, A Hero travels an unpredictable, unforgettable path. In Persian with English subtitles
India Sweets and Spices (US, narrative feature, dir. Geeta Malik) Progressive firebrand college student Alia returns home for the summer and confronts the jarring reality that parents are people, too, when complicated family truths emerge in this lively coming-of-age dramedy that is also a biting portrayal of suburban snobbery. There are laughs aplenty, but this is a game-changing journey for Alia—and her parents.
Jockey (US, narrative feature, dir. Clint Bentley) Aging jockey Jackson (Clifton Collins Jr.) yearns for a triumph on the racetrack. His trainer friend Ruth (Molly Parker) has a horse with the makings of a winner. But redemption isn’t so easy. Clint Bentley’s powerful drama feels as authentic as a documentary, with beautiful photography and touching natural performances all around.
Julia (US, documentary feature, dirs. Julie Cohen, Betsy West) From the filmmaking duo behind RBG, this flavorful documentary surveys the personal and professional evolution of the great chef Julia Child. Filled with colorful anecdotes and iconic TV moments, Julia reveals how this savvy businesswoman pursued a passion for French cuisine and became a commanding presence in a male-dominated field.
Like a Rolling Stone: The Life and Times of Ben Fong-Torres (US, documentary feature, dir. Suzanne Joe Kai) With no shortage of rich material from his life and storied career, Suzanne Joe Kai’s documentary presents an intimate portrait of the social activist and legendary rock critic, a Bay Area institution and one of the most essential journalists of the American counterculture. – Northern California Premiere
Lingui, The Sacred Bonds (Chad, narrative feature, dir. Mahamat Saleh-Haroun) Pioneering Chadian auteur Mahamat-Saleh Haroun is in blistering form with his latest film, a feminist social realist drama exploring abortion rights in conservative, patriarchal Chadian society through the experiences of a mother and her teenage daughter. In French with English subtitles – US Premiere
The Lost Daughter (US, narrative feature, dir. Maggie Gyllenhaal) For her indelible feature directing debut, Maggie Gyllenhaal (MVFF Mind the Gap Award, 2018) adapts Elena Ferrante’s 2006 novel, about a vacationing professor’s uneasy reckoning with her volatile introduction to parenthood. Clearly kindred with Gyllenhaal’s provocative, emotionally intelligent sensibility, Oscar®-winner Olivia Colman commands in the leading role.
Memoria (Columbia, narrative feature, dir. Apichatpong Weerasethakul) Set in Colombia and starring Tilda Swinton, Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s first feature film made outside of Thailand covers familiar thematic terrain for the veteran director in its exploration of the blurred boundaries between the natural world and spirit realm, and the way that collective traumas burrow deeply into those affected and those around them, emerging as memories or dreams. In English and Spanish with English subtitles.
Mothering Sunday (UK, narrative feature, dir. Eva Husson) While her employers picnic, housemaid Jane enjoys a final tryst with a well-born lover in this astonishing, erotically tinged, post-World War I drama that charts how the events of a single day inspire and reverberate through a writer’s life.
Odessa Young, Colin Firth, and Olivia Colman star.
The Novice (US, narrative feature, dir. Lauren Hadaway) In writer-director Lauren Hadaway’s thrilling debut feature, Isabelle Fuhrman brings ferocity and nuance to the role of a college freshman obsessively driven to compete on the school’s varsity rowing team. A rich audiovisual feast, The Novice delivers a fascinating look into the authentic experience of young womanhood: powerful, intense, and relentless. – Bay Area Premiere
Parallel Mothers (Spain, narrative feature, dir. Pedro Almodóvar) Spain’s most prolific and influential filmmaker, Pedro Almodóvar, surprises us once again with this contemporary melodrama about two women, Janis (Penélope Cruz) and Ana (Milena Smit), whose lives intersect profoundly thanks to a casual encounter in a hospital where they’re both going into labor. In Spanish with English subtitles.
Passing (US, narrative feature, dir. Rebecca Hall) Tessa Thompson and Ruth Negga deliver their most powerful performances to date in Rebecca Hall’s exquisitely nuanced drama centered on one form of Black resistance to the Jim Crow one-drop rule (“passing as white”), and the complexities of identity, privilege and sacrifice that follows. Fine supporting performances from André Holland and Alexander Skarsgård round out the all-star cast.
Petite Maman (France, narrative feature, dir. Céline Sciamma) “Secrets aren’t always things we try to hide, there’s just no one to tell them to,” says 8-year-old Nelly to her new best friend. In Céline Sciamma’s achingly beautiful new film, the past and present magically merge to ease the sorrows of a grieving mother and daughter, and we are healed by its loving touch. In French with English subtitles.
The Power of the Dog (UK, narrative feature, dir. Jane Campion) Set on a ranch in mid-1920s Montana, Campion’s first Western is a rich story of longing, love and betrayal. Benedict Cumberbatch delivers a powerful performance as well-heeled, consummate bully Phil, whose world is thrown out of kilter when brother George (Jesse Plemons) brings a wife (Kirsten Dunst) home to the family ranch.
The Princess Diaries (US, narrative feature, dir. Gary Marshall) Special 20th Anniversary FREE outdoor screening, Friday, October 8, 7:00 PM, Old Mill Park, Mill Valley.
Raiders of the Lost Ark (US, narrative feature, dir. Steven Spielberg) Special 40th Anniversary screening of the cinematic classic that started it all. Sunday, October 10, 8:00 PM, Sequoia in Mill Valley.
Red Rocket (US, narrative feature, dir. Sean Baker) The Florida Project auteur Sean Baker returns with an engrossing tragicomedy about a washed-up former porn star who returns to his Texas hometown. Simon Rex gives a revelatory performance, and he’s matched by electric newcomer Suzanna Son as a flirtatious local teen. Red Rocket is a brilliantly unflinching portrait of a hustler you’ll never forget.
Song for Cesar (US, documentary feature, dirs. Andres Alegria, Abel Sanchez) Building on the legacy of late civil-rights activist and labor leader Cesar Chavez, and the pride inspired by the Chicano Movement of the 1960s, this documentary showcases the music of that era—a powerful soundtrack for farmworkers who until then felt invisible and unheard. — World Premiere
Spencer (UK, narrative feature, dir. Pablo Larraín) Kristen Stewart is the Princess of Wales, enduring an awful 1991 Christmas with England’s royal family. Jackie director Pablo Larraín frames this gripping and artistically bold film like a Brothers Grimm fable by the way of The Wizard of Oz. You’ll never forget Stewart’s en-pointe performance, nor the rest of this daring, powerful drama.
The Velvet Underground (US, documentary feature, dir. Todd Haynes) They were the leather-jacketed, sexuality-blurring rock stars that inspired generations of musicians—who better to pay tribute to the Velvet Underground than Todd Haynes (MVFF Tribute, 2017)? As much a portrait of an era as of a band, the filmmaker’s first documentary employs avant-garde filmmaking style that fueled the Velvets’ indelible moment in the spotlight.
Who We Are: A Chronicle of Racism in America (US, documentary feature, dirs. Emily Kunstler, Sarah Kunstler) Former ACLU deputy legal director and longtime criminal defense attorney Jeffery Robinson presents a powerful consideration of America’s history of racism. Weaving together academic lecture, political history, personal recollections, noteworthy interviews, and archival footage, this involving documentary connects America’s historical legacy with contemporary social issues and invites personal introspection and communal re-examination.
MVFF44 FEATURE LENGTH FILMS – IN THEATRES AND VIRTUAL
American Gadfly (US, documentary feature, dir. Skye Wallin) Feeling their generation’s concerns were ignored by the Democratic Party mainstream, some New York teenagers decided to put their social-media savvy to work—by launching a presidential campaign. More improbably still, their chosen candidate was an 89-year-old hero of the progressive left. This inspiring documentary proves “little people” can still rattle Big Politics. – California Premiere
Bad Attitude: The Art of Spain Rodriguez (US, documentary feature, dir. Susan Stern) A star in San Francisco’s influential underground comics scene of the late 1960s and ’70s, Rodriguez created beautifully rendered art that was nonetheless raunchy, politically radical, and sometimes willfully
offensive. His filmmaker widow parses a complex personality and artistic legacy, both of them dazzling if often wildly at odds with today’s cultural norms. – California Premiere
The Bears’ Famous Invasion (France, animated feature, dir. Lorenzo Mattotti) Celebrated illustrator Lorenzo Mattotti crafts a mesmerizing, visually stunning fairytale about an epic clash between two worlds—of bears and humans. Based on a 1945 children’s book, it’s an exciting adventure complete with snowy battles, giant monsters, magic, betrayal, and unexpected kindness. Impressionistic animation brings this classic, mythic story vividly to life. Age 7+ In French with English Subtitles
Becoming Cousteau (US, documentary feature, dir. Liz Garbus) From two-time Oscar®-nominee Liz Garbus, this exquisite documentary portrait reintroduces the great marine-conservation pioneer Jacques Cousteau, whose own personal underwater odyssey transformed him from aficionado to advocate and left a legacy of international inspiration. – California Premiere
Boiling Point (UK, narrative feature, dir. Philip Barantini) A commanding Stephen Graham leads a brilliant ensemble as the highly stressed head chef at a struggling London restaurant where disaster looms on the Friday before Christmas. No honeyed food movie, Philip Barantini’s riveting, brilliantly staged, single-take drama is a harrowing, humane appraisal of the fine-dining subculture. – North American Premiere
Born in Chicago (US, documentary feature, dirs. Bob Sarles, John Anderson)
Buladó (Curaçao, narrative feature, dir. Eché Janga) On the Caribbean island of Curaçao, fiery 11-year- old Kenza grieves the loss of her mother and feels torn between her cynical police-officer dad and her spiritual shamanic grandfather. Recalling Benh Zeitlin’s magical-realist Beasts of the Southern Wild, this lyrical, spellbinding drama unfolds with sensuous toughness, celebrating Kenza’s resilience. Age 12+ In Papiamento & Dutch with English Subtitles – West Coast Premiere
Celts (Serbia, narrative feature, dir. Milica Tomović) In a Belgrade suburb in 1993, day becomes night as a family celebrates their daughter’s eighth birthday with friends and family. The party grows increasingly chaotic as the hours stretch on, peppered with small joys, lingering resentments, and messy passions mirroring the disarray of a collapsing Yugoslavia itself. In Serbian with English subtitles – US Premiere
Center Divide (US, narrative feature, dir. Rob Nilsson) Young lovers Rail and Mitra hit the road on a borrowed motorcycle, searching for a connection to the past as they plot an unknown future. Totally improvised by a group of magnetic actors, Bay Area auteur’s Rob Nilsson’s newest film bursts with breathtaking, heartbreaking images of contemporary American life on the edge. – World Premiere
La Civil (Belgium, narrative feature, dir. Teodora Ana Mihai) Cielo (Arcelia Ramírez), a separated single mom of modest means, is shattered when local drug traffickers demand a hefty ransom for her kidnapped daughter. Driven by fear and then by fury, Cielo fights back—along the way uncovering her small town’s vicious cycle of helplessness and complacency. In Spanish with English subtitles – North American Premiere
Coextinction (Canada, documentary feature, dirs. Gloria Pancrazi, Elena Jean) An absorbing film and a pressing call to action, this stunning documentary illustrates how dwindling salmon has driven the Pacific Northwest orcas close to extinction. As go the killer whales, so might the humans, who share the same food chain. Coextinction lays out the distressing facts but also offers solutions—but the world must act now. – California Premiere
Courtroom 3H (Spain, documentary feature, dir. Antonio Mendez Esparza) This powerful fly-on-the-wall documentary spends one month in Florida’s Tallahassee Unified Family Court system, shining a needed light on the results of economic disparities in that community. Sometimes shocking, sometimes uncomfortable, it’s a nonetheless nuanced and necessary look into a world too few people know about. – California Premiere
The Drover’s Wife: The Legend of Molly Johnson (Australia, narrative feature, dir. Leah Purcell) Acclaimed Aboriginal-Australian writer, director and actor Leah Purcell directs and stars in this fierce reworking of a classic short story about a woman under threat in the bushlands. A western—complete with widescreen landscapes, a new sheriff in town, and an unforgettable hero—The Drover’s Wife folds neglected truths into Australia’s Outback myths. – West Coast Premiere
Lady Buds (US, documentary feature, dir. Chris J. Russo) Women fostered every aspect of cannabis culture, from political activism to innovative horticulture to organic medicine. This amiable documentary celebrates those unsung pioneers and examines both the history of alternative agriculture in Northern California’s Emerald Triangle and the rapidly changing nature of an only recently legalized industry. – US Premiere
The Last Bus (UK, narrative feature, dir. Gillies MacKinnon) A once-in-a-lifetime performance from Timothy Spall (Mr. Turner, MVFF 2014) anchors this heartfelt and humane comedy-drama, as a widower on a mysterious hero’s journey, crossing Britain from tip to toe with little more than his free bus pass and a briefcase he won’t let out of his sight. MVFF44 World Cinema Virtual Opening Night selection. – North American Premiere
Last Film Show (India, narrative feature, dir. Pan Nalin) A movie about the magic of movies had better be magical, and this one truly is. In rural India, a spirited 9-year-old bribes his way into watching a summer’s worth of on-screen wonders from a projection booth. This semi-autobiographical tale explores the nature of creation—and spins a love song to cinema. In Gujarati with English Subtitles – West Coast Premiere
Marvelous and the Black Hole (US, narrative feature, dir. Kate Tsang) Teen delinquent Sammy (Miya Cech, Always Be My Maybe) finds a path through grief and family dysfunction by forming an unlikely friendship with Margot (Rhea Perlman, Cheers), a children’s party magician giving off grumpy-but-wise grandma vibes. An uplifting coming-of-age story blazing with dark humor, fun fantasy, and charming magic. Age 11+ Please note: This film contains profanity, teenage smoking, comedic scenes of fantasized violence, and references to self-harm through stick-and-poke tattooing. – Bay Area Premiere
MISSION: JOY – Finding Happiness in Troubled Times (US, documentary feature, dirs. Louie Psihoyos, Peggy Callahan) A fascinating look at the friendship between the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, this doc from Peggy Callahan and Oscar®-winner Louie Psihoyos tackles big topics and big feelings. It’s an engrossing portrait of two influential world leaders who share the ability to find hope– –and even joy––in adversity.
My Dead Dad (US, narrative feature, dir. Fabio Frey) In this endearing coming-of-age drama, ex- skateboarder Lucas’ (Pedro Correa) father dies and leaves him a Los Angeles apartment complex, which he plans to sell off without a second thought. But the apartment’s tenants remember his father as a different man from the one Lucas has imagined. – California Premiere
Ninjababy (Norway, narrative feature, dir. Yngvild Sve Flikke) Rakel is a 23-year-old cartoonist with an irreverent sense of humor and an unexpected baby on the way. Wanting nothing more than to evict her uninvited tenant, yet forced to carry it along, she finds herself joined in her schemes, exploits, and romances by an increasingly (and literally) animated Ninjababy. In Norwegian with English subtitles – West Coast Premiere
Paper & Glue (US, documentary feature, dir JR) Global art celebrity JR makes large-scale, temporary public installations that grant visibility to the unseen—whether his subjects are maximum-security convicts or violence-plagued favela residents. This engaging doc charts several such projects that draw together whole communities, each work exposing the poignant human individuality so often obscured behind political rhetoric. In English and French, Portuguese, and Spanish with English subtitles. – West Coast Premiere
Queen of Glory (US, narrative feature, dir. Nana Mensah) Writer, star, and first-time feature director Nana Mensah nails the hilarious and heartwarming story of young Ghanaian-American scientist whose mother’s passing prompts a soul-searching return to her old Bronx neighborhood. Queen of Glory‘s strong voice and vision signal a talent we’ll be watching for years to come. – California Premiere
Reflection: A Walk with Water (US, documentary feature, dir. Emmett Brennan) Hope is the surprising emotional core of Emmett Brennan’s poetic and soulful essay on the perilous state of California’s water ecosystems. Framed around his weeks-long walk along the L.A. Aqueduct, Reflection introduces us to inspiring farmers, ranchers, soil experts, and ecologists who are reversing decades of destructive practices. – California Premiere
Rehab Cabin (US, narrative feature dirs. Kate Beacom, Louis Legge) Chloe and Domenic find their longtime friendship tested in a variety of ways: He’s headed back to college and feeling increasingly disconnected from her, and she’s pulled him into her spontaneous plan to kidnap and try to rehab their favorite actress at his cabin upstate. – California Premiere
The Rescue (US, documentary feature, dirs. Jimmy Chin, E. Chai Vasarhelyi) The Oscar®-winning documentary duo behind Free Solo (MVFF 2018) returns with this pulse-pounding insider account of the miraculous 2018 rescue of a soccer team trapped in a flooded cave in Thailand. – Bay Area Premiere
Rickshaw Girl (Bangladesh, narrative feature, dir. Amitabh Reza Chowdhury) In Bangladesh, feisty teen artist Naima disguises herself as a boy and braves the dangers of the big city, driving a rickshaw to earn extra cash for her struggling family. But it’s her vivid artwork that reveals her true calling. Based on the beloved young adult novel by Mitali Perkins. Age 11+ – North American Premiere
Sami, Joe and I (Switzerland, narrative feature, dir. Karin Heberlein) Teenage best friends Sami, Joe, and Leyla head into summer with epic plans for fun and freedom, but the new burdens of adult life threaten to crack their once-unbreakable bond. This dexterous coming-of-age story pulses with the energy of youth and the repercussions of grown-up decisions. In Swiss German with English subtitles. – North American Premiere
Subjects of Desire (Canada, documentary feature, dir. Jennifer Holness) This gorgeously shot documentary offers an intimate, clear-eyed look at the complicated relationship between Black women, their beauty, and America’s view of both. Filmmaker Jennifer Holness follows a group of Miss Black America contestants during the pageant’s 50th anniversary year, using the occasion as the springboard for a bigger, deeper conversation. – California Premiere
Women Is Losers (US, narrative feature, dir. Lissette Feliciano) Revisit San Francisco of the ’60s and ’70s with this spirited crowd-pleaser about a woman of color triumphing over sexism as she plots a path to independence. Lissette Feliciano’s rule-breaking debut also features one of the sassiest Mission-set dance numbers you’ll ever see. – Bay Area Premiere
MVFF44 SHORT FILM PROGRAMS — IN THEATRES AND VIRTUAL
Finding Where You Belong
We can all feel a little out of place sometimes. But as demonstrated by this delightful collection of animated shorts from around the world, the journey to find where you fit in can be fun and inspiring. When a curious lynx ventures out of its forest lair in A Lynx in the Town (Nina Bisiarina, France/Switzerland 2019, 7 min, nonverbal), the locals don’t quite know what to make of the colossal cat. In Louis’s Shoes (Marion Philippe, Kayu Leung, Théo Jamin, & Jean-Géraud Blanc, France 2020, 5 min, in French with English subtitles), the first day at a new school presents unique challenges to autistic 81⁄2-year-old Louis. When a baby owl hatches amidst a fierce storm in Shooom’s Odyssey (Julien Bisaro, France/Belgium 2019, 26 min, in French with English subtitles), she embarks on a determined quest to find her mother. In Star Bound (Richard O’Connor, US 2020, 3 min, in English), a NASA engineer and his outer space- obsessed six-year-old nephew have an animated chat about why space is so darn cool. Inspired by Thumbelina, Tulip (Andrea Love, Phoebe Wahl, US 2020, 9 min, in English) brings a miniature garden world to life as a tiny flower child tries to find her community. When a grumpy polar bear gets an unexpected visit from a perky brown bear in Blanket (Marina Moshkova, Russia 2020, 6 min, nonverbal), he gets an unexpected lesson in friendship and simple pleasures. And in 1938 Jerusalem in Cinema Rex (Mayan Engelman & Eliran Peled, Israel 2020, 8 min, in Arabic, Hebrew, and English with English subtitles), a Jewish boy and Arab girl transcend language to find a common love for film. Age 5+ – In English and various languages with English subtitles.
From Faeries to Fatalities
This year’s collection of peer-reviewed, youth-produced short films showcases an international cohort of storytellers whose work spans genres. After a long, locked-down year, it’s unsurprising that some of these young filmmakers have leaned toward darker themes, with a fair amount of murder, death, and dystopia— balanced by a dose of social justice, a dash of fairy dust, and a bit of scatological humor. It’s a wild but worthwhile ride! My Best Friend (Benji Tucker, 2020, US 6 min), O.range (Sunday Derham, Australia 2020, 5 min), Spud (Will McDonald & Gavin Bell, US 2021, 5 min), Beyond the Model (Erin Kökdil, US 2020, 5 min), The Black Collective (Roxy Morris, Shiva Kansagara & Sophia Lee, US 2021, 3 min), Jasmine’s Book (Ashley Kumar & Chloe Meyer, US 2021, 8 min), Conjugal Revivification (Reed H. Sharp, US 2021, 10 min), Down Seafaring Way (Roxy Morris, Sophia Lee, Shiva Kansagara & Meia Voss, US 2021, 8 min), Distanced (Cassy Callari, US 2021, 1 min), The Puppet (Will Nordstrom, US 2020, 2 min), The Fairy Tale (Seung jae Lee, Korea 2020, 15 min), Faery Houses (Marabee Barry, US 2021, 3 min), Distortion (Verzerrung) (Samuel J Punto, Germany 2021, 7 min), Aw, Sh*t! (Thomas Ian Valencia, US 2021, 4 min), Closing Night (David Camilo Cuevas, Canada, 5 min) Age 13+
The New Environmentalists
The New Environmentalists: From Accra to Eleuthera Island (Mexico 2021, 36 mins, dirs. John Antonelli, Will Parrinello, Matt Yamashita) is the latest in the Mill Valley Film Group’s Emmy Award- winning series, narrated by Robert Redford and featuring inspiring portraits of six passionate and dedicated activists from Myanmar, France, Mexico, Ghana, The Bahamas, and Ecuador. They share a common goal: safeguarding the Earth’s natural resources from exploitation and pollution, while fighting for justice in their communities. These are the true environmental heroes who have placed themselves squarely in harm’s way to battle intimidating adversaries while building strong grassroots support. Directed by John Antonelli, Will Parrinello, and Matt Yamashita. In Anchored Out (US 2021, 25 min) Katie Bernstein and Clara Mokri focus on a vulnerable community known as the anchor-outs who live on boats anchored off the coast in Sausalito, just north of San Francisco. Tule Elk – The Killing of a Native Species (US 2020, 8 min) looks at the heated controversy between conservationists and the National Park Service over the fate of the Tule elk in Point Reyes National Seashore.
“Here come the waves down by the shore, washing the soul of the body that comes from the depth of the sea.” A deep dive into tales where courage, self-confidence, and renewal are front and center. Marianne Farley’s medical thriller Frimas (Canada 2021, 20 min) shows how the commonplace can become forbidden in a dystopian future. Grace Sloan’s Death Valley (US 2021, 11 min) is a fabulous tribute to ’70s science-fiction cinema. Caroline Liviakis’s highly kinetic dance film Boys and Girls (US 2021, 6 min) presents an irresistible battle of wills. There are few words but a ton of emotions, and laughs, in Ariel Iman Rose’s empowerment parable Bolt Cutters Make Great Friends (US 2021, 9 min). And a trans dancer’s efforts to opt out of mandatory military service forces a gutsy confrontation in Byun Sung-bin’s unforgettable God’s Daughter Dances (South Korea 2020, 25 min). This is a collection of films that will definitely stick with you.
Pale Blue Eyes
“If I could make the world as pure and strange as what I see, I’d put you in the mirror I put in front of me.” Suspicious packages found in a small town in Northern California expose a vast network of succulent plant poachers in Plant Heist (US 2020, 17 min) from Chelsi and Gabriel de Cuba. In Anna Kuperberg and Julia Caskey’s Eleven Weeks (US 2020, 14 min), we are witness to a couple’s final conversations in a story that is more about love than death. Matt Klug and Joshua Harding show us how a San Francisco-based chef and his team found a way to bring a new dining experience to life during the pandemic in Going Dark, Finding Light (US 2021, 6 min). As Erin Brethauer and Tim Hussin’s Eric and the Bees (US 2020, 8 min) reveals, when Eric Grandon discovered beekeeping, he had no idea that bees would give him the power to transform both his own life and that of many others. After 25 years as an in-home caregiver, a Midwestern Black woman in her 60s strikes out for San Francisco to restart her music career in My Little Hilton (US 2020, 12 min) by Kevin Duncan Wong and Todd Sills.
Some Kind of Love
“Between thought and expression lies a lifetime. Situations arise because of the weather.” These wonderful stories explore the intersection of creativity, loss, and embracing the unknown. Eric Roberts (Runaway Train) stars in Matthew Avery Berg’s Marked (US 2021, 12 min), about a tattoo artist who encounters a blast from his past. The complex relationship between artist and muse is the foundation of Erin Whited-Ford’s powerful The Wild Woman and the Painter (US 2021, 17 min). A playful spirit and local color bring life to the beautiful watercolor-style animation of Laura Margulies’ Blue Cooler (US 2021, 8 min). In Jay Kamal’s touching Baba (Canada 2021, 14 min), a young boy must navigate traditions and obligations at his Muslim father’s funeral. And an archeologist must decipher a mysterious code at a dig, sending her down a historical wormhole, in Giulio Callegari’s truly unpredictable Erratum (France 2020, 19 min). Expect the unexpected with this formidable set of stories.
Spread Your Wings and Fly
Figuring out who we are and what matters to us most is a lifelong practice that inevitably starts in our youth. In this grab bag of narrative, documentary, and animated shorts, meet a captivating group of real and fictional young characters who are finding their voice, their purpose, their values—and their wings. Prepare for take-off! In Golden Age Karate (Sindha Agha, US 2021, 5 min), Jeff Wall is a teenage martial- arts pro excited to share his passion for the dojo with an unlikely group of students: senior citizens. When a baby owl gets pushed from her nest in the animated Try to Fly (The Affolter Brothers, Canada 2020, 8 min), it triggers a darkly comic existential crisis that takes her from anxiety to ambition in rapid succession. Set in 1999 Novato, Furthest From (Kyung Sok Kim, US 2020, 19 min) tells the story of two best friends who must embrace change but separate from each other when their trailer park is evacuated due to a water contamination crisis. Are You Okay? (Ryan Cannon, US 2021, 9 min) addresses the rampant problem of cyber-bullying, highlighting the positive impact bystanders can have by simply reaching out to support their peers. In the cleverly animated Matilda and the Spare Head (Ignas Meilūnas, Lithuania 2020, 13 min, in Lithuanian with English subtitles), a drive to be the smartest person in the world leads Matilda and her mom to the misguided conclusion that two heads would actually be better than one. In Generation Impact: The Coder (Samantha Knowles, US 2021, 7 min), meet 13-year-old Jay Jay Patton, who designed and built a mobile app to help kids send photos and letters to their incarcerated parents. Kata (James Latimer, Japan 2021, 7 min, in Japanese with English subtitles) introduces us to the incredible spirit and unique talent of tween Mahiro Takano, a national karate champion in Japan. Finally, in Rise Up (Bryan Buckley, US 2021, 8 min, in various languages with English subtitles), hear from 12 inspiring children from around the world who address the question of who the definitive role models for mankind are today (we’re pretty sure it’s them). Age 9+ – In English and various languages with English subtitles.
There She Goes Again
“Not take a look, there’s no tears in her eyes. Like a bird, you know she would fly.” These wonderfully diverse stories from female filmmakers demonstrate how certain impulses—to grow, change, want—are indeed universal. A young woman finds her agency slipping away when it comes to an arranged marriage in Suzannah Mirghani’s beautiful Al-Sit (Sudan/Qatar 2020, 20 min). Internal anxiety about creating a family forces a woman to question her own personal history in Ashley Paige Brim’s The Goldfish (US 2021, 17 min). A meditation on her daughter and the elusiveness of memory grounds Lynne Sachs’s lovely Maya at 24 (US 2021, 4 min). Holiday tensions between father and daughter loom over efforts to reconcile the past in Suzanne Lenz and Tom Bean’s Christmas Eve Eve or: The Things I Can’t Remember (US 2020, 14 min). And an ad hoc therapy “session” allows a teenage girl to process a host of epiphanies about herself and her high school in C. Fraser Press’s enchanting Too Many Buddhas (US 2021, 14 min). Perceptive, beautiful, and engaging stories that you won’t want to miss.
MVFF44 SHORT FILM PROGRAMS – VIRTUAL ONLY
LUNAFEST features seven short films. Overexposed (Holly Morris, Santa Fe, NM, 12 min): A behind- the-scenes look at the film team that captured the daring story of the Women’s Euro-Arabian North Pole Expedition. Knocking Down the Fences (Meg Shutzer, Oakland, CA, 12 min): AJ Andrews, the first woman to win a Rawlings Gold Glove Award, struggles to make it as one of the best professional softball players in the world. A Line Birds Cannot See (Amy Bench, Austin, TX, 9 min): Separated at the border, a 12-year-old sets out on a harrowing journey to the U.S. to find her mother. The Scientists Versus Dartmouth (Sharon Shattuck, Brooklyn, NY, 14 min): A young neuroscientist and her colleagues make a life-changing decision to speak up for women in science everywhere. Until She Is Free (Maria Finitzo, Chicago, IL, 14 min): Mixed-media artist Sophia Wallace, best known for her viral project Cliteracy, imagines a world where all people are equal and able to live with rich possibility and purpose. Connection (Ciara Lacy, Honolulu, HI, & Portland, OR, and Tracy Nguyen-Chung, Los Angeles, CA, 8 min): A lifelong angler, Autumn Harry had never fished beyond the waters of her reservation—until she picked up a fly rod. Betye Saar: Taking Care of Business (Christine Turner, Brooklyn, NY, 8 min): At 93, there’s no stopping when it comes to this legendary artist.