Mill Valley Film Festival fans wondering if organizers could come up with a slate of films and A-list stars to mark the blockbuster local event's 35th anniversary have their answer: Indeed.
At a press conference in San Francisco Wednesday morning, organizers unveiled a lineup for the 35th edition of the festival that includes a mix of events involving big-name stars, films likely to be vying for Academy Awards next year and a heap of cinema from both around the world and right in our own backyard. The 11-day fest includes some 150 films and runs from Oct. 4-14.
"Thirty-five years ago, the Mill Valley Film Festival had an attendance of 2,500 people," said festival founder and executive director Mark Fishkin. "This year, we will be serving 40,000 people. We did one day at a time one film at a time."
MVFF35 won’t lack for star power, with Hollywood legend Dustin Hoffman, star of such films as Midnight Cowboy, All the President’s Men, Rain Man and The Graduate, coming to town for an Oct. 9 tribute to his career and a screening of his debut film as a director, Quartet, which stars Maggie Smith as an aging opera diva.
"He's an iconic figure and an actor who has had seminal roles," Fishkin said.
Ben Affleck, whose directing credits include The Town and Gone Baby Gone, is scheduled to appear at the U.S. premiere of his latest film, Argo, which tells the story of a CIA operation to save six diplomats during the 1979 Iran hostage crisis by faking a production for a science fiction film.
As usual, the festival will dole out a pair of Spotlight awards. Billy Bob Thornton, whose directorial debut, Jayne Mansfield's Car starring Robert Duvall and Kevin Bacon, is one of the recipients. Thornton’s film, which centers on a Southern family and their distant English relatives who arrive to bury their recently deceased matriarch among "her people,” will be screened after an onstage interview with Thornton.
John Hawkes, who drew rave reviews for his performance in 2011 MVFF entry and an Oscar nomination for his creepy role in Winter’s Bone in 2010, is the other Spotlight recipient. Hawkes will sit for a Q&A on his career before a screening of The Session, the story of a poet-journalist confined to an iron lung who tries to lose his virginity with the help of a professional sex surrogate played by Helen Hunt.
MVFF35’s opening night boasts a pair of big name films. Director Walter Salles’ On the Road, the first-ever movie based on the classic Jack Kerouac Beat generation novel is the first, while David O. Russell’s darkly comedic Silver Linings Playbook, which stars Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence and deals with issues of mental illness, family dysfunction and loss, is the other.
“David is really running on top form with this film,” said Zoe Elton, the festival’s director of programming. “It’s irreverent, beautifully paced and wily.”
The festival's opening night kicks into high gear with the in which the festival takes over the Depot Plaza with food from local restaurants and live music and entertainment.
The closing night film is The Life of Pi, director Ang Lee’s visually sensational interpretation of Yann Martel’s 2001 adventure novel. The screening will be followed by a Closing Night Gala at 32Ten Studios in San Rafael
As in year’s past, MVFF will honor an international artist, this time shining its light on Indian film director Mira Nair, best known for her 2001 film Monsoon Wedding. The festival will pay tribute to Nair, who will sit for an onstage interview before a screening of one of her films.
The festival’s other major event highlights Dreamworks Animation upon the screening of its new animated film, Rise of the Guardians, followed by a conversation with director Peter Ramsey.
Music plays a central role once again in the festival, both in its slate of films and ancillary events. In addition to the screening of Gillian and Monroe Grisman’s Village Music: Last of the Great Record Stores, which chronicles the last days of John Goddard’s legendary downtown Mill Valley music shop, former Fleetwood Mac singer Stevie Nicks sits down for a Q&A after a screening of In Your Dreams, a documentary about the recording of her new solo album by the man who produced it, Dave Stewart of Eurythmics fame.
Festival organizers have also linked up with the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) to host a series of music showcases at the over three days of the event. The shows will feature John Doe, Frankmusik, Jeff the Brotherhood, Nova Albion and Pomplamoose, the Corte Madera-based duo of multi-instrumentalists Jack Conte and Nataly Dawn that rose to prominence in 2011 behind a series of Hyundai ads during the holiday season.
The 411: The Mill Valley Film Festival runs from Oct. 4-14. Go to the festival’s website for more info and to buy tickets, which go on sale to the general public on Sunday, Sept. 16 at 10 a.m.
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