But as MVFF Programming Director Zoe Elton noted in Tuesday, festival organizers are proud of their Bay Area roots and pursue a lineup that reflects that pride. The 34th edition of the festival, set for Oct. 6-16, boasts a strong slate of films with Bay Area ties, from far-reaching documentaries and feature films to thought-provoking shorts.
At the center of it all is perennial MVFF entrant , the Mill Valley native and grad who has premiered the majority of his more than 30 films at MVFF, including his first feature film, Northern Lights, which had its North American premiere in Mill Valley in 1979, fresh off its Camera d'Or win for best debut film at the Cannes Film Festival.
Nilsson brings his first-ever documentary entry to Mill Valley this year. What Happened Here? chronicles Nilsson’s “exploration of (Leon) Trotsky and his Ukrainian roots,” according to senior programmer Janis Plotkin.
The festival also features 11 films from Marin directors, including three from Mill Valley. Jim Sugar’s 7-minute short, Swimming in a Dream, tells the story of what compels members of the North Bay Aquatics Masters Swimmers in Corte Madera, “a group of otherwise perfectly normal people,” to do a hard swim at 5:30 a.m. five days a week.
The award-winning Mill Valley Film Group, , is back with the latest version of its Emmy Award-winning series of short profiles of environmental activists. And Deborah Koons Garcia, longtime Mill Valley resident and widow of legendary Grateful Dead guitarist Jerry Garcia, has two shorts in this year’s festival. The first profiles pioneering winemaker John Williams of Frog's Leap, while the second traces the roots of the Transition environmental movement back to the UK in Transition Town Totnes.
Two Marin directors are presenting buzzworthy feature films this year. In The Welcome, San Rafael director Kim Shelton brought veterans from the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Vietnam to a mountain retreat in southern Oregon in 2008 to help them express their suffering through poetry, song, storytelling and ritual.
Sausalito director Stephen Olsson brings an innovative film called One Through Love, a multilingual initiative and website based on the poetry and teachings of 13th Century Persian mystic Jalaluddin Rumi. This hour-long collection of segments concludes with a live, web-based Q&A featuring people in San Rafael, Morocco, Turkey and Iran.
“We’re thrilled to be able to connect the world through film in this way,” Elton said.
Three Novato filmmakers have shorts at MVFF34, including Robin Fryday, whose Barber of Birmingham features 85-year-old James Armstrong, an African American barber in Birmingham, Alabama, as he experiences the manifestation of an unimaginable dream: the election of the first African American president.
In Library of Dust, Novato’s Robert James co-directs a look at the 2004 discovery of thousands of corroded copper urns containing cremated human remains at the Oregon State Hospital, former site of the film One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. And in A Woman’s Descent to the Sacred, Novato resident Sherry Ruth Anderson tells the story of stripping away the lies that defined her, carrying her through emptiness into mystery and the sacredness of all of life.
San Anselmo filmmaker Doug Nichol’s Sunshine takes a short, funny and sobering glimpse into the advertising world, globalization and the absurdity of the business. San Rafael’s Jonathan Lyons combined two shorts into one to tell the story of an animated robot who gets into crazy situations in Floyd the Android.
Other Bay Area Films
There are a number of other Bay Area filmmakers also in the mix this year, including Mario Furloni and Kate Mclean, residents of Oakland and San Francisco, respectively, whose half-hour film Pot Country looks at the world of marijuana through the eyes of a fifth generation ex-logger and a back-to-the-land grandma who makes her living as a grower.
Perhaps no film in the festival has a broader array of Bay Area ties than California State of Mind: The Legacy of Pat Brown. The documentary about the iconic California governor is told from his granddaughter’s perspective, and features such Bay Area luminaries as his son and current (and former) Gov. Jerry Brown, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, Rep. Nancy Pelosi and former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown, among others.
The film’s executive producer is Hilary Armstrong, a San Francisco resident and founder of My California Now, a nonprofit set up as an extension of the film and as a way to get young people involved in fixing the state’s myriad problems.
In Heist: Who Stole the American Dream, Berkeley co-director Donald Goldmacher reveals how American corporations orchestrated the robbery of middle-class prosperity through rampant deregulation, the outsourcing of jobs, and tax policies favoring businesses and the wealthy elites.
Berkeley filmmaker John Sanborn created the trailer for MVFF34, and his film The Planets takes viewers on an explosive journey through our skies, while Montclair resident Austin Forbod celebrates the history of theater in San Francisco with Stage Left.
Lastly, fans who simply didn’t get enough of the can at least hear the Palo Alto native’s narration of Eames: The Architect and the Painter, a documentary about the husband-and-wife team of Charles and Ray Eames. The film was co-directed by Berkeley resident Jason Cohn and former Berkeley resident Bill Jersey.