Organizers of the unveiled the lineup for its 34th edition Tuesday morning, rolling out a slate of some 120 films that stick to the 11-day event’s tradition of Academy Award hopefuls, emerging talent, documentaries and children’s programming and films from around the world.
The lineup of the event, which takes place Oct. 6-16 at the theater and the Rafael Film Center and venues around Mill Valley and Marin, is chock full of each but is also as laden with female star power as any in recent festival history.
“There’s an incredible wealth of really excellent performances by women this year,” festival programming director Zoe Elton said at a press conference Tuesday morning. “We have a lot of these Oscar-worthy women in the films we’re showing.”
The lineup includes films featuring the likes of Glenn Close, Michelle Williams, Michelle Yeoh, Demi Moore, Tilda Swinton and Mia Wasikowska, among others. And in an ironic twist, one of the festival’s two opening night films, Albert Nobbs, stars acclaimed actress Glenn Close as a woman who has avoided poverty in mid-19th Century Ireland by dressing and working as a man. Close is also the subject of a Tribute event on festival’s second night.
“Literally except for last year with , a film like this comes to a festival once every 10 or 20 years,” said Mark Fishkin, the festival’s executive director. “It’s an extraordinary film and an extraordinary performance by Glenn Close. And if I were a betting man…”
The festival’s other opening night flick is Jeff Who Lives at Home, which stars Jason Segel as “a 30-year old unemployed stoner on a collision course with destiny” in a film Elton called “a great surprise. It’s contemporary and it’s spiritual in its own way.”
The film, which isn't set to hit theaters until March 2012, is directed by brothers Jay and Mark Duplass, known for being one of the pioneers of the mumblecore film genre with Puffy Chair in 2005 and Baghead in 2008.
There won’t even be a mumble in the festival’s closing night film. The Artist, which chronicles a silent film star resisting the transition to sound in 1927 Hollywood is “hysterical” and “just about flawless,” leaving “even veteran jaded movie industry people skipping out of a screening (at Cannes),” Fishkin said, noting that director Michael Hazanavicius is expected to be in attendance at the festival’s closing night party at the San Rafael Community Center.
In addition to shining a light on Close’s career, the festival also pays homage to two actors and one filmmaker. Yeoh, best known in the U.S. for her roles in the James Bond film Tomorrow Never Dies and in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, is highlighted for her latest film, The Lady, the Luc Besson biopic of Burmese democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi. The lady is one of 30 North American or U.S. premieres at the festival.
“It looks at the decade between leaving her life in England and evolving into a significant leader of her people,” Elton said, saying the films puts Kyi in the class of “Mandela and Ghandi – it’s an exceptional performance (by Yeoh). And part of the reason for making this film is that even though Kyi was released from house arrest, her life is still in jeopardy and her situation is far from resolved.”
The festival’s opening weekend is culminated by a tribute to a lesser-known but influential filmmaker named . The native of Burkina Faso is considered “truly a master of African film and he’s known as a very important voice who has taken traditional African values and out them into his films as a way of speaking directly to Africans,” Elton said.
A screening of Kabore’s 1982 film Wend Kuuni anchors a slate of African films from Mali, Burkina, Faso, Morocco, Ghana and Senegal.
The festival also turns its attention to two little-known but emerging actors. Ezra Miller is generating a ton of buzz for his performance in We Need to Talk About Kevin, British director Lynne Ramsay’s film about the protagonist’s troubled relationship with his mother (Swinton) and a foreshadowing of catastrophe to come.
“It’s really great to see a young actor being able to hold his own with an actor (Swinton) whose work is very profound,” Elton said.
And though her twin sisters are known to just about anyone who’s every checked out at a grocery store, Elizabeth Olsen gets a MVFF Spotlight for her portrayal of a young woman recently free of an all-consuming cult in Martha Marcy May Marlene. Olsen appears on the festival’s second Saturday to receive the MVFF Award.
The lineup also includes a Centerpiece screening of My Week With Marilyn, starring Michelle Williams as Marilyn Monroe and based on the memoir of Colin Clark. It also features the premiere of A Few Best Men, an Australian film Elton described as “Bridesmaids meets Judd Apatow comedy” starring Xavier Samuel of Twilight fame and Olivia Newton John as his future mother-in-law.
The festival has a plethora of additional films and programs of note, including its Active Cinema slate designed to inspire audiences to put ideas into action and its ever-growing Children’s FilmFest.
Check back later this week for more about the lineup of the , and let us know below what films and programs you’re most interested in hearing more about.