Plenty of women filmmakers, personal tributes and musical concerts make up the 40th edition of the Mill Valley Film Festival taking place every autumn at the foothills of Mount Tamalpais in Marin County since 1978.
“Our goal was to program forty percent of women-directed films for our 4oth birthday,” said Zoe Elton, the festival’s director of programming. “We went beyond, it’s 44 percent across the board, in all sections.”
The festival showcases 144 feature films and 86 shorts over a period of ten days, from October 5 to 15, at theaters in Corte Madera, Larkspur, Mill Valley and San Rafael, where the headquarters of the festival, the Smith Rafael Film Center, are located.
The section devoted to the new Latino cinema ‘¡Viva el Cine!’ presents films produced in Cuba, Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Venezuela, Spain and the United States this year. Half of them already had successful screenings at other festivals while the other half are novelties waiting to be discovered.
Among the novelties, Quest, first film by local filmmaker Santiago Rizzo, is a drama about a young student with problems at home who finds an ally in his physical education teacher. The film, filmed in the East Bay, is based on a real story that happened at Willard Middle School in Berkeley in 1995.
From Cuba and also focused on a young student, Esteban, directed by Jonal Cosculluela and with music by Chucho Valdés, tells the charming story of a nine-year-old boy who, ashamed, sells products in the black market with his single mother, until one day he wants learn to play the piano, establishing a beautiful relationship with his sick teacher.
Also a first film and based on real events is the Venezuelan-Colombian co-production El Amparo directed by Rober Calzadilla, about the disappearance of a group fishermen near the Venezuelan-Colombian border, unleashing a drama of accusations, corruption, political maneuvering and social unrest.
One last film among the novelties is Vazante, by veteran Brazilian filmmaker Daniela Thomas [Foreign Land, 1995] set in an hacienda during the colonial era. Masterfully photographed in black and white, it tells the story of a middle-aged slave owner of waning fortunes who marries his 12-year-old niece.
Among the films premiered at festivals like Cannes, Berlin and San Sebastian and coming now to Mill Valley, we have the Argentine-Chilean coproduction The Desert Bride [La novia del desierto] directed by Cecilia Atan and Valeria Pivato, and starring Paulina García, which narrates the subtle transformation of a woman during her stay in the Cuyo region, far fromBuenos Aires.
From Chile, A Fantastic Woman [Una mujer fantástica] by Sebastián Lelio [Christmas, 2009], with an extraordinary performance by actress Daniela Vega, about the maturing process of a transgender woman who, after a tragic event, faces suspicion and rejection.
Also from Chile Los perros by Marcela Said [The Summer of Flying Fish, 2013], a thriller that touches the themes of historical memory and classism with memorable performances by Alfredo Castro and Antonia Zegers, an upper-class woman whose main concerns are her dogs, her riding lessons and satisfying her husband’s desire to have children.
From Spain and considered best opera prima in Berlin, Summer 1993 [Estiú 1993], by Catalan director Carla Simón, an evocative autobiographical drama about a six-year-old girl who, after the death of her parents in Barcelona, struggles to accept her new life in the countryside with his uncle’s family.
Outside the ‘¡Viva el Cine!’ section it is worth mentioning the screening of The Shape of Water, Mexican master of fantastic cinema Guillermo del Toro’s new film, as well as tributes to Kristin Scott Thomas, Sean Penn, Dee Rees, Holly Hunter, Todd Haynes and Richard Linklater. Numerous musical presentations including Huey Lewis and the News, Joe Satriani and The Family Stone, embellish the programming of the most glamorous film festival in the Bay Area.
The festival closes on Sunday, October 15 with the screening of Lady Bird, Greta Gerwig’s film debut about a girl on her senior year at a Catholic high school in Sacramento.
For more detailed information about the films, schedules and to buy tickets please visit mvff.com/viva-el-cine/