Monday, October 5, 2020


The 43rd Mill Valley Film Festival

The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic is still devastating every fabric of our society. Numerous lives and livelihoods are tragically lost. Yet, more than ever, the storytelling in cinema must continue, despite the fact that most of the theaters are still closed. One of the most celebrated film festivals in the Bay Area, the Mill Valley Film Festival (MVFF), will join force with the previously postponed DocLands Documentary Film Festival (both presented by the California Film Institute) to showcase its 43rd edition Oct. 8-18, 2020. Of course, adapting to these trying times and social distancing guidelines, the festival will stream most films online in virtual CAFilm Streaming Room, as well as exhibit a few titles in a drive-in cinema located at the beautiful Lagoon Park-Marin Center in San Rafael.

The 43rd Mill Valley Film Festival

Given the circumstances, it's not a surprise that the 43rd MVFF has slimmed down quite a bit compared to other years. It presents only 44 feature length narratives and 20 feature length documentaries, as well as 54 shorts. Nine films will be shown in the Drive-in Cinema. In addition, the DocLands presents 15 feature length documentaries and 12 shorts.

(You may click on each still image for ticketing information.)

Unlike usually opening the festival with two films, the 43rd MVFF opens with five(!) movies plus one that opens the DocLands. They include

  • "Blithe Spirit" (UK 2020 | 95 min.), a Noël Coward adaptation starring Judi Dench
  • "The Heist of the Century" (El robo del siglo | Argentina/Spain 2020 | in Spanish | 114 min.), a wild ride through one of the greatest bank heists in Argentinian history
  • "Sweet Thing" (USA 2020 | 91 min.), a bittersweet portrait about two young sisters' struggle and their runaway from their troubled family
  • "Veins of the World" (Die Adern der Welt | Germany/Mongolia | in Mongolian | 96 min.), a young Mongolian boy's coming-of-age story
  • "The Boys Who Said NO!" (USA 2020 | 90 min. | Documentary), a documentary looking back at the draft resistance during the Vietnam War
  • "Public Trust" (USA 2020 | 96 min. | Documentary), the opening film for DocLands which examines the American public lands under threat

Blithe Spirit The Heist of the Century (El robo del siglo) Sweet Thing
Veins of the World (Die Adern der
                        Welt) The Boys Who Said NO! Public Trust

This year's festival shines spotlights on Clare Dunne with her new film "Herself" (Ireland/UK 2020 | 97 min.) in which she plays a young mother who escapes her abusive husband. The centerpiece presentation is Regina King's highly anticipated film "One Night in Miami" (USA 2020 | 114 min.), a fictional account of four iconic figures discussing civil rights movements during a night out in 1964.

Spotlight: Herself Centerpiece: One Night in Miami

This year, the festival pays tribute to four extraordinary female artists: Kate Winslet, Judi Dench, Viola Davis, and Sophia Loren, with online virtual conversations.

Tribute conversation: Kate Winslet Tribute conversation: Dame Judi Dench Tribute conversation: Viola Davis Tribute conversation: Sophia Loren

Perhaps due to the pandemic which derailed a few major film festivals earlier this year, the World Cinema section only has 25 feature narratives and Asian films are almost completely absent. Even though it's a bit disappointing, there are still a few films that promise to entertain the audience in addition to the opening films:

  • "The Father" (UK/France 2020 | 97 min.) examines the dynamic relationship between a daughter and her aging father, played by Oscar winners Olivia Colman and Anthony Hopkins.
  • "Master Cheng" (Mestari Cheng | Finland/China 2019 | in English/Finnish/Mandarin | 114 min.) tells a story of a Chinese chef's visit to a remote village in Finland.
  • "Spring Blossom" (Seize printemps | France 2020 | in French | 73 min.) tells a 16-year-old's affair with an older man.
  • "Three Summers" (Três Verões | Brazil/France 2019 | in Portuguese | 94 min.) follows a housekeeper's three eventful summers at her scandal filled employer's luxury home.

The Father Master Cheng
Spring Blossom Three Summers

If you are tired of reading subtitles, then don't miss these two films in the US Cinema section:

  • "Nomadland" (USA 2020 | 108 min.) follows a woman's journey through the American's west in her RV, directed by Chloé Zhao and starring Frances McDormand. Having already won the Golden Lion at this year's Venice Film Festival, this may well be a front runner in the upcoming Oscar race, whenever that might take place.
  • "Shithouse" (USA 2020 | 100 min.) unfolds a homesick freshman's shitty night which is turned around after meeting a girl at a party house. The SXSW Grand Jury Award winner, this comedy is a welcomed antidote for the depressing reality.
Nomadland Shithouse

With cinema and art for the soul, with science and medicine for the body, with kindness and humanity for each other, we will get over this difficult time. We will prevail, together.

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