The Mill Valley Film Festival is coming

Marin County, 1977, cinematic history was made! That was Star Wars. But a few miles away, in the same year, the first Mill Valley Festival opened. As far as I know, it took place entirely in the valley. By 2015, the festival’s growth made me joke that it should be called the “Marin County Film Festival.” This year, the event has grown out of the North Bay.

This year’s venues are:


Tribute To Brendan Fraser, with the film The Whale

This year’s festival opens Thursday, October 10, with the comedy whodunit, Glass Onion: a Knives Out Mystery. Ten days later, the festival will close with The Good Nurse. The event will screen 145 films from 34 countries. There are 49 premieres, 74 features, and 71 shorts. Women directed more than half of the films.

Here are my opinions of four of the films that will be screening, in order from masterpiece to stinker.

A Whina

Here’s a New Zealand epic about a woman who should be as famous as Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. Dame Whina Cooper was born a Māori princess. She would spend her long life fighting against imperialism, sexism, and to an extent, the Catholic Church, which she never left (although she had good reasons to leave). Three different actresses play Cooper at different ages, and the changes feel smooth. This film should be seen on a big screen. Cooper was a real person; I don’t know if it’s accurate, and I don’t really care.

Director James Napier Robertson will be in person.

  • Rafael, Saturday, October 8, 12:00 midnight
  • Lark, Wednesday, Saturday, 1:00pm

A- Sunnyland

Here’s an exceptional film about young children, shot mostly at a child’s view. The main characters are two young girls in a poor neighborhood in Florida. Their parents, who struggle to make a living, speak mostly in Spanish. The kids, who live in worlds of dreams and toys, speak English. But the parents lack the resources to know where their kids are at any time – creating considerable suspense. The last shot is an homage to one of cinema’s most famous images. Just filming these kids must have been a work of magic.

A- Bonnie Blue: James Cotton’s Life in the Blues

Here’s the rare musician biopic that gets the right balance between music and history. James Cotton’s parents, who picked cotton most of their lives, died early. Brilliant at the harmonica, he played with Muddy Waters and other greats. Eventually, he hopped from the blues to rock’n’roll. And his music comes through on almost every minute of the soundtrack. There’s not a lot of sadness here. Between his parents’ and his own death, he seemed to have good life.

C+ The Young Vote

I’ve seen too many heart-felt documentaries like this one. Young Americans go out on the street, fighting the good fight. Young people of color get harassed by the police – showing much of what’s bad about the American system. Two young women try to change the world – which is a very good thing to try to do. Director Diane Robinson’s doc is too much like others. The only original scene was an overhead shot of long lines to the polls. Perhaps Robinson should have interviewed youths who don’t care enough to vote.

Director Diane Robinson will be in the theater.

I’ll send you another selection of films in a week or so.

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