MVFF’s Mind the Gap Summit: Putting a Spotlight on the Film Industry’s Excluded Groups


Since its inception in 2015, the Mind the Gap Summit is an event that has made an impact. Each year at the Mill Valley Film Festival (MVFF), the program spotlights the work of women and other historically excluded groups in the film industry, providing them with resources that are typically inaccessible for marginalized communities.

This year, the Mind the Gap features several screenings, events and conversations, including the presentation of the Mind the Gap Award, the Mind the Gap Directors Forum, a master class on screenwriting, a toolkit conversation with key industry people, a networking event for various Bay Area Film organizations and more. The MVFF team signed a pledge in 2018 to feature equal gender representation by 2020 — they exceeded that goal with their 2020 lineup featuring 57 percent representation for women. “We’re trying to elevate the number of women and people of color who have directed films that we have in the festival,” says MVFF Director of Programming and Mind the Gap founder Zoë Elton. “In addition to that, the overall theme for Mind the Gap this year is ‘reconnecting with community.’”

In this spirit, a roundtable conversation called Evolution of Latinas’ Roles on Screen will feature guests from all corners of media, including casting director Carla Hool, who has worked on major productions like Narcos, Coco and Sin Nombre. The panel will discuss their influences, their experiences and the changes that they’d like to see regarding Latina representation. “I’ve been pretty shocked this year looking at the big releases coming out of Hollywood,” says Elton. “There is such a lack of Latina and Latino faces and talent.” It’s true — if you look at the slate of major motion pictures releasing this year, the Latinx community is woefully underrepresented, with only a handful of titles featuring Latinos in major roles (In the Heights, West Side Story, Eternals).

A more prominent Latinx presence in TV and film is long overdue, and Mind the Gap Producer Faridah Gbadamosi believes that, to make real change, they’ve got to talk to the right people. “We often have conversations about representation with people who aren’t the ones making those sorts of decisions about what’s being seen onscreen,” Gbadamosi explains. “The goal for this roundtable is to have directors and actors and people from other areas of the industry speak about their experiences, their influences and what they want to see.”

In 2020, Mind the Gap presented a panel called Evolution of Black Women’s Roles Onscreen, which was so successful that the Mind the Gap team decided they would expand the concept to encompass other, underserved groups. “We were thinking that we could make this an ongoing series for historically excluded communities,” Gbadamosi says. “And being that we’re in Marin, we thought the next group we highlighted had to be Latinas. We’re trying to raise awareness about inequality and redefine ‘community’ to be about extending access rather than it being a sort of ‘pat-on-the-back’ situation [with regards to] diversity.”

“MVFF is a very well-established, well-heeled film festival,” Elton adds. “We have a certain privilege. And with that privilege comes obligation and desire to offer the access and connections we have to communities who may not receive it otherwise.”

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Bernard Boo

Bernard Boo is an AAPI arts and entertainment critic, Bay Area native and proud member of the San Francisco Bay Area Film Critics Circle. Find more of his work at PopMatters, Den of Geek and Rotten Tomatoes, and listen to him on the Your Asian Best Friends podcast.