Director of Programming
Zoë Elton has been working with MVFF since its 1977 inception, but before the fun starts in Mill Valley you can find her at February’s Berlin International Film Festival. “Berlin offers an early portal for international films,” Elton says. “A revelation for me this year was Fire at Sea (Fuocoammare), Gianfranco Rosi’s profound film about the refugee crisis. It ups the ante on narrative documentary, revealing its story through imagery and through the eyes of locals like a cheeky 9-year-old boy, who takes us into the humanity of the story.” At Cannes, Elton noted increased security along with climbing temperatures and enjoyed the spontaneous red carpet dance moves of filmmaker Andrea Arnold and her young cast of American Honey. She came home eager to present a menu of movies representing the world at large. “It’s lining up to be a strong year for us, with themes that inform the crazy times we’re living in and offer food for thought and discussion,” she says. “Given the amount of time that it takes to make a film, it’s always amazing when movies line up to address and inform what’s currently important in our lives.”
The Mill Valley Film Festival comes each October, but before silver screen sirens and acclaimed directors gather in the shadow of Mount Tamalpais, Mark Fishkin prepares for the main event by visiting renowned festivals across the globe. First comes January’s Sundance Film Festival in Utah — Fishkin says 2016 release The Birth of a Nation, which screened there, will be much talked about come awards season — followed by Cannes in May. There, “I was delighted to see Ken Loach win the Palme d’Or at the tender age of 79 for I, Daniel Blake, a beautifully realized film, subtle and very human,” Fishkin says. But when asked to compare MVFF with other celebrations, he insists each festival shines its own unique light. “We strive to be true to our own voice and to keep up with what we do best,” Fishkin says. “Our commitment to our filmmakers goes beyond the physical to something much more personal.” An example of this commitment is the festival’s Mind the Gap initiative, which draws attention to the gender gap in filmmaking through screenings, conversations and panel discussions. “The theme of this year’s initiative will be Women+Film+Tech, which I’m very excited to explore,” he adds, and he’s also looking forward to this year’s cannabis-themed content, which will include films and talks with panels of experts.