San Franciscans lived under a cotton candy sky (that was begging to be Instagrammed) on Tuesday as cinephiles and press descended on Dolby Laboratories for the Mill Valley Film Festival (MVFF) conference. The evening was filled with insight and laughter, something that was made evident by Zoe Elton’s response to the newly announced tribute honoree –– “Gandalf rules.” Indeed, Ian McKellan is also going to be recognized by the festival for his lifetime of achievements along with Catherine Hardwicke and Marcel Ophüls. Mark Fishkin (Founder/Executive Director/Festival Director), Zoe Elton (Head of Programming), Karen Davis (Senior Programmer) and Janis Plotkin (Senior Programmer) spent an hour detailing many of the festival's highlights, sharing their perspectives and their favorites films.
Now it’s 38th year, it’s worthwhile to note that the event started with a $11K budget and has grown to be arguably the biggest festival in Northern California, selling 60K tickets last year. This year also marks weekday matinee showings (for those of you lucky enough to “work from home”) and the first time a studio will bookend the festival –– Focus Features films will be opening with Tom Hooper’s The Danish Girl and closing with Suffragette. Tom McCarthy’s investigative drama Spotlight, starring Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo and Rachel McAdams will also be showing on opening night with Hooper and McCarthy present at their respective screenings. There has also been a change in programming: “Amazing Grace,” the long-lost film of Aretha Franklin’s 1972 live album, will no longer be showing, and “Mavis!” about Mavis Staples, will play instead.
Connecting the film world to the real world, Elton touched on the current migrant crisis, bringing attention to the fact that somehow “films made years ahead hit at the right time” as she discussed Dheepan, which won the highest prize awarded at the Cannes Film Festival, the Palme d’Or. As the event drew to a close during question time the mood lighted and Elton implored attendees while responding to a social media query, “please hash tag us, we love it.” #mvff38. Hope to see you there.
Karen Davis: Here is Harold
Some Other Non-Official Conference Numbers
Mentions of “hot movies from Iceland”: 4
People in berets: 2