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Mill Valley opens its 28th edition

For 28 years, Mill Valley Film Festival has been presenting the best in American Independent and International feature films, hard-hitting documentaries, cutting edge video, delightful children’s fare and tributes to celluloid luminaries. This year is no exception. With more than 150 slated films and videos from around the globe, the Mill Valley Film Festival unspools October 6-16.
“The 28th Festival is filled with extraordinary independent films from 55 countries around the world as well as many of the most highly anticipated specialty films – many of which will undoubtedly go on to receive Academy Award consideration,” notes Mark Fishkin, Founder and Director of the Mill Valley Film Festival. “We are honored by the high number of filmmakers who have chosen the Mill Valley Film Festival to host their world premiere. Additionally, we have a star-packed festival spanning the gamut of cinema - from the iconoclastic Michael Powell (Tribute presented by Thelma Schoonmaker) to Jean-Pierre Jeunet, one of the most brilliant and creative directors of his generation. Best of all, we are returning to our regular Mill Valley screening venue, the CinéArts@Sequoia. It’s going to be an outstanding eleven days brimming with the best US and world cinema, tributes, spotlights, music events, parties and receptions for film lovers of all ages to celebrate movies in the perfect environment for film.”

Opening and Closing Night films
The Festival gets off to a delightfully hilarious romp with Stephen Frears’ Brit musical comedy MRS. HENDERSON PRESENTS and Richard Shepard’s dark South-of-the-Border comedy THE MATADOR. Pierce Brosnan (AFTER THE SUNSET) is a gone-to-seed hit man who meets über-perky businessman Greg Kinnear (AS GOOD AS IT GETS) and his wife Hope Davis (The Secret Lives of Dentists/MVFF 02) in Mexico City. Each of the men soon desperately wants what the other has, and the fireworks begin between this violent new “odd couple” in THE MATADOR. Stephen Frears (THE SNAPPER/MVFF ’93, MY BEAUTIFUL LAUNDRETTE/MVFF ’85) loves to create genre films and his latest, a musical comedy, is no exception. Based on a true story, Dame Judi Dench (The Shipping News) is Laura Henderson who with the help of an irascible producer, Bob Hoskins (A Room for Romeo Brass), opens an all-nude vaudeville revue on the eve of WW2. Following the film screenings, MVFF light up the town with a terrific opening night gala beneath the redwoods in Mill Valley’s Lytton Plaza.

After eleven days and nights of moving movie images, the Festival winds down with two very touching films of families in peril, Noah Baumbach’s THE SQUID AND THE WHALE and the world premiere of Scott McGehee and David Siegel’s BEE SEASON. Bee Season, based on the novel by Myla Goldberg, tells of a wife and mother (Juliette Binoche/WHITE, MVFF 94) who begins a downward emotional spiral, as her husband (Richard Gere) avoids their collapsing marriage by immersing himself in their nine-year-old daughter's (Flora Cross) quest to become a spelling bee champion by tutoring her in kabbalistic mysticism. Noah Baumbach’s THE SQUID AND THE WHALE captures with extraordinary immediacy the inner workings of the Berkman family in 1986 Brooklyn.. Bernard (Jeff Daniels), an academic and author, and his restless wife Joan, (Laura Linney, MVFF Spotlight 04) an up-and-coming writer, have given up on their marriage. Their two sons Walt (Jesse Eisenberg), 16, and Frank (Owen Kline), 12, are left to grapple with their confusing and conflicted feelings. Prior to the screening of THE SQUID AND THE WHALE, there will be an on-stage interview with Jeff Daniels, as part of a tribute to the actor. Following the screening of both films MVFF will host a closing night party at the Mill Valley Community Center.

Tributes to Filmmakers Powell and Jeunet, Actors Sutherland and Daniels
Always an insightful and exciting component of the Mill Valley Film Festival is the annual tributes. This year, two actors and two filmmakers will honored: the late English filmmaker Michael Powell and French director Jean-Pierre Jeunet, American actors Donald Sutherland and Jeff Daniels.

Michael Powell was the highly influential British director who teamed up with screenwriter Emeric Pressburger to create stylistically radical romances such as The Red Shoes and Black narcissus. Powell will be feted by his widow, Oscar-winning editor Thelma Schoonmaker. In an onstage interview with extensive film clips, she will discuss Michael Powell’s art and its influence on her films with Martin Scorsese. As part of the tribute to Powell, the Festival will also be screening two of his classic films –- THE RED SHOES (1948) and I KNOW WHERE I’M GOING! (1945). Many of his masterworks will screen at the Christopher B. Smith Rafael Film Center after the festival.

One of the most creative fabulists in the world of international cinema today, Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s career thus far has been filled with the kind of cinematic triumphs of which most filmmakers can only dream. Starting with his collaborations with Marc Caro, Delicatessen and City of Lost Children, and most recently on his own with actress Audrey Tautou in Amélie and A Very Long engagement, Jeunet has consistently amazed with a thoroughly original style. Jeunet will attend the Festival for an onstage interview and a screening of his rarely seen short films. MVFF will also be screening two of his great feature films during the Festival -- AMELIE (2001) and DELICATESSEN (1991). The Christopher B. Smith Rafael Film Center will screen his work after the festival as well.

Some of the most acclaimed directors in the world have recognized Donald Sutherland’s extraordinary chameleon-like talent. The characters he plays are often larger than life—Casanova for Fellini, Attila in Bertolucci’s 1900, and the unforgettable Hawkeye Pierce in Altman’s M*A*S*H. Donald Sutherland will be honored with an onstage interview, followed by a screening of Joe Wright’s Pride & Prejudice.

Jeff Daniels’ affable everyman appeal makes him one of the most accessible and versatile actors on screen today. He’s the perfect straight man, whether it’s to a flock of geese or a maniacal Jim Carrey. MVFF will tribute the acclaimed actor with an onstage interview on Closing Night, followed by a screening of Noah Baumbach’s THE SQUID & THE WHALE.

Spotlight on Felicity Huffman
The Mill Valley Film Festival will also spotlight a busy year for Felicity Huffman. Fresh off another rousing season of TV’s “Desperate Housewives” and starring in Duncan Tucker’s soon-to-be-a-hit film TRANSAMERICA, 2005 should be a triumph for Huffman. In her first starring role, portraying an emotionally frozen closeted transgendered individual in TRANSAMERICA, Huffman shows how successfully she can anchor a film. TRANSAMERICA will be screened after an on-stage interview with Felicity Huffman.

World Premieres of Feature Films
Always an exciting part of the Film Festival is the chance to see movies before anyone else does, as well as the chance to view films that may never make it to local movie houses. MVFF is proud to announce the world premiere of 15 feature length narrative and non-fiction films.

Features never before seen include Bobby Roth’s (JACK THE DOG, MVFF 01) BERKELEY a period piece about a clean-cut freshman who discovers sex, drugs and, of course, rock ‘n’ roll in 1968; Ryuichi Hiroki’s Girlfriend, SOMEONE please stop the world, a visually haunting character study of two women on a quest; Yuki Tanada’s Moon & CherrY, a darkly comic coming-of-ager about a nerdy college student who joins an erotic fiction-writing club; J.R. Helfinger’s NIJI NO SHITA NI, a lighthearted tale of a travel agent with an over-active imagination; and Brad Coley’s THE UNDESERVED, an improvised character study about murder in a small New England town. Three films from Bay Area filmmakers are also on the World Premiere roster; Jonathan Parker’s CALIFORNIANS, a hilarious adaptation of a Henry James novel with Noah Wyle and Illeana Douglas falling in love with the same woman; Rob Nilsson’s (SAMT/MVFF ’04, ATTITUDE/MVFF ’03) NEED, a collaboration with the Tenderloin Y Group about some nocturnal denizens rousted by a solar eclipse; and Chris Brown’s (DAUGHTERS/MVFF ’97) SCARED NEW WORLD, the interlocking tales of the intertwined lives of a group of young adults sharing an Oakland house.

World premiere documentaries include Edward A. Burger’s Amongst White Clouds, a quest for enlightenment in China’s remote Zhongnan Mountain area; and Heather Lyn MacDonald’s Been Rich all my Life, a dazzling look at sassy Harlem stage dancers who held their own against Cab Calloway and Duke Ellington in the Jazz Age. Local documentaries having their world premieres include David Brown’s Bridge so far, an unsettling - yet often funny - portrait of the 15-year debacle of rebuilding the Bay Bridge; Abby Ginzburg’s SOUL OF JUSTICE, a rousing profile in courage of United States District Court Judge Thelton Henderson; Stephen Olsson’s Sound of the Soul, a lively calliope of musicians at the annual Festival of World Sacred Music in Morocco; and Danny Scher and Jesse Block’s Brotherly JAZZ, a brilliant history of Philadelphia’s most acclaimed jazz siblings - Percy, Tootie and Jimmy Heath.

International Gleanings
Stories from around the world only help to reinforce the universality of human experience. This year’s highlights from the global cinema industry include Michel Deville’s THE ART OF BREAKING UP, a French bedroom farce with Emmanuelle Beart; Ahmet Ulucay’s BOATS OUT OF WATERMELON RINDS, a Turkish coming-of-ager; and the Vietnamese brother-sister directing team of Doan Minh Phuong and Doan Thanh Nghia’s Bride of Silence, a beautifully photographed drama of an ostracized woman and her illegitimate son.

Valley of the Docs
With the ever-increasing quality and popularity of documentary films, MVFF’s Valley of the Docs has expanded its selection of non-fiction work to include international masters of the form and new works by emerging directors. Mill Valley film festival-goers know that music plays a strong role in our program, and this year we focus on several great African-American music makers, including Donnie L. Betts’ portrait of the late jazz performer Oscar Brown, Jr., MUSIC IS MY LIFE, POLITICS MY MISTRESS along with the World Premiere of Jesse Block and Danny Scher’s BROTHERLY JAZZ about venerable jazz legends the Heath Brothers, and Gillian Grisman’s electrifying PRESS ON, charting the mighty rise of ‘sacred steel’ music from African American Churches to the high-octane talents of Robert Randolph and the Family Band. Other themes include Native American artists and environmental activists with Heather Rae’s TRUDELL and Roberta Grossman’s HOMELAND: FOUR PORTRAITS OF NATIVE ACTION. Politics, justice and social change are in the foreground with a tribute to the late Minnesota senator WELLSTONE! as well as the World Premiere of Abby Ginzberg’s THE SOUL OF JUSTICE: THELTON HENDERSON’S AMERICAN JOURNEY.

Not to be missed is David Zeiger’s unforgettable history of the Vietnam soldiers who opposed that war, SIR! NO SIR!, or the timely look at the making of a new Iraqi constitution in Maysoon Pachachi’s RETURN TO THE LAND OF WONDER. Political unrest in Peru is featured in Pamela Yates’ powerful STATE OF FEAR and in Bolivia with Kief Davidson’s and Richard Ladkani’s THE DEVIL’S MINER. The Spanish Civil War is revisted by the master of found footage Hungarian filmmaker, Peter Forgacs in his award winning EL PERRO NEGRO. Spirituality and religion are featured in the World Premiere of Edward A. Burger’s inspirational study of mountain-dwelling Buddhist Monks in AMONGST WHITE CLOUDS and closer to home, David Di Sabatino’s FRISBEE: THE LIFE AND DEATH OF A HIPPIE PREACHER, a sensitive portrait of a founder of the “Jesus Freak” movement. And in what will certainly be favorite for East Bay commuters, the World Premiere of David L Brown’s THE BRIDGE SO FAR unravels the saga of the desperately-needed and hopelessly-knotted reconstruction of our own Bay Bridge.

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