Mill Valley Film Festival 2020

The show goes on.

Although not quite done, what a year it has been! Covid-19 has left most reeling and many grieving, while the death of George Floyd in May ignited universal righteous indignation and protests, and California has been on fire, literally. Several months into a worldwide pandemic, and just weeks away from one of the most highly anticipated elections of our lifetime, the Mill Valley Film Festival 2020 ushers in with some much needed artistic and entertainment relief. Where some other festivals have either postponed or cancelled altogether, or pivoted to only streaming their selections, the California Film Institute (CFI) is going with a hybrid approach, offering audiences the options for streaming online and/or drive-in screenings at the beautiful Lagoon Park/Marin Center in San Rafael, CA.

Bay Area resident and long-time MVFF patron, Cathy Rath, says she wasn’t sure that the annual festival would be a-go this year, given the state of things, or if they’d have much to offer. She was thrilled not only to know that the festival was happening and that there was a lot to choose from, but that there would be a chance to see some movies in a somewhat traditional way. “I haven’t seen a movie on a big screen since February. I never knew how much I would miss it and having that shared experience with an audience. Although I can’t sit in a theater with friends and strangers, I’m so excited for the retro drive-in adventure with the family.”

Now in its 43rd year and having to navigate the new abnormal with safety at the forefront, the festival organizers are determined to still present an “eleven-day, internationally acclaimed cinema event presenting a wide variety of new films from around the world in an engaged, community setting.” While there have, no doubt, had to be some adjustments, the festival can boast being able to maintain most of their beloved categories/programs in one form or another, including Family Films, Valley of the Docs, U.S. Cinema, World Cinema and Viva el Cine!, to name a few.

One of the CFI’s mainstay programs in recent years is Mind the Gap, with a focus on and commitment to gender, equity and inclusion. This year, that commitment takes center stage as highlighted in festival preview statement. Mark Fishkin, Executive Director/Founder of the California Film Institute and Zoë Elton, MVFF Director of Programming acknowledge that the challenges of the pandemic, Black Lives Matter and climate change have opened the door to a deeper commitment of Mind the Gap’s responsibilities as the world changes and evolves. Since its inception, Mind The Gap has embraced the intersectionality of its filmmakers and conversations within the fight for gender equity.

Elton proudly explains program goals and achievements. Mind the Gap offers a place for us to examine, learn, and create our collective ways forward in this changing world. And yes—we’re thrilled that we’ve surpassed our 50/50 by 2020 goal and hit 57% women directors across MVFF43, opening the door to the deeper work of applying what we’ve learned so far to a greater spectrum—women, BIPOCs, queer people, people with disabilities.”

Throughout the Mind the Gap program, there will be a slew of conversations and presentations, most notably a discussion regarding the Evolution of Black Women’s Roles Onscreen, and the Mind the Gap Actor of the Year Award to actor, producer, advocate, Viola Davis.

Then there are the many films of this year’s festivals. While there will be less or none of the usual red carpet arrivals of filmmakers and talent, there will be an array of films that made it in under the wire of Covid-19 shutdowns. Among them is “One Night in Miami,” starring Leslie Odom, Jr. and directed by Regina King,  “Jumbo,” “Ammonite,” a period piece featuring Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan, and “Nomadland,” a dramatic stunner starring Francis McDormand with early Oscar buzz for Best Picture. The festival is brimming with documentaries this year- “The Falconer,” “Coded Bias” and “Banksy Most Wanted” heading up the entries.

While there are limited tickets even for streaming, and some screenings are sold out, rush tickets may become available, and there are still many films and screening times available. The only way to purchase tickets is online. Go to the link below for more information. https://www.mvf

Paula has worked as a journalist/producer for outlets such as CBS Radio, ABC Radio, and a film and theater reviewer for the Detroit Metro Times. She currently lives in the San Francisco Bay Area working as a freelance journalist, website writer and documentary filmmaker.