Founded in 1978 by California Film Institute Director Mark Fishkin, the Festival is well known for the quality of its programming. It has established an impressive track record for launching new films and new filmmakers, and has earned a reputation as a filmmakers’ festival by offering a high-profile, prestigious, noncompetitive environment for celebrating the best in independent and world cinema.
Each year, the 11-day Festival sells over 40,000 tickets and welcomes more than 200 filmmakers from around the world. Festival sections include: World Cinema; U.S. Cinema; Valley of the Docs; Children’s FilmFest; 5@5, a daily shorts program; and Active Cinema, our activist films initiative. Gala celebrations, tributes to actors and filmmakers, workshops, panels and seminars, as well as opportunities to mingle with filmmakers in the spectacular setting of the San Francisco Bay Area are just a few of the reasons Screen International named Mill Valley one of its top 10 U.S. film festivals.
The Festival is also an important industry resource, both for its emphasis on films that have not yet secured U.S. distribution and for fall launches and northern California Academy Award® campaigns. The Bay Area continues to be a significant market for independent and international film, and MVFF consistently provides a forum for introducing new films to West Coast audiences.
Presented by the California Film Institute, the 36th Festival will take place at the CinéArts@Sequoia and 142 Throckmorton Theatre (Mill Valley), Century Cinema (Corte Madera) and the Christopher B. Smith Rafael Film Center (San Rafael). The non-profit California Film Institute celebrates and promotes film as art and education through the presentation of the Mill Valley Film Festival and year-round exhibitions at the Christopher B. Smith Rafael Film Center, and by building the next generation of filmmakers and audiences through CFI Education, which reaches over 6,500 under-served students in the San Francisco Bay Area.
The Smith Rafael Film Center annually serves approximately 150,000 attendees.
Part of my job as the Membership Manager of the Mill Valley Film Festival is to stop into either of our filmmaker lounges and talk to members. The converted art gallery space in Mill Valley is filled with oversized leather arm chairs, chocolate, fresh fruit (which is a rare thing at a festival), and plenty of wine (we are in Marin after all). It’s a tough job but someone has got to do it!
I was talking to a member today over my glass of wine and she commented that the reason why she loved the Mill Valley Film Festival so much is because she could submerge herself into so many different cultures, all in a day. She described her early morning trip to a Bolivian circus on a thrilling rescue mission in “The Lion Ark” and then off to France to watch two plucky young girls find friendship and shenanigans in “The Dandelions.”
It’s true. A film festival is not like watching a movie on your couch with a bowl full of microwave popcorn or even a trip to the multiplex. It’s an experience. Days filled with subtitles, lines, ballots, volunteers in matching t-shirts and the most wonderful of all: Q&As. With a 11-day festival, my metaphorical passport will be full.