MVFF41 has garnered appearance by Rosamund Pike, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Mahershala Ali, Timothée Chalamet, Carey Mulligan, Amandla Stenberg and Amy Ryan, as well as directors Barry Jenkins, Alfonso Cuarón, Matthew Heineman and Peter Farrelly. 

Scenes from some of the major films featured in the 41st Annual Mill Valley Film Festival. Courtesy images.
As organizers of the 41st Mill Valley Film Festival trickled out their marquee screenings, events and appearances over the past few weeks, it steadily became clear that, more than four decades since Mill Valley resident Mark Fishkin launched it, the showcase’s reputation remains on the rise.

MVFF has continued in recent years to display an almost eery ability to showcase films that end up garnering Academy Awards, screening 10 of the last 11 best picture recipients, including 2017’s winner, Moonlight, as well as that year’s would-be winner, La La Land. So it comes as little surprise that several of the 2018’s most buzzed-about films are putting Mill Valley front and center on their festival circuit.

“Every film, from opening night to closing night, and the spotlights and tributes, are features of extraordinary depth and very contemporary,” says ​​MVFF founder and executive director Mark Fishkin. 

Opening Night: A Private War & Green Book – Oct. 4


MVFF41, set for Oct. 4-14, will host on its Opening Night the U.S. premiere for Green Book, director Peter Farrelly’s Viggo Mortensen- and Mahershala Ali-starring film about classically trained Black jazz piano prodigy Dr. Don Shirley and his white chauffeur and bodyguard Tony Lip as they embark on a 1962 concert tour of the American South.

​Coupled with the previously announced Opening Night screening of A Private War, acclaimed documentary filmmaker Matthew Heineman‘s first narrative feature film, which stars Rosamund Pike as the late American-born British war reporter Marie Colvin, MVFF looks likely to maintain its reputation as an event with a consistent slate of Academy Award contenders.


Both Farrelly, best known as the director, along with his brother Bob, who helmed comedy classics like There’s Something About Mary and Dumb and Dumber, and Ali, who won the Academy Award as Best Supporting Actor for his performance in Barry Jenkins’ Oscar Best Picture winner, Moonlight are scheduled to attend to Green Book screenings, as well as the Opening Night Gala at the Marin Country Mart. 
The Opening Night Gala, set for 9pm-12am, features food from Belcampo, Big Jim’s BBQ, Fiorello’s Artisan Gelato, Johnny Doughnuts, Pizza Antica, El Huarache Loco, Farmshop, Wise Sons Bagelry, Fisher’s Cheese & Wine, and Sol Food, refreshing beverages provided by BevMo, Bartenders Unlimited, Lagunitas Brewing Company and Equator Coffee, and a chance to dance the night away to live music from Notorious, DJ Rich Factor and the Crackerjack DJs.

​Pike, Heineman, Ali and Farrelly are expected to appear.  MORE OPENING NIGHT INFO.

Here are the trailers for the Opening Night films:

Spotlight: Carey Mulligan & Wildlife – Oct. 5


Scheduled for Friday, Oct. 5, Wildlife, actor Paul Dano’s directorial debut about a family in 1960s Montana from the viewpoint of a teenage boy observing the gradual dissolution of his parents’ marriage, is MVFF41’s first Spotlight event. Adapted by Dano and Zoe Kazan from Richard Ford’s novel of the same name, Wildlife stars Carey Mulligan (DriveShameThe Great GatsbyMudbound), who last attended MVFF in 2015 as the star of Closing Night film Suffragette, as “Jeanette, a complex woman whose self-determination and self-involvement disrupts the values and expectations of a 1960s nuclear family” as her husband Jerry, played by Jake Gyllenhaal, joins the effort to fight a wildfire near the Canadian border. The film opens in theaters Oct. 19.

The screening will be accompanied by an MVFF Spotlight event highlighting the careers of both Dano (Little Miss Sunshine, There Will Be Blood, 12 Years A Slave) and Mulligan featuring an onstage conversation with both to explore “the director-actor relationship, and how they work together to distill the anatomy of the creative process that leads to great onscreen performances. The evening will also feature a presentation of the MVFF Award to them “in acknowledgement of the creative collaboration between Dano and Mulligan.” Mulligan was also the subject of a Spotlight event in 2015. MORE INFO.

Tribute to Paweł Pawlikowski & Cold War – Oct. 5


Paweł Pawlikowski has garnered a reputation for doing things his own way. He began his career in 1990, crafting BBC-commissioned documentaries around Eastern Europe. His first two feature films received top accolades at the BAFTA Awards: Last Resort (2000) won the Carl Foreman Award for the Most Promising Newcomer, and My Summer of Love(2005) took home the prestigious Alexander Korda Award for Best British Film. Following The Woman in the Fifth (2011) starring MVFF 2017 Tributee Kristin Scott Thomas, Pawlikowski took a brief hiatus after the sudden death of his wife.

In 2013, Pawlikowski delved into his past and re-surfaced with Ida, which would go on to win awards at every major festival, including the Oscarâ for Best Foreign Language Film. His latest film, Cold War, explores the dynamic of his parents’ love affair during the Soviet Era and won the Best Director prize at Cannes. MVFF’s tribute to Pawlikowski includes a screening of Cold War and the presentation of the MVFF Award followed by a reception at the Outdoor Art Club in Mill Valley. MORE INFO.

Beautiful Boy feat. Timothée Chalamet, Amy Ryan & director Felix van Groeningen – Oct. 6


Culling from the bestselling memoirs of both father and son David and Nic Sheff, Oscar-nominated director Felix van Groeningen’s (The Broken Circle Breakdown) English-language debut is a kaleidoscopic and moving portrait of an American family coping with addiction.Frequent Rolling Stone contributor David (Steve Carell) sees his teenage son Nic’s (an unforgettable Timothée Chalamet, Call Me by Your Name, MVFF 2017) marijuana use as harmless experimentation until he begins to spiral out of control on heroin and crystal meth. What follows is an alternately inspiring and unflinching look at a family as it begins the long cycle of rehab and relapse, hope and dread.

​Filmed in San Francisco and Marin, Beautiful Boy features a diverse soundtrack which includes John Lennon, Nirvana, and Sigur Rós, and outstanding supporting performances from Maura Tierney and Amy Ryan as Nic’s maternal figures.
Chalamet, Ryan and Groeningen will all appear at the screening. MORE INFO.

The Parting Glass feat. Anna Paquin, Dennis O’Hare and Director Stephen Moyer – Oct. 6


With the North American premiere of The Parting Glass, MVFF41 has a treat for diehard fans of True Blood, as one of the stars, Stephen Moyer directs True Blood costars Anna Paquin – his wife – and Denis O’Hare (American Horror Story), who wrote the screenplay, for this personal journey into one family’s struggles with grief while on a road trip. Cynthia Nixon costars. Moyer, Paquin and O’Hare will attend the Oct. 6 screening.​

​The film is the story of a suicide and how it ripples and tears through a family – testing their bonds to each other and their memories. The family gathers in Missouri, where Colleen (Paquin), now dead, was last living. Her brother, Danny (O’Hare) and his two sisters, Mare (Cynthia Nixon) and Al (Melissa Leo) meet up with their father, Tommy (Ed Asner), and their sister’s estranged husband, Karl (Rhys Ifans), and they set out on an odyssey. Together, they attempt to piece together Colleen’s last moments and to make sense of her death. MORE INFO.

Spotlight: Boy Erased & Joel Edgerton – Oct. 7


In a Spotlight event, MVFF41 honors actor-director-writer-producer Joel Edgerton, who has been slowly burning up big and small screens since 1995 in a range of diverse projects (Star Wars Episodes II and III, Warrior, Zero Dark Thirty, The Great Gatsby, Animal Kingdom, Black Mass, Midnight Special) building to leading man status in recent projects Loving (MVFF39), It Comes at Night, and Red Sparrow. His first foray into directing, The Gift, landed him a nomination by the Directors Guild of America for Outstanding Directing. Boy Erased is his second feature as director, already a certain shoo-in for accolades this awards season.  

Edgerton sits for a Q&A at the event and a screening of Boy Erased, which tells the story of a teenage son of a Baptist preacher who finds himself at a gay conversion camp after a fellow student maliciously outs him to his family. Based on true events, Nicole Kidman, Lucas Hedges, and Russell Crowe deliver astonishing performances as the divided family in Joel Edgerton’s elliptical coming-of-age tale, in which he also stars as the fiery camp director. The screening and Q&A will be followed by a reception at Outdoor Art Club in Mill Valley. MORE INFO.

Spotlight: Amandla Stenberg & The Hate U Give – Oct. 7


Actress and activist Amandla Stenberg has been on the rise since her turn as Rue in The Hunger Games. All of 19 years, Stenberg has made her mark in movies (Columbiana, Rio 2, As You Are, Everything, Everything), television (Sleepy Hollow, Mr. Robinson) music (she’s released two albums as half of the group Honeywater and made a cameo in Beyoncé’s Lemonade).

​The Spotlight event includes a Q&A, a screening of The Hate U Give and a presentation of the MVFF Award, followed by a reception at the Outdoor Art Club in Mill Valley. MORE INFO.

Centerpiece: Roma – Oct. 8

Alfonso Cuarón, best known as the director of such stalwart films as Children of Men, Y Tu Mamá También and Gravity, for which he won an Academy Award for Best Director, brings Roma, “a love letter to the Mexico City of his youth” and “an intensely personal and profoundly moving canvas of humanity” that “depicts with stunning vividness the tale of a family in 1970 and the housekeeper who is its emotional center.

It’s Cuarón’s first Mexican film since his breakout Y Tu Mamá También, which screened at MVFF in 2001). Set in 1970, Roma centers on Cleo (played by Yalitza Aparicio), the indigenous housekeeper to a large Mexico City family. With remarkable attention to detail, Cuarón captures the energy and textures of his youth, from the movie palaces and slums to the affluent rancheros and crowded hospitals. As Cleo faces her own personal crisis, we also see a country beset with natural disasters and civil unrest. But through it all is the bonding she experiences with three generations of women she works for in a story where compassion, loyalty, and love can transcend differences in class and culture. It’s an emotional epic, filmed (by Cuarón himself) in beautiful black and white with hat tips to Renoir and Fellini. 

The Centerpiece event features an appearance by Cuarón, who with participate in a Q&A and attend a post-event celebration at the Elks Lodge in San Rafael. MORE INFO.

Kannapolis: A Moving Portrait – Oct. 10

MVFF41 organizers have also unveiled a unique screening of Kannapolis: A Moving Portrait, a look at life in the Southeast during a period of unprecedented change – from the Great Depression through the post WWII manufacturing boom, as seen through the eyes of photographer and filmmaker H. Lee Waters. The screening, set for Oct. 10 at the Lark Theatre, will feature live musical accompaniment by violinist, fiddler and singer-songwriter Jenny Scheinman, guitarist and singer-songwriter Robbi Fulks and multi-instrumentalist Robbie Gjersoe.

Bay Area native Finn Taylor’s film “invites us into the captivating visual world of H. Lee Waters, who documented over 118 small towns in the southeast between 1936-42. Waters’s films are of regular people going about their lives – mill workers streaming out of factories, a mother and daughter dancing on a dirt road, an old man reading a war-time headline, children racing in slow motion toward a huge wooden teeter totter.

Scheinman and Taylor have re-edited these images to Scheinman’s music, to create the film, which premiered at the National Gallery at the Smithsonian and the Metropolitan Museum of Art and is touring the U.S. through 2019. His most recent feature film, Unleashed, won six audience awards, at festivals across the country, including MVFF39. MORE INFO.

Spotlight on Karyn Kusama & Destroyer – Oct 10


Director, writer and producer Karyn Kusama is known to many as the force behind such films as Girlfight, Aeon Flux and Jennifer’s Body. Her latest creation, Destroyer, may throw viewers for a loop, as she places legendary actress Nicole Kidman at the center of an LA noir thriller, with Kidman delivering one of her most extraordinary, transformative performances to date as Erin Bell, a detective who’s forced to confront the demons that destroyed her past. 

The screening will be followed by a Spotlight event in which Kusama will sit for a Q&A and a presentation of the MVFF Award. Kusama has steadfastly built a compelling career of remarkable films since she burst on to the festival scene with in 2000, taking both the Director’s Prize and Grand Jury Prize at Sundance and the Prix de la Jeunesse at Cannes for Girlfight. MORE INFO.

Spotlight on Richard E. Grant & Can You Ever Forgive Me? – Oct. 10


With a résumé totaling over 80 films and television programs, there’s very little South African-British actor, screenwriter, director, author, and perfumier Richard E. Grant hasn’t accomplished in his nearly 40-year career. Coming to focus in the public eye in the cult hit Withnail and I in 1987, Grant’s career as a go-to character actor has continued apace in a wide array of both studio and independent films: Henry & June, L.A. Story, The Player, The Age of Innocence, The Portrait of a Lady, Spice World,Gosford Park, Jackie, Logan, Game of Thrones, to name but a few. Can You Ever Forgive Me? is Grant’s most recent release before taking up a lightsaber in the next episode of Star Wars.

The Spotlight event will feature an onstage conversation with Richard E. Grant will sit for a Q&A and receive a MVFF Award, followed by reception at Outdoor Art Club in Mill Valley. MORE INFO.

Spotlight: Maggie Gyllenhaal & The Kindergarten Teacher – Oct. 12


An Oct. 12th event gives the Spotlight treatment to Maggie Gyllenhaal, whose commanding body of work, including over 30 films and 11 televised movies and series, can be seen as nothing less than fearless. Ever since her sexy and outrageous breakout role in 2002’s Secretary, Gyllenhaal has crafted singular and unforgettable characters in AdaptationConfessions of a Dangerous Mind, Mona Lisa Smile, Happy Endings, Sherrybaby, The Dark Knight, her Academy Award-nominated turn in Crazy Heart, Hysteria, Frank, HBO’s The Deuce, and many more. Her latest work in Sara Colangelo’s The Kindergarten Teacher is already drawing raves for the actress’ gusty and daring skill.

In one of her finest turns to date, Maggie Gyllenhaal plays a sensitive kindergarten teacher who notices an uncanny knack for poetry in one of her students. When she attempts to nurture the child’s rare gift, her dedication sparks concern from both the child’s family and her own in this arresting, thoughtful drama. Gyllenhall will sit for a Q&A and receive a MVFF Award. MORE INFO.

Closing Night: If Beale Street Could Talk & Director Barry Jenkins – Oct. 14


In arguably the year’s most anticipated film, Academy Award winner Barry Jenkins follows his iconic Moonlight (MVFF 2016) with a poetic, astonishingly realized adaptation of James Baldwin’s novel about a pregnant 19-year-old woman in 1970s Harlem who fights to free her innocent husband from jail before the birth of their child. Jenkins is expected to appear at the screening.

Born and raised in Miami, Fla., Jenkins made his feature film debut, Medicine for Melancholy,  which was hailed as one of the best films of 2009 by The New York Times and received several Independent Spirit and Gotham Award nominations. Jenkins along with playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney received an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay for Moonlight, which won Best Picture at both the Oscars and the Golden Globes (Drama).

Jenkins recently worked on an adaptation of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead for television, and he’s writing a script for a coming of age drama based on the life of the first American Female Olympic boxing champ Clarissa “T-Rex” Shields. Jenkins, who currently lives in Los Angeles, is a curator at the Telluride Film Festival and a United States Artists Smith Fellow. MORE INFO.

The 411: The 41st Mill Valley Film Festival is Oct. 4-14 at venues in Mill Valley, San Rafael, Corte Madera and Larkspur. MORE INFO & TIX.