With a multi-faceted Closing Night party in the Downtown Plaza Sunday night, the 40th Mill Valley Film Festival came to a close, wrapping a momentous birthday for the homegrown event that has long since put the 94941 on the global cinematic map.

In the four decades since Mill Valley resident Mark Fishkin launched the festival, it has grown exceedingly wise, displaying an almost eery ability to showcase films that end up garnering Academy Awards, including nine of the last 11 best picture recipients and last year’s real winner, Moonlight (and the would-be winner, La La Land). It’s also become incredibly attractive, regularly hosting appearances by an array of Hollywood actors and directors to receive tributes, spotlights and to accompany awards-worthy screenings.

That attraction has rarely been more vivid than the 2017 edition, as an array of some of the biggest names in Hollywood showcased their latest films and received tributes and spotlights on their work to date. This year’s list included actors Kristin Scott Thomas, Sean Penn, Holly Hunter,  Andrew Garfield, and directors Todd Haynes, Dee Rees, Joe Wright and Richard Linklater, among many more.

And for Closing Night, the spotlight was on Greta Gerwig’s directorial debut Lady Bird, which stars Satires Ronan as “Lady Bird,” a senior at a Catholic High school in Sacramento, desperate to leave as she navigates the confusing world of college applications and the complex relationships in her life. The event was also a Spotlight on Gerwig, a Sacramento native widely known for her work in Greenberg, No Strings Attached, Lola Versus, Frances Ha, Mistress America, Maggie’s Plan and last year’s MVFF Centerpiece film 20th Century Women. The event featured an onstage conversation with Gerwig, a screening of Lady Bird and the presentation of the MVFF Award. 

When that event ended, Gerwig and hundreds of MVFF attendees headed down to the completely transformed Downtown Plaza, featuring an array of food, a silent disco DJ. Around the corner, hometown favorites Huey Lewis & the News played a pair of shows at the Sweetwater Music Hall to Benefit the eventual restoration of the Sequoia Theatre, which has been the festival’s hub since the first years of its inception.

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