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The 27th Annual Mill Valley Film Festival

October 7 - 17th, 2004

California's longest-running fall film festival kicks off once again on October 7th. This year's festival offers feature films, documentaries, new media and video, and short films. Somewhere around 200 filmmakers will descend upon the North Bay for the eleven day festival.

The Mill Valley Film Festival website can be found at www.mvff.com, where you can find venue information as well as a list of all the films at the festival.

Here are a few of the must-sees:

Mission Movie (Una Pelicula de la Mision)
Set in San Francisco's most diverse neighborhood, Director Lise Swenson's film contains five intersecting tales. The characters are richly diverse, but an air of latent racism pervades their interactions with each other.

There are two central points in the film. The first is a mural depicting Latino culture, which a white artist, Mark, is trying to finish. However, some local Latino kids won't stop defacing the mural, so Mark needs the help of Roger, a locally born and raised artist who is less than thrilled about helping a white man paint his own people's cultural identity.

The second major issue is the house in which Mark lives with some roommates. The building is slated for demolition, and Mark and his roommates need to decide what to do. The people who live downstairs in the building are a Central American family who are also being forced out of the house. Can anything be done to curb the eviction?

Mission Movie is not without its faults, but it's an ambitious project that attempts to examine cultural differences and similarities in the diverse Mission district. And it's always fun to watch a movie that's filmed in a neighborhood with which you're familiar.

Wilderness Survival for Girls
Beautifully shot in the Colorado Rockies, Wilderness Survival for Girls is a coming-of-age suspense film in which three high school girls encounter a potentially dangerous stranger in a remote cabin. Because it's the middle of the night and he's in the middle of nowhere, the girls have no choice but to take the man hostage and wait the night out.

People tend to believe that girls generally have a rougher go at adolescence, and this film contains, in addition the main plot, many of the themes that make things so tough on teenage girls. Well-written dialogue and three complex female characters really flesh out these issues. Insecurity, sexuality, and competition are just a few of them.

Ganges: River to Heaven
An Indian soul is not set free until the body containing it is either cremated on the banks of the Ganges or it is submerged in its waters and set to drift. This film is an examination of the sacred river, and the movie is shot with a poetic beauty.

The Big Red One: The Reconstruction
Samuel Fuller, one of America's true film legends, saw his epic war film shortened by Lorimar studios just before its release in 1980. Now, seven years after Fuller's death, his finest work has been dutifully restored. Nearly fifty minutes have been given back to The Big Red One, raising its running time to just about 160 minutes.

Based on Fuller's own experiences in the second World War, this is the story of a young squad of soldiers being led around the world by the Sergeant (a fantastic Lee Marvin). North Africa, Sicily, D-Day -- The Big Red One touches them all.

If you've seen the original, this will be a treat. The film becomes more of a personal event, and even more of an anti-war offering from Fuller. And if you haven't seen the original, this is your opportunity to see one of the finest war films, actually, finest anti-war films ever made.