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The Mill Valley Film Festival #28

An Eclectic Mix

Last year's MVFF was an awkward affair to say the least. With the Sequoia Theater undergoing repairs from a collapsed roof, there were effectively no films that were screened in Mill Valley. Nevertheless, the festival soldiered on and screened numerous excellent films at the Rafael and the Regency Theater in San Rafael. With last year's challenges a distant memory, this year's festival promises to bring some of the most entertaining, intriguing, and delightful films that may (or may not) hit the silver screen.

To guide viewers in their festival selections, this year's MVFF has assigned each film to one of the following categories: "Valley of the Docs", "[email protected]", "World Cinema", "Children's Filmfest", "V(ision)fest", and "US Cinema". Below are a few selections of note from this year's festival:


World Cinema

Boats Out of Watermelon Rinds
Described as a Turkish The 400 Blows, Boats out of Watermelon Rinds follows young Recep who dreams of becoming a filmmaker. His bleak reality as a watermelon man's assistant contrasts starkly with his lofty dreams. Recep is accompanied in this dream by his close friend, Mehmet. Strapped for resources, cash, and any kind of support from their family, the duo tries to make a film projector of their own out of wood and a battery operated lamp. Director Ahmet Ulucay gives the audience an interesting coming of age story and a revealing look at Turkish culture.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Valley of the Docs

Amongst White Clouds
Director Edward A. Burger provides a revealing look into the world of reclusive Buddhist monks who occupy the Zhongnan Mountains in China. A scholar of Buddhism, Burger's stream of consciousness journey results in crossing paths with numerous enlightened, ascetic monks who struggle on a daily basis towards liberation from the sufferings that we all endure. Complimenting the sage words of the various monks Burger encounters are some awe-inspiring visuals of the Zhongnan Mountains.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Been Rich All My Life
One of the most inspiring films of the MVFF, Been Rich All my Life tells the delightful story of the "Silver Belles". This group of geriatric (but young at heart!) Harlem chorus girls are simply amazing. Most of them are pushing 90, yet still bring the house down with their dancing, energy, and joie de vivre. These stunning ladies worked alongside the greatest -- Cab Calloway, Duke Ellington, and Ella Fitzgerald, to name just a few. Truly, the Silver Belles redefine the phrase, "age is a state of mind". The Silver Belles are timeless.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

US Cinema

In Memory of My Father
I thought my family was screwed up. Thank goodness for films like In Memory of My Father that make most dysfunctional families look tame in comparison. "Dad" has just recently passed on and as per Dad's request, Chris (Christopher Jaymes) has agreed to assemble a camera crew and chronicle his father's death and the effects it has on the family. Filmed in a cinema verite style and with virtually everything improvised, In Memory of My Father is a darkly hysterical look at some of the most narcissistic, emotionally retarded, and bizarre offspring imagined. While technically we know nothing about these siblings' film producer father, we learn PLENTY just by seeing his kids behaving badly.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

The Squid and the Whale
Jeff Daniels has historically played the affable everyman. In a bold move, Daniels steps out of his comfort zone and plays a washed up, self absorbed novelist with a bloated sense of self importance. Daniel's Bernard Berkman is truly one of the most entertaining assholes seen on screen this year. The Squid and the Whale follows the divorce of Bernard and his wife Joan (wonderfully played by Laura Linney). While Bernard hasn't sold a novel in eons, Joan is finding success as a writer to the more than thinly veiled consternation of Bernard. In the middle of this marital strife are their two sons, Walt and Frank. What plays out is a coming of age story for both the parental units and their affected kids.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars


The Mill Valley Film Festival runs from October 6-16 at the Rafael Theater, Sequoia Theater, and the Throckmorton Theater.