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October 5, 2004 2:00 AM
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Mill Valley Offers 150 Films including "Huckabees" and "Neverland"

Mill Valley Offers 150 Films including "Huckabees" and "Neverland"

by Brian Brooks









A scene from Mike Leigh's "Vera Drake," which will screen at the 27th Mill Valley Film Festival later this month.

Organizers of the Mill Valley Film Festival have released full details of their 27th edition, taking place October 7-17, north of San Francisco in Marin County, including more than 150 films and videos from 36 countries. Opening the festival are Marc Forster's biopic "Finding Neverland" and David O. Russell's dark comedy "I ♥ Huckabees."

Set in London in 1904 and starring Johnny Depp, Kate Winslet, Julie Christie, Radha Mitchell and Dustin Hoffman, "Finding Neverland" follows Scottish playwright James Barrie's creative journey to bring Peter Pan to life, from his first inspiration for the story up until the play's premiere at the Duke of York Theatre. "I ♥ Huckabees," starring Dustin Hoffman, Isabelle Huppert, Jude Law, Jason Schwartzman, Mark Wahlberg and Naomi Watts, centers on the sordid and silly conflicts between a corporate executive at a controversial box-store chain and his nemesis, an environmental activist; and two existential detectives and their nemesis, a French intellectual.

Slated Festival highlights include the world premiere of Patty Sharaf's "Citizen Stan," a documentary portrait about Stanley Sheinbaum, an influential figure who, as a private citizen, has brokered behind-the-scenes peace accords in Vietnam and with Yasser Arafat. Thirteen U.S. premieres are slated including local filmmaker Oleg Harencar's "Bloodlines," about an East Bay techie who returns to his Eastern European homeland in search of his birthmother; Melissa Painter's "Admission," a coming-of-age tale from a Bay Area native; Tomas Alfredson's "Four Shades of Brown," an omnibus of darkly, funny interlocking tales from Sweden; Zrinko Ogresta's "Here," a series of vignettes set in modern Croatia; Hideta Takahata's "Hotel Venus," a bittersweet tale of Japanese ex-pats in a Russian domicile in Vladivostock.

Eleven documentaries fill out the slate of films having their United States premiere: Doug Pray's "Red Diaper Baby," the hilarious concert film of local monologist Josh Kornbluth; Bay Area filmmaker and musician Markus James' "Timbuktoubab," a chronicle of the guitarist's journey to Mali; Patricio Guzman's "Salvador Allende," an eloquent essay on Chile's first democratically elected Socialist president; and Mitra Farahani's "Zohre and Manouchehr," a glimpse into the increasingly liberal attitudes towards women's sexuality in contemporary Iran.

Also on tap during the event are tributes to documentarian Albert Maysles, British filmmaker Mike Leigh, and acclaimed actress Gena Rowlands. The Leigh tribute will include a screening of his latest film, "Vera Drake," which premiered recently in Venice. Closing the event will be Dan Harris' "Imaginary Heroes" and Antoine Fuqua's musical documentary "Lightning in a Bottle," which captures a night of music and magic at Radio City when legendary performers - including Buddy Guy, Solomon Burke and B.B. King, John Fogerty, Bonnie Raitt, Mos Def and India.Arie - joined forces for a once-in-a-lifetime concert to pay tribute to the blues. "Heroes," starring Sigourney Weaver, "peels back the layers of an ordinary American family to reveal that nothing is as it seems. When a shocking tragedy sets the Travis family on an ironic course of self-discovery, the secrets that threaten to divide them ultimately bring them closer together."

"Mill Valley with its acclaimed restaurants and gorgeous country setting provides a delightful backdrop to the country's largest fall film festival and one of the world's premiere film events," commented festival executive director Mark Fishkin in a statement. "But food, wine and nature do not a great film festival make. We have again combed the globe searching for pieces from the brightest new talents and daring works from old masters. We have listened to our audiences and programmed works that are edgy, but entertaining; films that light up the screen, but challenge your ideas; and movies that make you sit up in your seat and say 'wow!' In short we are pleased to again offer another stellar year at the Mill Valley Film Festival." The festival takes place at the CinéArts @ Sequoia, 25 Throckmorton Avenue in Mill Valley, and the Christopher B. Smith Rafael Film Center, 1118 Fourth Street in San Rafael. Mill Valley is Northern California's oldest film festival.

[ For more information and a full line up, please visit http://www.mvff.com. ]

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