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34th Mill Valley Film Festival Wraps Up

34th Mill Valley Film Festival Wraps Up

Mill Valley may sit just north of San Francisco in Marin County, but its annual film festival proves once again that it’s not too far from Hollywood. The 34th Mill Valley Film Festival closed Sunday after eleven days of screenings and appearances from international stars. The event opened with two films: “Jeff Who Lives at Home” and “Albert Nobbs;” it closed with “The Artist.”

In between, the festival held 178 screenings with 30 official premieres. Audience Awards were awarded to “The Artist,” “Albert Nobbs,” “Girlfriend,” “Pariah,” “The Lady,” “The Welcome,” and “Voices From The Shadows.” Also recognized with awards were Glenn Close and Michelle Yeoh, as well as newcomers Elizabeth Olsen and Ezra Miller.

Full festival release follows with winners:

Oscar® Buzz, Distribution Buzz and a live Worldwide Simulcast:
34th Mill Valley Film Festival Takes on the World!

Glenn Close, Michelle Yeoh, Gaston Kaboré,
Ezra Miller, Elizabeth Olsen Among Those Honored

SAN RAFAEL, Calif. (October 17, 2011) — The California Film Institute wrapped its 34th Mill Valley Film Festival (October 6–16, 2011) after a very successful 11-day run, once again proving itself a world-class event, as top-notch industry participants joined an impressive roster of international stars whose newest works premiered alongside talented newcomers. Honoring actors Glenn Close, Michelle Yeoh and Burkina Faso director Gaston Kaboré—the revered godfather of African Cinema—the festival cemented its place as a significant venue for launching and celebrating great work by major film artists. From two very different, but equally great Opening Night films, Jeff Who Lives at Home, with the directors, brother Jay and Mark Duplass appearing in two Mill Valley Q and A’s explaining their distinct style of filmmaking, and Albert Nobbs, with the film’s star Glenn Close and director Rodrigo Garcia in attendance in San Rafael talking about shooting a period piece in record time, through to the Closing Night film The Artist with the film’s director Michel Hazanavicius regaling the audience about making a black-and-white silent movie in 2011, festival attendees delighted in the discovery of local and independent features, while also getting early looks at the most prominent higher-profile, Oscar®-track films.

MVFF Audience Award Winners
The 34th Mill Valley Film Festival featured 178 screenings representing 57 countries, with 30 official premieres and more than 50% (over 90) sold out screenings and events. Total attendance to the festival was over 40,000 for this year. MVFF Audiences enjoyed voting for their favorite MVFF selections. After the ballots were counted, The Artist won the Audience Favorite Award. Albert Nobbs won the Audience Favorite World Cinema Award. Girlfriend and Pariah tied for the Audience Favorite US Feature Award. The Lady garnered the Audience Favorite Active Cinema Award. The Welcome won the Audience Favorite Documentary Award, along with Voices From the Shadows being voted as the Audience Favorite International Documentary Award.

BAFTA LA (British Academy of Film and Television Arts Los Angeles) annually presents an award to an exceptional short film in collaboration with the Mill Valley Film Festival. The winner this year was The Telegram Man directed by James F. Khehtie, with Certificates of Excellence going to Out of Erasers by Erik Rosenlund and The Wind is Blowing on My Street by filmmaker Saba Riazi.

Tribute, Spotlight and Centerpiece Events
MVFF Awards were given this year to actor Glenn Close, who was honored for an outstanding body of work, and African director Gaston Kaboré in special Tribute events. In a Spotlight program featuring a presentation of her new film The Lady, Michelle Yeoh, accompanied by the film’s internationally esteemed director Luc Besson, was recognized for her artistry in the service of justice and human rights for her portrayal of imprisoned Burmese pro-democracy activist and Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi. After an extensive and celebrated television career, director Simon Curtis transfixed the audience with his first cinematic effort, My Week With Marilyn that was a Centerpiece event of the festival.

MVFF Awards were also give in Spotlight events this year honoring two young rising stars that included a look at their latest films— Ezra Miller (We Need To Talk about Kevin) and Elizabeth Olsen (Martha Marcy May Marlene)—who each bring an intensity and nuance to roles that establish them as stars of the next generation to follow. Anton Yelchin and Felicity Jones, stars of Like Crazy, who appeared at their film’s screening, were further examples of the abundance of young talent on display at this year’s festival.

Distribution Buzz
Onstage last Friday, Australian director Stephan Elliott (Priscilla, Queen of the Desert) wowed his audience with a hilarious stand-up introduction at the World Premiere of A Few Best Men, joined onstage by star Kris Marshall and producers Laurence Malkin and Share Stallings. The irreverent romance kept the audience in stitches from start to finish, boding well for US distributors on the lookout for the next big comedy. Other festival faves with distribution buzz: the North American premiere of actor-turned director Martin Donovan’s Collaborator; and the World Premiere of John Roberts’ Day of the Flowers, with Roberts and writer Eirene Houston presenting to sold-out audiences. Documentaries that had a strong festival showing and interest in domestic distribution included the US Premiere of Dolphin Boy and the World Premiere of Heist: Who Stole the American Dream? that in a stroke of synchronicity sold out 3 screenings while real-life political action in support of “Occupy Wall Street” was taking place half a block away from the Christopher B. Smith Rafael Film Center where it was playing.

From Tehran To Java, From Istanbul To San Rafael: MVFF Connects With Live Audiences Worldwide
In a festival first, MVFF premiered One Through Love, an event that played live to audiences world wide: participants from as far afield as Java, Istanbul and Tehran joined the MVFF audience via TV and a live webcast for filmmaker Stephen Olssen’s latest. The film was simultaneously projected for the packed house at the Smith Rafael Film Center, had a national simulcast across the US by LINK TV, and a simultaneous, world-wide webcast of the film and the post-film discussion with Rumi experts. Reports of audiences logging in from as far away as Tehran brought the world together in ways that director Stephen Olssen compared to the Beatles “All You Need Is Love” world broadcast 44 years ago: “whether it’s the Beatles or Rumi, the 13th century poet who is a bestseller in the US, the message is the same: we’re united by love.”

Active Cinema Program/New Movies Lab Continue to Inspire
The Mill Valley Film Festival’s Active Cinema program continued with its commitment to explore, engage and transform audiences featuring screenings of inspiring films followed by discussions. Of the 15 Active Cinema films programmed for this year’s festival, two received MVFF Audience Awards. Active Cinema panel sessions such as “Can A Film Make A Difference?” with actress Michelle Yeoh (The Lady), Pamela Yates (director, Granito: How To Nail A Dictator), Ron Yerxa (producer, Cold Mountain, Little Miss Sunshine), moderator writer and critic Michael Fox talking about innovative ways, means and resources to get their work seen, heard and acted upon, along with New Movies Lab panels including “The State of the (Independent Film) Industry” with Albert Berger (Bona Fide Productions), Marcus Hu (Strand Releasing), Ed Arentz (Music Box Films), Annie Roney (ro*co films) and Stephan Elliot, director (Priscilla, Queen of the Desert; A Few Best Men) drew strong interest.

Backstage Drama
MVFF programmers worked long days and nights pre-festival to help Chinese indie director Gao Xiongjie (The Butcher’s Wife (Wangliang’s Ideal)) obtain a visa to attend the festival, eventually getting support from a California senator in a last-ditch and last-minute attempt to obtain official support for his US visit. While daKAH, launched a successful $7,500 Kickstarter campaign to bring the world’s first Hip Hop Orchestra and the subject of the highly acclaimed film, Hip Hop Maestro by Christine Lee, to bring 31 musicians up from Los Angeles up to perform at the MVFF Closing Night Gala, where they moved the crowd with an amazing show and 2 encores.

Children’s FilmFest
Clowns, Gnomes, Anime, Elmo—the MVFF Children’s FilmFest, now in its 17th year of programming, had it all. Bay Area families came out in force for the Children’s Film Fest that included four films, a circus parade, two parties, and a clown workshop. Then, nearly 3000 students from kindergarten to college participated in CFI Education’s Mill Valley Film Festival programs. Afternoon school screenings with the filmmakers were held at the Smith Rafael Film Center as well as filmmakers visiting schools all over the Bay Area to show clips of their films and to talk to students about filmmaking. The MVFF Children’s FilmFest was made possible by the generous support of The Academy of Motion Pictures and Sciences (A.M.P.A.S.) and Bellam Storage and Boxes.

Live Music Events
The festival has a long history of presenting top live musical entertainment that ties in with special films, and this year was no exception. To celebrate the US Premiere of Play Like a Lion: The Legacy of Maestro Ali Akbar Khan, MVFF presented the “Play Like a Lion: LIVE” concert which celebrated Ali Akbar Khan’s life with an emotional performance by his son Alam Khan, who’s relationship with his father is the subject of the film. This was followed by a unique, one-time musical collaboration as surprise guest musicians Bob Weir and Rob Wasserman joined Alam Khan and his group for a musical jam based on an Ali Akba Khan classical raga.

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