The 46th Mill Valley Film Festival capped a 11 days of films, panels, parties, and musical performances at its annual autumn showcase, drawing over 30,000 attendees in person where American Fiction, Rustin, The Taste of Things and Radical took home the festival’s audience awards this year.
Christopher Zalla’s Radical, about a teacher in a Mexican border town full of neglect, corruption, and violence starring Eugenio Derbez (CODA) was the MVFF Overall Audience Favorite. Cord Jefferson’s American Fiction and George C. Wolfe’s Rustin shared the US Cinema audience win. American Fiction was also the winner of last month’s TIFF People’s Choice Award at the Toronto International Film Festival, one of the best bellwether’s for success at the Oscars for a Best Picture nomination.
Trân Ang Húng sumptuous The Taste of Things, starring Juliette Binoche and Benoît Magimel, captured the audience award for World Cinema and is France’s official selection for the International Feature Film Oscar. Other winners included Will Parrinello’s Water for Life (Documentary) and Billy Luther’s Frybread Face and Me (Family).
Radical is set to open theatrically from Pantelion Films on November 3, Rustin will be in select theaters on November 3 and on Netflix November 17, American Fiction hits select theaters December 15 and expands on December 22 from Amazon MGM Studios and Orion Pictures, and The Taste of Things releases February 9, 2024 from IFC Films after an Oscar-qualifying run in December.
The Festival screened 147 films representing 41 countries, including 56 premieres, 85 features, and 62 shorts; 45% of all films across the 2023 Festival were directed by women. Additionally, MVFF Education reached over 5,600 students across the US with virtual programming, in-person screenings, and school visits in Marin County, San Francisco, and the East Bay.
“This year feels like a watershed moment in cinema, where filmmakers have embraced the obstacles of these crazy times—delays in shooting, for instance—as a way to mature the work and the creative process. It’s a time of discovery and creative innovation. There is a boldness and astuteness in works ranging from short films (The Monster of Lake Merritt!) to docs (Adrift!) to features (The Zone of Interest!) worldwide,” commented MVFF and MTG Director of Programming Zoë Elton. “And: the word most heard at the return of the Mind the Gap Summit? Inspiring! MTG proves itself an intersection point for filmmakers and funders and community where ideas and experiences—and inspiration—flow. It’s like equity in action. Through the films that we curate, the conversations we inspire, the MTG Awardees—this year, Dr Jimmeka Anderson of Black Girls Film Camp, British director/writer Emerald Fennell, innovator/artist Lynn Hershman Leeson, and MTG Creation Prize recipient Lila Avilés—Mind the Gap is proof that positive change is happening.”
Opening Night, Thursday, October 5, MVFF returned to its roots as a heavyweight champion of independent filmmaking with the North American premiere of renowned actor Jack Huston’s (Kill Your Darlings, American Hustle) extraordinary writing/directing debut Day of the Fight featuring an all-star cast including Michael Pitt, Ron Perlman, Joe Pesci, and Nicolette Robinson, with Huston in attendance. Extraordinary in-person conversations continued throughout the festival and featured such luminaries as writer/director Cord Jefferson, whose smart comedy American Fiction shined as an MVFF Centerpiece Spotlight Presentation on Wednesday, October 11. Alongside, Director Sofia Coppola brought us her hotly anticipated Priscilla, based on Priscilla Presley’s best-selling memoir. Jefferson was honored with the MVFF Award for Breakthrough Directing, while Coppola received the MVFF Award for Filmmaking. MVFF46 also presented Jonathan Glazer’s 2023 Cannes Grand Prix Winner, The Zone of Interest, followed by an insightful, sobering onstage conversation featuring lead actor Christian Friedel.
The noteworthy conversations continued with MVFF Directors Night on Friday, October 13, with writer/director Erica Tremblay, with her moving narrative debut Fancy Dance, set on the Seneca-Cayuga reservation in Oklahoma and starring Lily Gladstone (The Unknown Country, MVFF45); and acclaimed Academy Award-winning documentary filmmaking duo Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin (The Rescue, MVFF 2021), who returned to MVFF with their narrative directorial debut, the inspirational Nyad starring Jodie Foster and Annette Bening.
MVFF46 featured several Spotlights and Tributes throughout the Festival. This year’s Spotlight programs included five-time Tony award-winning director and DGA award recipient George C. Wolfe, who presented the powerful Rustin; and acclaimed writer and director Jeff Nichols for The Bikeriders; Wolfe and Nichols were honored with the MVFF Award for Directing; and Academy Award-winning filmmaker Emerald Fennell(Promising Young Woman, MVFF43) received the Mind the Gap Award for Filmmaker of the Year with the beautifully wicked Saltburn. This year’s Tribute programs included Academy-Award nominated writer-director Todd Haynes and powerhouse producer Christine Vachon who received the MVFF Award: Lifetime Achievements for Collaboration in celebration of their decades-long partnership in conjunction with a screening of their newest work, May December; and the Bay Area’s own Lynn Hershman Leeson who received the Mind the Gap Award: Lifetime Achievements – Visionary Artist Award before a screening of four short films under the collective title Cyborgian Rhapsody.
FULL LIST OF MVFF 2023 AUDIENCE FAVORITES
MVFF Overall Audience Favorite
Audience Favorite | US Cinema (tie)
George C. Wolfe
Audience Favorite | World Cinema
THE TASTE OF THINGS (La Passion de Dodin Bouffant)
Trân Ang Húng
Audience Favorite | Documentary
WATER FOR LIFE
Audience Favorite | Family
FRYBREAD FACE AND ME
Audience Favorite | Mind the Gap
A DOUBLE LIFE (documentary)
FANCY DANCE (narrative)
Audience Favorite | ¡Viva el cine!
SKIN OF GLASS (Pele de Vidro) (documentary)
SOCIETY OF THE SNOW (La Sociedad de la Nieve) (narrative)
Other awards given during MVFF this year include:
MVFF Awards for Directing | George C. Wolfe (Rustin) and Jeff Nichols (The Bikeriders)
MVFF Award for Breakthrough Directing | Cord Jefferson (American Fiction)
MVFF Award Lifetime Achievement: Collaboration | Todd Haynes & Christine Vachon (May December)
MVFF Award for Filmmaking | Sofia Coppola (Priscilla)
Mind the Gap Award Filmmaker of the Year | Emerald Fennell (Saltburn)
Mind the Gap Award Lifetime Achievements: Visionary Artist | Lynn Hershman Leeson
Mind the Gap Award Vision in Film Education | Dr. Jimmeka Anderson (Founder, Black Girls Film Camp)
Mind the Gap Creation Prize | Lila Avilés (Tótem)
Photo: Claire Folger / Orion Releasing