The winners of the audience awards for the 44th Mill Valley Film Festival have been revealed and Kenneth Branagh’s semi-autobiographical film Belfast has topped the list as the overall audience favorite.
C’mon C’mon from Mike Mills was named Audience Favorite / US Cinema, Last Film Show from Pan Nalin was named Audience Favorite / World Cinema and The Rescue from Oscar winners Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin took the documentary award.
AUDIENCE FAVORITE AWARDS
MVFF Overall Audience Favorite – BELFAST • Kenneth Branagh
Audience Favorite / World Cinema – LAST FILM SHOW • Pan Nalin
Audience Favorite / US Cinema – C’MON C’MON • Mike Mills
Audience Favorite / Documentary – THE RESCUE • Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi, Jimmy Chin
Audience Favorite / Family – RICKSHAW GIRL • Amitabh Reza Chowdhury
Audience Favorite / Active Cinema – REFLECTION: A WALK WITH WATER • Emmett Brennan
Audience Favorite / Mind the Gap – LADY BUDS • C.J. Russo
Audience Favorite / ¡Viva el cine! – WOMEN IS LOSERS • Lissette Feliciano
The 44th Mill Valley Film Festival Closing Night film The French Dispatch capped 11 days of films, panels, parties, and musical performances at the annual autumn showcase, drawing over 23,000 attendees in person and 21,000 virtually from October 7-17. The festival included 37 premieres and screened 125 films, 66 features, and 59 shorts, represented across 39 countries with 56 percent directed or co-directed by women. Additionally, 2021 marked two milestones: MVFF Education reached over 12,000 students across the US with virtual programming and a limited number of in-person visits in Marin County and the East Bay. And Mind the Gap launched its inaugural MTG Creation Grant, awarding $10,000 to first-time director Nana Mensah.
During this year’s hybrid festival, audiences attended virtually through the CAFILM Streaming Room and flocked to CinéArts Sequoia and the Christopher B. Smith Rafael Film Center in Marin County to celebrate the return of in-person screenings. MVFF also returned to Berkeley with a selection of films at BAMPFA (Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive) and held four live music shows at Sweetwater Music Hall.
“My intent for the 44th Mill Valley Film Festival was to create a safe and vibrant festival that entertains and addresses the universal need to gather together and share stories about our common humanity. After 11 days, 125 films, and over 23,000 guests, I can say unequivocally that the hopes for this year’s festival were realized,” said MVFF Founder/Director Mark Fishkin. “The one-two punch of being both in theaters and in the virtual arena made it possible to include a wide selection of films from around the globe that were embraced with unbridled excitement and joy by theatergoers. MVFF44 was slightly smaller with fewer screens than normal (pre-pandemic). However, it included all the elements, special “Big Night” events, conversations with industry experts, and host to Variety’s 10 Screenwriters to Watch, that make the Mill Valley Film Festival one the most highly anticipated film festivals in the country,” continued Fishkin. “Audiences were giddy to be in theaters and showed up in large numbers for films and stayed to enjoy dozens of post-film conversations that took place at CFI’s Christopher B. Smith Rafael Film Center as well as the Sequoia theater in Mill Valley. I believe that in this polarized world, our work at MVFF44 is more important than ever.”
Both a celebration and call to action, Mind the Gap (MTG), MVFF’s platform for inclusion and equity, amplifying and championing filmmaking by women, non-binary people, and other marginalized groups through a vibrant collection of films, Q&As, Panels, and Conversations. The 2021 Mind the Gap Summit featured five programs, including Evolution of Latina Roles On-screen, a virtual roundtable in partnership with MVFF’s ¡Viva el cine! featuring actress Gina Torres (9-11, LONE STAR, SUITS, FIREFLY), director Lisette Feliciano (WOMEN IS LOSERS), and casting director Carla Hool (COCO, NARCOS, NOW AND THEN); and the Mind the Gap Directors Forum moderated by MVFF & Mind the Gap Director of Programming, Zoë Elton, and featuring first-time feature directors, Halle Berry (BRUISED), Rebecca Hall (PASSING), Maggie Gyllenhaal (THE LOST DAUGHTER), and Nana Mensah (QUEEN OF GLORY). 2021 also launched the first MVFF $10,000 Mind the Gap Creation Grant awarded to Nana Mensah for her feature directorial debut, QUEEN OF GLORY, which captured the 2021 MTG theme, Reconnecting with Community, centered not only on the concept of reconnecting but also on how we build and define community. Additionally, the MTG program presented two live awards, Producer of the Year to PASSING’S Nina Bongiovi and the Innovative Artist Award to Jane Campion.
“The 2021 theme for Mind the Gap, our gender equity initiative, is re-connecting with community. It’s a message that’s proved much needed, powerful and healing,” said Zoë Elton, MVFF Director of Programming. “We’ve witnessed it palpably in the excitement of audiences re-connecting with the in-person cinema experience, as well as in virtual panels and Q&As as we navigate this journey together. And new possibilities continue to present themselves. For instance, the MTG Directors Forum was a revelation: getting four actors-turned-directors together for such a rich conversation would have been (virtually!) impossible in real-time,” Elton continued. “The MTG theme has echoed throughout the whole festival this year and as communities re-connect, we have seen the door opening to new audiences. We witnessed many first-time festival attendees at screenings like Red Rocket, A Song for Cesar, and the Variety 10 Screenwriters to Watch panel. It’s so great—it really bodes well for our efforts to nurture the next generation of festival-goers. One thing is sure: Cinema is back, and online is a rich and supportive way to reconnect with everyone, everywhere.”