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Although it may be a smaller festival, the Mill Valley Film Festival has always been a bit of a haven from the big city affairs. Set amongst the peaceful surroundings of Marin County, the gateway to wine country, MVFF also attracts some serious star power to brighten up those nights.
One of those brightest stars, Oscar-winner Nicole Kidman, is set for a career tribute where she will present her newest film, the Best Picture Oscar player Lion. Although Nicole Kidman was born in Hawaii (her parents were there on educational visas), she began her career in Australia as a high school dropout in search of an acting career. Her first film, BMX Bandits (1983), is a bit of a cult classic but it was 1989’s sea thriller Dead Calm that introduced her to American audiences and her career took off. That debut caught the eye of Tom Cruise and she was cast in his next film, Days of Thunder, the very next year. That began a romance and marriage that lasted 10 years. Once separated from Cruise (but not before making Stanley Kubrick’s last film, the masterpiece Eyes Wide Shut, with him), Kidman’s career began again, this time on her terms. In a one-two punch, she did Moulin Rouge! in 2001 (which earned her her first Best Actress Oscar nomination) and then The Hours in 2002, which won her the Oscar.
Since then she has worked with auteurs like Lars von Trier (Dogville), varying her career from tiny independents like Birth (one of her most masterful performances) to camp in The Paperboy to the blockbuster The Golden Compass and to her most recent Oscar nomination, Rabbit Hole. Next year will see her in two television projects; the limited series Little Big Lies with Reese Witherspoon and Laura Dern and the second season of Top of the Lake. She also has a trio of features; Sofia Coppola’s The Beguiled, John Cameron Mitchell’s How to Talk to Girls at Parties and Yorgos Lanthimos’s The Killing of a Sacred Deer.
Her new film Lion tells the true story of a young Indian boy who is separated from his family by thousands of miles and is then adopted by an Australian couple (Kidman, a Best Supporting Actress Oscar contender, plays his adoptive mother) and then begins the search for his birth family as a young adult.
As previously announced, Arrival and La La Land open the festival (with stars Amy Adams and Emma Stone in attendance) and Loving will close (with stars Ruth Negga and Joel Edgerton appearing alongside director Jeff Nichols). In the middle, 20th Century Women will be the Centerpiece film with star Annette Bening appearing.
Alongside the tribute for Kidman will be one for director Julie Dash. Dash was the first African-American woman to have a film get a full theatrical release in the United States (1991’s Daughters of the Dust). Spotlights for actors Ewan McGregor (American Pastoral, which he stars in and directs), Gael García Bernal (with Neruda) and Aaron Eckhart (with Bleed for This).
The hit of Telluride and Toronto, Moonlight (from Bay Area filmmaker Barry Jenkins), is set to dazzle the festival. “That film was such a revelation for me,” said festival co-director Zoe Elton of the film. “It was a film that made me think; it just had an incredibly independent sensibility. It’s very original and beautifully made. It’s the kind of film festivals thrive on, really.”
The festival will also see new films by Kelly Reichardt (Certain Women, with Kristen Stewart, Michelle Williams and Laura Dern) and Asghar Farhadi(The Salesman) as well as Aquarius starring Sonia Braga, Christine starring Rebecca Hall, Elle starring Isabelle Huppert, Frantz from François Ozon, The Handmaiden from Park-Chan wook, 2016 Cannes Palme d’Or winner I, Daniel Blake, Pedro Almodovar’s Julieta, Kenneth Lonergan’s Manchester by the Sea, J.A. Bayona’s A Monster Calls, The Red Turtle and Toni Erdmann.
Last year’s Mill Valley Film Festival Audience Award winner, Room, went on to Best Picture and Director Oscar nominations and a win for Brie Larson in Best Actress. The Mill Valley Film Festival has featured the Best Picture Oscar winner in eight of the last ten years, including Spotlight last year.
The 39th Mill Valley Film Festival runs October 6-16.
For schedule, tickets, and more information: www.mvff.com