‘TÁR’ wins Mill Valley Film Festival Audience Award; ‘The Whale,’ ‘Close’ receive top awards
TÁR, Todd Field’s return to cinema, and featuring a celebrated, tour-de-force performance by two-time Academy Award winner Cate Blanchett, has won the 2022 Mill Valley Film Award for Overall Audience Favorite. The film, which opened in limited release on October 7, details the fictional rise and fall of an acclaimed and EGOT-winning composer and conductor who faces allegations and demons that could take down her storied career.
Darren Aronofsky’s The Whale, featuring the comeback of Brendan Fraser, was named Audience Favorite – US Cinema, while Martin McDonagh’s funny and dour buddy comedy The Banshees of Inisherin, with Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson, won Audience Favorite – World Cinema. In the Audience Favorite – World Cinema (Non-English language) category the winner was Lukas Dhont’s Cannes Grand Prize winner Close, about the friendship between two young teen boys, and Our Father, the Devil, from director Ellie Foumbi (who also won the festival’s Mind the Gap Award) was named the Audience Favorite – US Indie.
During this year’s festival, audiences flocked to the Christopher B. Smith Rafael Film Center, the CinéArts Sequoia, the Lark Theater, and online screenings. MVFF also returned to Berkeley with a selection of films at BAMPFA (Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive) AND two days of screenings at San Francisco’s Roxie Theater and held live music shows at Sweetwater Music Hall.
Festival goers received an early look at upcoming Academy Award contenders; discovered some of the best films from around the globe; and celebrated many talented Bay Area filmmakers, as well as acclaimed filmmakers from countries all around the world.
“The 45th Mill Valley Film Festival brought the community back to the cinemas in great numbers; the energy and excitement of our audiences were palpable, and I couldn’t be happier that we were able to come together to celebrate the magic of cinema,” said MVFF Founder and Director Mark Fishkin. “This year, we had an exceptional program that showcased not only the best films coming out of Hollywood, but also influential films that addressed the most pressing issues of our time, such as Freedom on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom, Till, Deconstructing Karen, and The Young Vote. I believe it is more important than ever to offer a safe and inclusive environment where everyone can exchange ideas and discuss the fragile state of our world. We were very fortunate to be able to bring some of the most talented and dynamic filmmakers and industry experts to the festival, who were more than happy to share their passion and expertise with our audiences.”
Opening Night, Thursday, October 6, was the premiere of Rian Johnson’s comedy sequel Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery, which featured an in-person conversation with Johnson, stars Kathryn Hahn, Leslie Odom Jr., and Kate Hudson, and producer Ram Bergman; the Centerpiece presentation Tuesday, October 11, was Chinonye Chukwu’s profoundly emotional drama Till, with a discussion moderated by human rights activist, poet, educator, and former Black Panther Party leader Ericka Huggins; and Closing Night, Sunday, October 16, was the West Coast premiere screening of Tobias Lindholm’s The Good Nurse with an in-person conversation with Eddie Redmayne, Nnamdi Asomugha, and Tobias Lindholm.
MVFF45 presented several Spotlights and Tributes throughout the Festival. This year’s Spotlight Programs, honoring and celebrating exceptional work by film artists in their most current project, included writer/director Nikyatu Jusu receiving the MVFF Award for her debut feature Nanny, which also received the 2022 Sundance U.S. Grand Jury Prize; Noah Baumbach’s triumphant return to Mill Valley with his latest film White Noise and receipt of the MVFF Award for Screenwriting; Daniel Giménez Cacho, star of Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s Bardo, False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths, received the MVFF Award for Acting; and Zoë Elton led a discussion with Academy Award winning actress Frances McDormand for the Mind the Gap Spotlight presentation of the profoundly moving Women Talking, which received the Mind the Gap Award in recognition of the incredible cast and their work as an ensemble under Sarah Polley’s direction. Festival Tribute programs honoring and celebrating lifetime achievements in the career of significant film artists included Brendan Fraser, receiving the MVFF Lifetime Achievements Award for his exceptional performance in Darren Aronofsky’s The Whale (which he discussed with local film critic Randy Myers after the screening), and acclaimed filmmaker James Gray, who attended the screening and received the MVFF Lifetime Achievements Award for his remarkable direction of the semi-autobiographical Armageddon Time and regaled the audience with hilarious stories of his filmmaking career. Celebrating their brilliant creativity and ongoing commitment to truth in their work, acclaimed writer/director Chinonye Chukwu and actor Danielle Deadwyler received the Mind the Gap Award at the MVFF Centerpiece presentation of Till.
Many local films and filmmakers were celebrated during MVFF45, including the World Premieres of The Art of Eating: The Life of M.F.K. Fisher, directed by Bay Area filmmaker Gregory Bezat, Fantastic Negrito: Have You Lost Your Mind Yet? directed by Yvan Iturriaga and Francisco Núñez Capriles, Faultline directed by Bay Area Auteur Rob Nilsson, and Town Destroyer directed by Deborah Kaufman and Alan Snitow. Other notable premieres by local filmmakers included the North American Premiere of Tukdam-Between Two Worlds, directed by Donagh Coleman, who is currently attending UC Berkeley, and The Grab, a gripping documentary that follows a group of Bay Area journalists who uncover a global group secretly gobbling up scarce resources in a time of climate chaos.
“It’s so affirming, as we get back into the life of film and festivals, to witness—and to remember—how inspired, uplifted, engaged, and excited people are by the experience of film and conversation in real life,” said Director of Programming Zoë Elton. “Mind the Gap continues to be a well-respected, important hub for equity in the film landscape: MTG screenings, panels, and mixers became a magnet for the burgeoning Bay Area film community and invoked great discussions and networking. A MTG tradition is that award winners do a reading that inspires them: this year, audiences were riveted by readings from Frances McDormand (Run Towards the Danger, Sarah Polley), Chinonye Chukwu (Movement in Black, Pat Parker) and Ellie Foumbi (Choices, Nikki Giovanni). There were amazing conversations across the board at MVFF45, at screenings like Sunnyland, with Xavi Medina, Maria Cotarelo, and 8-year-old star Isabella Wilkie; Close, where Belgian filmmaker Lukas Dhont moved us to tears with his conversation about teenage friendship, masculinity, and queerness; and Boy From Heaven, Tarik Saleh’s conspiracy thriller set in a Cairo university, and Sweden’s official submission to the 2023 Academy Awards for Best International Feature Film, where Saleh has lived since being banned from his native Egypt.”
The Festival’s Active Cinema initiative is a forum for films united in their commitment to explore the world and its issues, engage audiences, and transform ideas into action. Particular highlights this year included Deconstructing Karen, an exploration into what happens when liberal white women’s views on racism and privilege are challenged over dinner; Elemental – Reimagining our Relationship with Wildfire, offering a new perspective on the raging infernos that threaten homes, forests, and entire communities; Path of the Panther, which chronicled the fight to save the endangered Florida panther; The Quiet Epidemic, which surveyed the medical establishment’s denial of chronic Lyme Disease; and The Young Vote, which followed the highs and lows during 2020’s fraught election season as four youth-led initiatives. Several special “Talk Back” conversations, held at the Outdoor Art Club in Mill Valley, followed Active Cinema screenings. And returning to MVFF this year, the Active Cinema hike, which attracted hikers with roots in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Israel, Ecuador, England, New Jersey—and California, proving that MVFF is truly an international experience.
Both a celebration and call to action, Mind the Gap (MTG) is 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. Mind the Gap awarded the $10,000 MTG Creation Prize to director Ellie Foumbi (Our Father, The Devil). The 2022 Mind the Gap program also featured four special programs, including Evolution of Asian Roles on Screen, a virtual roundtable featuring Shirley Kurata (Costume Designer, Everything Everywhere All at Once), Michelle Chung (Makeup Department Head, Everything Everywhere All at Once), and Sujata Day (Writer/director/actor, Definition Please); and the Mind the Gap Directors Forum moderated by MVFF & Mind the Gap Director of Programming Zoë Elton and featuring Margaret Brown (Descendant), Laure De Clermont-Tonnere (Lady Chatterley’s Lover), Diane Robinson (The Young Vote) and Phyllis Nagy (Call Jane).
MVFF’s ¡Viva el cine! Initiative is a showcase of Latin American, Latinx, and Spanish-language stories, connecting audiences with a diversity of cultures, identities, and histories explored through the magic of cinema. This year ¡Viva el cine! showcased films from Mexico, Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, Peru, Spain, Chile, and the US. Highlights included: Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Bardo, False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths, which included a screening and presentation of the MVFF Award for acting to Daniel Giménez Cacho; US Premiere of Carla Simón’s Alcarrás, recipient of the Berlinale 2022 Golden Bear; US Premiere of writer/director Carolina Markowicz’s evocative debut Charcoal; US Premiere of the heartfelt animated documentary Home is Somewhere Else; and the North American Premiere of Pablo Cascuberta’s We Dream of Robots, an inspiring documentary showcasing a determined group of Uruguayan teenagers determined to make their mark in the first robotics competition ever held in Latin America.
CAFILM Education has been offering free education programs to Bay Area schools for more than 30 years, welcoming thousands of students to participate in the Festival each year by viewing new films and meeting filmmakers from around the world. We continued this tradition with free programs available exclusively to K-12 schools in the Bay Area and across the country. School Screenings, a selection of narrative features, documentaries, and shorts programs is carefully curated from the general Festival program and offered for free to all participating schools as weekday matinees in the theatre and throughout the Festival online; and Filmmakers Go to School, a more interactive festival experience connects Festival filmmakers with students in their classrooms (both in-person and virtually) for live discussions about their films and the art and craft of filmmaking. MVFF Education programs are supplemented by free curriculum resources, including film-analysis toolkits, lesson plans, and discussion guides to help teachers incorporate the films into their class curriculum.
“We were so thrilled to welcome more than 2,500 local students back to the theater our first in-person MVFF Education screenings in three years. From elementary school students watching animated shorts to high school students learning about the importance of the youth vote, we saw young people be entertained, excited, and inspired by the films they saw and the filmmakers they met from the moment they walked through the theater doors,” said Director of CAFILM Education Joanne Parsont. “It’s been a while since we’ve witnessed so much unfettered joy and unbridled energy inside our theaters! From the Rafael to the Roxie, the students’ enthusiastic responses and inquisitive questions marked an auspicious return to live educational programming. Meanwhile, another 6,800 students around the Bay Area and the country streamed festival films online, and nearly 1,000 more were visited by filmmakers in their classrooms. Wherever there are young people, we will find ways to bring them great film experiences!”
Behind the Screens
MVFF presented a lively slate of Panels to supplement the outstanding film programming and to continue the discussion for Festival attendees. Including the annual State of the Industry panel moderated by MVFF Founder/Director Mark Fishkin and featuring writer/director Nikyatu Jusu (Nanny, MVFF45), director Crystal Moselle (Sophia, MVFF45), director Tarik Saleh (Boy from Heaven, MVFF45), and Ted Hope, former head of production, Amazon Original Movies, and producer of more than 70 films including In the Bedroom (MVFF24) and The Tender Bar (2021). Inspired by the short documentary For Love and Legacy (MVFF45), the Reel Life: History on Film workshop explored themes of history and memory. Filmmaker A.K. Sandhu talked about the curated archival footage she considered and utilized for the film, and participants studied how archives expand historical significance. Jim Lebrecht, co-director of Academy-Award nominated Crip Camp (DocLands 2020), led an “Accessibility Scorecard in Exhibition” panel.
Returning to MVFF was the Variety 10 Screenwriters to Watch panel featuring Sarah Conradt (Mother’s Instinct), Carrie Solomon (Untitled Margot Robbie Ocean’s Eleven project and Untitled Netflix romcom), Stefani Robinson (Chevalier), Katy Brand (Good Luck to You, Leo Grande), Shiwani Srivastava (Wedding Season), Alex Convery (Sole Man), Samuel D. Hunter (The Whale), Joel Kim Booster (Fire Island), Evan Dodson (Terms of Endearment, Little Richard, Two Butterflies), Ximena Garcia Lecuona (Anything’s Possible), and presentation of the Variety Creative Impact Award to Andrea Berloff, the writer behind the upcoming film The Mother.
FULL LIST OF MVFF 2022 AUDIENCE FAVORITES
MVFF Overall Audience Favorite
Audience Favorite | US Cinema
Audience Favorite | US Indie
OUR FATHER, THE DEVIL
Audience Favorite | World Cinema
THE BANSHEES OF INISHERIN
Audience Favorite | World Cinema (foreign language)
Audience Favorite | Documentary
Audience Favorite | Family
ERIN’S GUIDE TO KISSING
Audience Favorite | Active Cinema
PATH OF THE PANTHER
Audience Favorite | Mind the Gap
Audience Favorite | ¡Viva el cine!
SANTOS – SKIN TO SKIN