Mill Valley Film Festival

Indie Scene

By Greg Cahill

UNTIL RECENTLY, Sonoma County film buffs found slim pickings when it came to independent films. Sure, there’s the good work of the Sonoma Film Institute, a long-standing local resource. And, more recently, local multiplex owner Dave Corkill has committed a screen at his theaters in Petaluma and Sebastopol to showing top independent films.

Are we grateful–believe it!

Yet, by virtue of its sheer magnitude–more than 110 films, ranging from big-name Hollywood features to animated shorts–the 20th-anniversary Mill Valley Film Festival, running Oct. 1-11, is a veritable smorgasbord of celluloid for ravenous North Bay film fans. This year is no exception. From the Oct. 1 opening-night gala–Down in the Delta, poet laureate Maya Angelou’s directorial debut–to the closing night screening of Pleasant-ville, Gary Ross’ modern fairy tale, the festival this year offers something for everyone.

Most screenings are at the Sequoia Twin Theatres in Mill Valley or the Lark Theatre in Larkspur. Call 415/383-5346 for details, or check online for schedule information.

Here are a few highlights:

Dancemaker (Oct. 3): As a protégé of the late, great Martha Graham, Paul Taylor over the years has shown spectacular strength, first as a dancer and later as a groundbreaking choreographer. Director Matthew Diamond delivers a candid, behind-the-scenes look into the usually closed world of the lofty New York modern-dance scene.

Genghis Blues (Oct. 3): In 1995, Paul Pena, a blind San Francisco bluesman, became the first foreigner to master the ancient esoteric art of Tuvan throat singing, traveling to that Central Asian republic of Tuva to participate in a tri-annual song competition. What a long, strange trip.

Nadro (Sunday, Oct. 4): Filmmaker Ivana Massetti’s stirring documentary about 75-year-old Ivory Coast poet, writer, and artist Frederic Bruly Bouabre. Beautifully photographed in black and white (except when Bouabre’s vibrant paintings are displayed at a Paris exhibit), Nadro ranks as one of the finest portraits of an artist ever committed to film.

Gods and Monsters (Oct. 6): A fictional account of the last days of Hollywood legend James Whale, creator of the classic horror films Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein. This adaptation of Christopher Bram’s acclaimed novel Father of Frankenstein features bravura performances by Ian McKellen (as the flamboyant and emotionally tormented Whale) and Brendan Fraser (as the homophobic Frankenstein-like yardman who befriends him). As the plot twists, Gods and Monsters reveals a melancholy and haunting tale about the plight of a creative genius who ultimately cannot distinguish the fictional monsters he has created from the monsters within himself. Highly recommended.

Maternal Love (Oct. 10): This Iranian film, set against the backdrop of strict Islamic society, tells the story of a street waif who becomes obsessed by the female counselor who ventures to his reform school. Often heart-wrenching, this universal tale of love features a remarkably mature performance by 10-year-old Hussein Solimani. A world premiere.

My Son the Fanatic (Oct. 10): Pervez is a Pakistani taxi driver living in the United Kingdom who loves everything British, including a prostitute he meets on the streets. At home, his teenaged son Farid is becoming consumed by his Islamic faith and is rejecting his father and everything that he stands for. This contemporary love story, set in the sometimes tragic, sometimes comic clash of cultures and generations, features a complex mix of sexuality and religion, freedom and constraint, love and transgression.

From the October 1-7, 1998 issue of the Sonoma County Independent.

© Metro Publishing Inc.

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