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MVFF Conversation: Viola Davis, Tribute & Mind the Gap Award—Actor of the Year

Viola Davis has rightly gained incredible recognition for her work. She’s the first Black woman to attain that great trifecta of acting: two Tony Awards, for Fences and King Hedley II; an Oscar®, also for Fences; and an Emmy® for How to Get Away with Murder. She is an artist of the highest order, whose brilliance as an actor and producer and whose dedication to speaking out with eloquence and wisdom on issues of equality, especially for women and Black women, have established her as one of the great performers and spokespeople of our time. She finds the heart and soul of her characters, giving them a fullness of life, a sense of their hopes and aspirations, so that we as audiences understand the human spirit more deeply. Think of Mrs. Miller in Doubt, the complexity of Annalise in How to Get Away with Murder, and her deep work as characters written by August Wilson.
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23 Walks

Over the course of 23 dog walks across the four dynamically changing seasons of north London, two senior singletons and their personable pooches—Dave and his German Shepherd, Tilly; Fern and her Yorkshire Terrier, Henry—slowly evolve from strangers to sweethearts. A rocky first encounter where the two dedicated dog walkers quibble over leash etiquette eventually leads to gentler run-ins along their favorite nature paths. When happenstance shifts to deliberate meetings, Dave and Fern’s conversations get deeper just as their walks extend longer. As the prospect of romance blossoms in front of them, can Dave, Fern, Tilly, and Henry start a life together as one, or will carefully guarded secrets prevent this union from forming? The palpable chemistry and effortless charm generated by Dave Johns (I, Daniel Blake, MVFF39) and Alison Steadman (Life Is Sweet, MVFF14) fill every frame of this heartwarming, emotionally resonant love story from Oscar®-nominated director Paul Morr
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Colette the Artist

SPECIAL EVENT: For those looking to be uplifted and inspired: Join us for this special, online, international celebration of the premiere of the short film Colette the Artist. This special program will include the film premiere, a Q&A with special guests, and an art-making workshop where audiences will be encouraged to make their own pig art and join in Colette’s online International Pig Art Challenge!
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Democracy Roundtable

Democracy is facing some significant challenges right now. Filmmakers are stepping into the political fray and utilizing film as a vital resource for information, a catalyst for change, and a call to action for deeper engagement in the democratic process. This roundtable discussion will feature the filmmakers and subjects of Festival films that address both the tools and the threats to democracy including voter suppression, protest movements, and the spread of misinformation. In the spirit of civic engagement, the discussion will be streamed live to allow for audience Q&A participation.
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Mind the Gap 1: The Evolution of Black Women's Roles Onscreen

This roundtable explores Black women's roles in film and television and the evolution from the monolithic images of Black female servitude that pervaded early Hollywood content to the modern approaches that take into account the plurality of Black women’s experience.
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Mind the Gap 2: Rethinking Classics: Towards a More Democratic Global Canon

For as long as there has been a film canon, it has been dominated by white heterosexual men as creatives, educators and critics. This canon has in recent times come under increased pressure to open up to a broader spectrum of authors and perspectives. Challenging this canon involves questioning the criteria and the conventions for films to be considered “worthy” of being an important film as well as who is making those decisions. This conversation explores how to shift the decision-making on what enters the international canon towards a broader, more inclusive and ultimately more democratic pool can be achieved at a global level.
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Mind the Gap 3: Changing the Industry from the Inside

By creating awareness and a conversation around discrimination, marginalization, and underrepresentation, these are organizations, collectives and initiatives striving to address the fundamental systemic inequities of the film industry and effect change from the inside. This conversation explores how these industry players are using their power and clout to create structural change across Hollywood and beyond.
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Mind the Gap 4: Building Your Own Table & Chairs

As a response to the many ism’s that are endemic to the film industry, these organizations, collectives and initiatives have chosen to focus their attention on building alternative networks, platforms, and eco-systems—alongside the mainstream industry—in which their communities can flourish, create power structures and set their own rules. As opposed to working towards having a seat at the table, these industry players have opted to create their own table.
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Mind the Gap 5: Directors Forum and Keynote

2020 will go down as the year when everything changed—in ways both daunting and exciting. Where will it all lead? With theaters closed, festivals cancelling or re-inventing, online platforms springing up, zoom rooms and virtual events becoming ubiquitous, words like “pivot” and “nimble” have peppered daily discussions about work, life and navigating radical change. It seems like a 20-year growth spurt packed into a single year. This program considers what things will return and what will have shifted as we imagine the future for independent filmmakers. The program includes a keynote by an industry leader and a roundtable of directors whose work was released this year discussing their experiences of navigating 2020 and their insights about how this year’s challenges may inform innovations in the post-pandemic world of film.
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State of the Industry Panel: A Pivotal Year

2020 has brought about significant, unparalleled changes to all facets of the movie industry. How do we navigate from this uncertain place we’re in now? Could there be a silver lining in this upheaval, an opportunity for reinvention and innovation? At a time when there is anxiety and fear within the industry as a whole, we’ll discuss the possibilities for the future.
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Variety's 10 Screenwriters to Watch Panel + Charlie Kaufman to Receive Creative Impact in Screenwriting Award

Variety has honored "10 Screenwriters to Watch" for over a decade, and for the second year in a row, the honorees will be showcased during the Mill Valley Film Festival. Whether reinventing big franchise action films or ensuring inclusion of fresh and diverse voices, screenwriters’ contributions are an essential part of the filmmaking process, laying the foundation for storytelling through film. With Variety spotlighting the brightest and most promising writers of the year, the chance to meet and hear their stories first-hand in a casual and intimate setting makes this a hot-button discussion for both casual fans and aspiring filmmakers.
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5@5 Breakout

"Brighter than the lightning, you go as far as you go. You got to be what you know." Often referred to as "digital natives," today’s youth filmmakers display talent that extends far beyond their fluency in technology—it is evident in their storytelling, their innovation, their creativity, their fearlessness. This year’s collection of peer-reviewed, youth-produced short films spans genres from animation to documentary, comedy to sci-fi, and showcases an international cohort of storytellers eager to forge new paths for the future of film: Seeing Things in Black and White (Ashley Lee, US 2020, 3 min), Baskethood (Tsz Shun CHOW, Hong Kong 2020, 9 min), Migrantes (Ian Duncanson & Ethan Swope, US 2019, 11 min), The Painter (Vivian Blantz, US 2020, 3 min), Golem (Theo Taplitz, US 2020, 1 min), I'll Be There (Kallista Palapas, US 2019, 11 min), It's Nicer Here (Kane Parsons, US 2020, 10 min), For Your Memory (Katrina Kwok, US 2020, 3 min)
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5@5 Kilburn Towers

"I am a street watching the people walk as I listen to conversations glisten as they start to talk." In this documentary shorts program, we present a collection of true-life tales from Bay Area directors about extraordinary individuals. In Peter Spirer’s Sacheen, Breaking the Silence (US 2019, 25 min), Sacheen Littlefeather tells the real story about the courageous moment she refused the Oscar® on behalf of Marlon Brando at the 1973 Academy Awards® and raised awareness for Native American people. Harris Cohen’s Phyllis: A Self Portrait (US 2020, 10 min) is an inspirational portrait of Phyllis Thelen, a 93-year-old working artist and force of nature. Caregiver: A Love Story from Kevin Gordon & Jessica Zitter (US 2020, 23 min) challenges viewers to acknowledge the growing strain placed on family caregivers and to envision a new approach in caring for the dying. In Deanne Fitzmaurice’s Small Footprint (US 2019, 4 min), we meet the Goepels who are an inspiring s
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5@5 Living in Chicago

“Will you show me someone who may treat me kind, or is this world I live in just a frame of mind?” The urge to test the bonds of old friendships and feel out new tenuous connections make for some very thoughtful and uplifting stories. A shark and a dinosaur find some common worldviews when two costumed sidewalk sign-spinners meet at a fateful intersection in Jason Satterlund’s charming Signs (US 2020, 16m). A woman pitching a TV pilot finds that the memory of a physical trauma can have some incredibly bad timing in Heather Jack’s very touching Avalanche (US 2019, 13m). Infidelity and suspicion have a tense dance between two construction workers on the scaffolding of a highrise in Topping Out (New Zealand 2020, 15m), the directorial debut of actress Kerry Fox (An Angel at My Table).
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5@5 Night Fever

“Listen to the ground. There is movement all around. There is something goin’ down. And I can feel it.” Characters face circumstances that range from challenging to harrowing in this collection of shorts that is both provocative and playful. In Tom Schroeder’s irresistible The Birth Order Experiment (US 2019, 9m), remember back to the days of groovy ‘70s animation and hip professors with their filmed academic studies. John Wick has nothing on Godefroy Ryckewaert’s The Collector (France 2019, 8m) as he pursues an overdue bill in this remarkable action-packed dance floor throwdown. Karolina Esqueda’s Ode to the Beans (Oda a los frijoles) (US 2020, 4m) manages to turn an autobiographical found footage essay into a clever, perceptive take on her culture and an essential food item.
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9to5: The Story of a Movement

From the filmmakers of the Oscar®-winning documentary American Factory (DocLands 2019), 9to5 is a rousing look at the historic intersection of the women’s movement and the labor movement in the 1970s, when secretaries all over the nation decided that they were done with making the boss’ coffee and ready to start a revolution. Celebrated documentarians Julia Reichert and Steven Bognar dig deep into a wealth of archival footage and bring this fascinating chapter of social justice into sharp focus, delivering an astute oral history of the movement directly from the women who created and fostered it.
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Alice Street

Bursting with a rich sense of local history and artistic expression, Alice Street is crafted with great pride for the city of Oakland by Bay Area filmmaker Spencer Wilkinson (One Voice, MVFF41), documenting a downtown mural project from start to finish as it is overtaken by the construction of new high-rise condominiums. As their identity is threatened, the locals collaborate to preserve their home. With testimony from a diverse group of artists and performers, Wilkinson passionately examines the many ways in which gentrification silences neighborhoods and breeds inequality across the system. As we hear from those who are not included in the city’s vision of development and change, Alice Street reveals Oakland as a microcosm of what is happening across the American landscape, disproportionately affecting the sustainability of communities of color. While showing the power of art to unite communities, the film makes a plea for preserving our cities and their many voi
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As much a timeless love story as a document of a hidden historical chapter, Ammonite—Francis Lee’s eagerly anticipated follow-up to God’s Own Country—digs deep into the past to reveal truths ripe for unearthing. Self-trained paleontologist Mary Anning (Kate Winslet) knew the secret language of the wind-whipped seaside cliffs of Dorset, and only to her did the silent landscape reveal its past. In 19th century England, during an era when women could neither vote nor hold membership in the scientific societies of the day, Anning was obliged to sell foraged fossils to support her groundbreaking research, her mother, and herself. When she is hired on as a companion for Charlotte Murchison (Saoirse Ronan), the young wife of a visiting geologist, another secret language is born: of shared loneliness, intimacy, and unquenchable desire. Winslet’s simmering, understated portrait of Mary is as powerful as the landscape itself, and Ronan’s Charlotte provides the tidal force that unle
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