Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Celebrities head to Mill Valley for annual film fest

Tue. September 09, 2008; Posted: 03:37 PM Sep. 9--Fourteen-year-old child star Dakota Fanning, Academy Award nominee Alfre Woodard and "Taxi Driver" screenwriter Paul Schrader are among the stars and celebrities coming to Marin for the 31st Mill Valley Film Festival.

This year's program, announced Tuesday at Dolby Laboratories in San Francisco, features more than 200 films from 50 countries.

Beginning Oct. 2 and running through Oct. 12, the 11-day movie marathon includes a documentary series, a VideoFest and a multimedia installation devoted to the work of director Ingmar Bergman.

Presented by the California Film Institute, the festival is a showcase for independent films and is considered one of the premiere non-competitive film festivals in the country.

Fanning, acclaimed for her breakthrough performance in "I Am Sam" in 2001, stars with Queen Latifah in the opening night film, "The Secret Life of Bees," an adaptation of a novel by Sue Monk Kidd that was directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood. Prince-Bythewood will be on hand with Fanning for the screening.

In addition to Schrader and Woodard, Oscar-winning screenwriter Eric Roth ("Forrest Gump," "Munich") and Swedish actress Harriet Andersson, an Ingmar Bergman movie icon, will be honored with tributes that include on-stage interviews and clips from their films.

British actress Sally Hawkins, who stars in Mike Leigh's new film "Happy Go Lucky," a festival selection, gets the annual Spotlight Award on Oct. 10.

Clips from Roth's latest film, "The Curious Case
of Benjamin Button," follow his Oct. 11 tribute.

A screening of "Adam Resurrected," which Schrader directed about a Holocaust survivor, screens after his Oct. 7 tribute.
The festival wraps on Oct. 12 with a salute to Woodard, who stars in the closing night movie, "American Violet, " playing a courageous African American housing project mother fighting racism in the Texas justice system.

Comedian Bill Maher challenges organized religion in the other opening night movie, "Religulous." Along with "American Violet," "Lemon Tree," a drama about a conflict over a lemon grove bordering the West Bank and Israel, screens on closing night.

Continuing the festival's tradition of combining films about music with live performances, "The Wrecking Crew," a documentary about a legendary group of hotshot Los Angeles studio musicians, will be followed by a concert featuring some of those ace session men at the 142 Throckmorton Theatre in Mill Valley.

A concert at 142 Throckmorton with the Grateful Dead's Bob Weir, Doors keyboardist Ray Manzarek, Elvin Bishop, Dan Hicks, Rob Wasserman, Lydia Pense of Cold Blood and the house band Moonalice, follows a screening of clips from the 1972 film "Last Days of the Fillmore."

This year's opening night gala takes place at the Mill Valley Community Center. Closing night festivities are aboard the California Hornblower during a bay cruise that begins and ends at the Sausalito ferry dock.

Screenings and events are scheduled at the CineArts at Sequoia, 25 Throckmorton Ave. in Mill Valley, the Christopher B. Smith Rafael Film Center, 1118 Fourth St. in San Rafael, and other Marin venues.
For tickets, call 877-874-MVFF (6833), or go online at