'Rendition,' 'Autism' voted audience favorites

The Mill Valley Film Festival ended its 30th-anni edition Sunday night with a screening of “The Kite Runner,” Marc Forster’s adaptation of the bestselling novel.

Author Khaled Hosseini, scenarist David Benioff and actor Khalid Abdalla attended the Sequoia Theater screenings.

Fest tallied 89 sold-out shows during its 11-day run, with attendance rising 12% this year to approximately 40,000.

Voted audience favorites were Reese Witherspoon-Jake Gyllenhaal political thriller “Rendition” (best narrative feature), Tricia Regan’s “Autism: The Musical” (documentary) and Don McBrearty’s Canadian “Luna: Spirit of the Whale” (children’s film fest feature).

Among notables attending the fest for personal tributes were Ang Lee, who has attended Mill Valley since his 1991 debut feature “Pushing Hands” and who presented “Lust, Caution” this year; scribe-turned-helmer Terry George with Focus Features drama “Reservation Road”; and Jennifer Jason Leigh, accompanied by her husband, “Margot at the Wedding” writer-director Noah Baumbach.

A raft of animation and special effects mavens were on hand for the U.S. preem of docu “The Pixar Story,” including the studio’s John Lasseter and Ed Catmull, ILM’s Craig Barron and Dennis Murren, plus pic’s narrator Stacy Keach and AMPAS prez Sid Ganis.

First-time helmer Ben Affleck and thesp Amy Ryan turned up repping Miramax release “Gone Baby Gone.”

More characteristic of Marin County, perhaps, were two acid-flashback events that brought out the area’s aging hippie population: After a screening of Todd Haynes’ Bob Dylan fantasia “I’m Not There,” a lineup of local and visiting musicians played a Dylan tribute concert, among them John Doe, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, Bob Weir, Chris Isaak and Nels Cline of Wilco. Eric Christiansen’s docu “The Trips Festival,” about the three-day 1966 San Francisco counterculture “happening” that predated the Summer of Love, likewise drew out the tie-dye set, including numerous folk who’d attended the original event.

Other local talents logging milestones as the fest celebrated turning 30 were Marin-based helmer John Korty, who presented a digitally remastered print of his first feature, the pioneering 1966 “The Crazy Quilt”; and the prolific Rob Nilsson, who has doubtless had more titles in the fest than anyone else, going back to his debut “Northern Lights” in 1979. This year Nilsson had no less than three features to premiere, including the last two in a “9 @ Night” series of interlocking narratives made over the course of the last decade. That whole cycle will make its official bow at the Harvard Film Archive Nov. 17-19.

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