×

At 38th Mill Valley Film Fest, Gender is on the Agenda

Hollywood’s new “it girl” may be more collective than individual. From “The Danish Girl” on opening night to “Suffragette” as its close, women’s themes stand front and center at the upcoming Mill Valley Film Festival.

“The topic of gender is definitely on the agenda this year,” says director of programming Zoe Elton.

Among works from 200 filmmakers representing more than 50 countries, the 38th Mill Valley Film Festival (Oct. 8-18) not only opens and closes with female-driven films, but it also honors actors Brie Larson, Carey Mulligan and Sarah Silverman for landmark performances, and director Catherine Hardwicke for lifetime achievement. What’s more, MVFF received a $15,000 NEA grant to support a multifaceted women’s initiative.

Titled Mind the Gap, Elton designed the program to both “raise awareness and celebrate women in film.”

Although women-directed pics typically account for about a third of MVFF’s program, this year it is an even more conscious choice. Only about 7% of Hollywood films are directed by women, according to a study conducted by Stacy Smith of USC’s Annenberg School for Communication. It’s a figure that’s remained stagnant for more than 20 years, Elton points out.

“As a festival director, I can help create a program that can challenge people to engage,” says Elton, a Brit who helped conceived Mind the Gap — borrowed from the ubiquitous warnings to passengers who ride the London Tube. “We came into this year with the woman’s initiative and I saw that we could bookend the festival with ‘The Danish Girl’ and ‘Suffragette.’ When you curate a film festival, it’s almost like you’re curating the arc of a number of conversations.”

While MVFF highlights several areas of special interest, including the written word, music and Italian Cinema, the woman’s initiative spreads “across the entire festival and in every area of the festival,” Elton says. Mind the Gap features an installation, panel discussions, master classes and 50 women-directed and/or women-driven films.

With LGBT issues pervasive in the media — given such public figures as the Olympian formerly-known-as-Bruce, recent Emmy winner Jeffrey Tambor (“Transparent”) and Time magazine transgender cover girl Laverne Cox (“Orange Is the New Black” — the MVFF appears to have its finger directly on the zeitgeist.

The director Todd Haynes, no stranger to blurring the lines between gender (“Poison,” “Velvet Goldmine”) and a champion of chewy women’s roles (“Safe,” “Far From Heaven”), will be represented at Mill Valley with “Carol,” in which a married woman (Cate Blanchett) falls for a young shopgirl (Rooney Mara) in the early ’50s.

The film — based on Patricia Highsmith’s 1952 semi-autobiographical novel “The Price of Salt” that the author originally published under a pseudonym — had been in development for almost a dozen years. While “The Danish Girl” — is based on the true story of transgender pioneer Lili Elbe, written by British playwright and screenwriter Lucinda Coxon, and portrayed by Eddie Redmayne — had been in the works for 15 years.

“Isn’t it wild,” Elton asks, “that films that take such a long time to make suddenly turn up with the right topic at the right moment?”

More Film

  • Olmo Teodoro Cuaron, Alfonso Cuaron and

    Alfonso Cuarón Tells Why His Scoreless 'Roma' Prompted an 'Inspired' Companion Album

    Back around the ‘90s, “music inspired by the film” albums got a bad name, as buyers tired of collections full of random recordings that clearly were inspired by nothing but the desire to use movie branding to launch a hit song. But Alfonso Cuarón, the director of “Roma,” is determined to find some artistic validity [...]

  • berlin film festival placeholder berlinale

    Berlin Film Festival 2019 Award Winners: Complete List

    The 69th Berlin Film Festival kicked off on Saturday, with 16 films vying for the Golden and Silver Bears, among them such critically acclaimed entries as Wang Xiaoshuai’s Chinese drama “So Long, My Son” and “By the Grace of God” by François Ozon. Juliette Binoche served as Jury President, with other members of the jury [...]

  • Alita Battle Angel

    Box Office: 'Alita: Battle Angel,' 'Lego Movie 2' to Lead President's Day Weekend

    “Alita: Battle Angel” is holding a slim lead ahead of “Lego Movie 2’s” second frame with an estimated four-day take of $29.1 million from 3,790 North American locations. “Lego Movie 2: The Second Part,” meanwhile, is heading for about $25 million for a domestic tally of around $66 million. The two films lead the pack [...]

  • Marianne Rendon, Matt Smith, Ondi Timoner

    Robert Mapplethorpe Biopic Team Talks 'Fast and Furious' Filming

    Thursday night’s New York premiere of the Matt Smith-led biopic “Mapplethorpe” took place at Cinépolis Chelsea, just steps from the Chelsea Hotel where the late photographer Robert Mapplethorpe once lived — but director Ondi Timoner had no sense of that legacy when she first encountered him in a very different context. “When I was ten [...]

  • Bruno GanzSwiss Film Award in Geneva,

    Bruno Ganz, Star of 'Downfall' and 'Wings of Desire,' Dies at 77

    Bruno Ganz, the Swiss actor best known for dramatizing Adolf Hitler’s final days in 2004’s “Downfall,” has died. He was 77. Ganz died at his home in Zurich on Friday, his representatives told media outlets. The cause of death was reportedly colon cancer. In addition to delivering one of the definitive cinematic portrayals of Hitler, [...]

  • Steve Bannon appears in The Brink

    Sundance Film Review: Stephen K. Bannon in 'The Brink'

    Stephen K. Bannon drinks Kombucha (who knew?), the fermented tea beverage for health fanatics that tastes like…well, if they ever invented a soft drink called Germs, that’s what Kombucha tastes like. In “The Brink,” Alison Klayman’s fly-on-the-wall, rise-and-fall-and-rise-of-a-white-nationalist documentary, Bannon explains that he likes Kombucha because it gives him a lift; he drinks it for [...]

  • Walt Disney Archives Founder Dave Smith

    Walt Disney Archives Founder Dave Smith Dies at 78

    Walt Disney Archives founder Dave Smith, the historian who spent 40 years cataloging and preserving the company’s legacy of entertainment and innovation, died Friday in Burbank, Calif. He was 78. Smith served as Disney’s chief archivist from 1970 to 2010. He was named a Disney Legend in 2007 and served as a consultant to the [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content