Once upon a time, Marin County’s lifestyle of laidback luxury — hot tubs, peacock feathers, Stinson Beach, Bolinas weed, mountain hikes and mountain bikes, wine-soaked sunsets, teenage BMW drivers — was a popular target for Tonight Show monologists and Holy City Zoo comics. Its flagship movie shindig, the Mill Valley Film Festival, was dismissed by San Franciscans as a Hollywood star-speckled excuse for spoiled housefraus to model their designer dresses and gems. The perception lingered that provocative films were avoided lest they prick the audience’s balloon of complacency.
Nowadays, San Francisco is the Northern California capital of nouveau riche self-indulgence. Meanwhile, population growth in Marin County and the wine country has made commuting on 101 (especially around San Rafael) a daily headache. Most interestingly, the Mill Valley Film Festival (October 2-12, 2014) has evolved into a prime showcase for social-issue filmmaking, with a commitment to premiering new work by Bay Area directors. Here are five choice cuts from the dozen or so titles by locals.
A Bridge to a Border
by Rob Nilsson
The East Bay’s prolific poet laureate of grit-streaked, would-be American dreamers has been given a seemingly permanent home at MVFF to present his latest film every fall. As MVFF’s de facto artist in residence, Nilsson is a powerful corrective — with his dramas of working-class men and women raging against the machine’s cogs — to the archaic notion that the festival’s core crowd is one per-centers. A thriller about a radical group bent on galvanizing the world’s attention through a domestic action, A Bridge to a Border expresses Nilsson’s lifelong populist convictions with greater-than-usual urgency.
In Plain Sight
by Erica Jordan