Mill Valley Film Festival
Courtesy of Lisa Lejeune/Mill Valley Film Festival

OCTOBER

Mill Valley Film Festival

A 10-day October celebration of the best in independent and world cinema, the high-powered but low-key Mill Valley Film Festival always attracts major filmmakers and stars, as well as some of the hottest independent talents in the movies. Thousands of enthusiastic fans attend screenings at various locations in Marin County, just north of San Francisco—they know that the festival has an outstanding track record for including the next big pics in its lineup (most recently, La La LandMoonlight, and Manchester by the Sea all screened at MVFF before raking in the Oscars).

What can an attendee expect? With its reputation as a welcoming and supportive filmmakers’ festival, this prestigious noncompetitive event showcases international features, documentaries, shorts and children's films—something for every filmgoer. More than 200 filmmakers from more than 50 countries descend upon Mill Valley for the screenings, premiere parties with cast members, and career tributes and spotlights that draw top stars—past honorees have included Bradley Cooper, Ang Lee, Geoffrey Rush, and Dustin Hoffman. Behind the Screens industry panel discussions and workshops explore issues and opportunities to learn and better appreciate the filmmaker’s craft, and special activities such as the Active Cinema Hike offer the opportunity to network and share ideas with staff and fellow festivalgoers on an hour-long hike to the ocean.

A special focus of the festival is to promote gender equity in the film industry; since 2015, its Mind the Gap initiative has led to nearly half of all the films featured to be directed by women. Another way the MVFF encourages positive change both in and outside the film industry is its Active Cinema screenings category, which is dedicated to filmmakers’ efforts to explore issues and inspire engagement and change.

Ticket options range from individual screenings (for about the same price as a non-festival movie admission) to deluxe all-access passes.