A Resurgence of Vitality
It’s been a long slog through this pandemic – sheltering, restrictions, vaccines, variants. And so much heartache if we pay attention to the news of refugees exiled because of war and hunger, rising threats to democracy here and abroad, and climate disasters. (I live in northern California and automatically check the air quality reports first thing in the morning to see if it’s safe to breathe outside today.)
And…in many communities, children are returning to school, restaurants are open indoors, and people are traveling to visit family in far off places. There is a deep yearning for aliveness in the normalcy; an aching for more than coping, a hope for thriving and vitality – for the “animation and invigoration necessary to the maintenance of life.”
The local but world-class Mill Valley Film Festival has been invigorating and inspiring film lovers for 44 years; I have attended faithfully for the last 21. To be not just entertained is spite of the state of the world but to be enlightened about what people are doing about the state of the world, all around the world.
My favorite film genre has already been “triumph over adversity on behalf of a noble cause.”
This year’s festival (October 7-17, 2021) includes documentaries about many role models of courage, resilience, and well-being, for sure: Jacques Cousteau, Leonard Bernstein, Julia Child, HH the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
I’m just as interested in the stories of real life heroes in faraway places that would never be told except for the commitment of intrepid independent filmmakers who raise their own money and spend years of their lives documenting people’s struggles for freedom of choice and honest vitality:
The Rescue: – the dramatic search to save 12 teenage boys and their soccer coach lost in a cave in Thailand.
The New Environmentalists: grass-roots activists fight to protect local resources in Myanmar, France, Mexico, Ghana, the Bahamas and Ecuador from exploitation and pollution
Lingui: the Sacred Bonds: exploring the fight for abortion rights in the patriarchal African nation of Chad.
The Mill Valley Film Festival has long had a commitment to Active Cinema, where filmgoers can learn what’s being done to change/improve/save the world, and learn how they can participate, too:
Reflection: A Walk with Water: environmentalists explore pro-active ways to save California’s periled water ecosystem.
Co-Extinction: Indigenous Canadians in the Pacific Northwest fight to preserve the salmon, orcas, and grizzly bears of their region as well as their historic rights to their own land.
More recent has been the commitment of 50/50 by 2020 – that 50% of the films shown would be written and/or directed by women. MVFF did meet that goal in 2020 and has continued in 2021, with films like:
Subjects of Desire: Black women share their experiences of society’s rejection (and appropriation) of their beauty and the realities of life in America for Black women.
Found: three American teenagers, each a single daughter adopted from China during the rule of China’s strict one-child policy, travel to China together to explore their histories.
Lunafest: A series of short films about women neuroscientists, Artic explorers, refugees, artists, etc.
Tickets go on sale to the general public today. $16.50 for in-theater; $8 for online streaming. (Some available only in California.) The California Film Institute has gone to extraordinary lengths to maintain safety in the theaters during this continuing pandemic: proof of vaccination or recent negative COVID test, photo ID and photo badge, masks worn at all times indoors. I’m proud of my home-town resurgence of vitality and grateful for the continuation of inspired creativity while enduring these hard times.