We began CFI SELECTS by focusing on films that would provide an escape from reality. Now, after several months of sheltering in place and adapting to our new indoor lifestyles, we are reflecting on our experiences of seclusion and isolation, and the creative ways those concepts are explored in the films we love. These three films tell the stories of confined people who find resourceful ways to liberate themselves.
MVFF DIRECTOR OF PROGRAMMING ZOË ELTON SELECTS
Director: Lenny Abrahamson (US, 2015)
“Room, based on the novel by Emma Donoghue, takes on a whole new resonance when seen through the eyes of 2020. So often, we connect with what we see of ourselves in film stories, so it’s interesting to revisit this story of a mother and son kept in confinement over a long period of time now, in the context of our current lives. Then, it was a breakthrough role for Brie Larson; her visit to MVFF was one of many on the whistle-stop journey that took her to the Oscars® and her Best Actress win. Offstage, we talked about the character played by Jacob Tremblay, her young co-star, who reminded me of a young family member of mine who had recently been diagnosed as autistic. When I asked Brie to sign the program for them, she did way more than that: she wrote an extraordinarily inspiring message about recognizing one’s superpowers, in tiny writing that filled the white space of the box around her photograph. Without going over the lines, because she understood that would be uncomfortable for an autistic kid. Not surprising, perhaps, that Brie went on to play a superhero herself, Captain Marvel. But for my family, she remains a superhero of a different ilk.” –Zoë Elton
MVFF WORLD CINEMA PROGRAMMER JOÃO FEDERICI SELECTS
Director: Jafar Panahi (Iran, 2015)
“One of the most celebrated Iranian directors, Jafar Panahi achieved international recognition with his first feature, The White Balloon (1995), which premiered in Cannes and won the prestigious Caméra d’Or. With subsequent films, The Mirror, The Circle, This Is Not a Film, to mention a few, he was honored with the most prestigious awards such as Cannes’ Un Certain Regard, Berlin’s Golden and Silver Bears, Venice’s Golden Lion, and Locarno’s Golden Leopard. His films became a megaphone against the Iranian system. In an attempt to censor his films–which were banned in Iran from the beginning–he was sentenced to six years in prison and banned from making films and from traveling for 20 years.
Taxi is a docu-fiction masterpiece. Pretending to be a taxi driver in the streets of Tehran, the courageous Panahi himself is the protagonist here. Using three hidden cameras, he does what he loves most: shows the reality of his country and people, as a driver and passenger, in conversations about beliefs, fears, and happiness. Determined to make films that transform censorship into art, Panahi brings us once more a compelling and delicate portrait of a nation under an oppressive regime.” –João Federici
DOCLANDS AND MVFF DOCUMENTARY PROGRAMMER KELLY CLEMENT SELECTS
I AM MARIS: PORTRAIT OF A YOUNG YOGI
Director: Laura VanZee Taylor (US, 2018)
“In these days of quarantine, where shelter-in-place is very much the “new normal,” we are all having to address the sense of isolation and seclusion. But for some, it’s a condition they’ve dealt with their whole lives. One film that we screened at the Mill Valley Film Festival and in CFI Education’s Teen Wellness Series looks at this world through the eyes of a 16-year-old girl named Maris who for years retreated into a state of anxiety, depression, and eating disorders. I Am Maris is not your usual teenage angst movie about despair but rather a powerful and absorbing account of how this talented and introspective young woman discovered the healing powers of yoga and began her journey to self-acceptance. The film is a good reminder that while one’s own body and mind can be a form of confinement, it can also be a tool for healing and liberation.” –Kelly Clement
CHECK OUT PREVIOUS CFI STAFF SELECTIONS HERE