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Mill Valley Film Festival 

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Sights & Sounds

Mill Valley Film Fest gets the beat

By Greg Cahill

For the past 25 years, the Mill Valley Film Festival has screened a dizzying array of acclaimed music documentaries, from the remarkable Tuvan travelogue Genghis Blues to Robert Mugge's influential Deep Blues (which helped launch the careers of Fat Possum blues artists Junior Kimbrough and R. L. Burnside)--impressive films that often are overshadowed by the star power of celebrity programs and big-name filmmaker tributes.

This year's festival, running Oct. 3-13, features several excellent music-related films--not including Marilyn Manson's cameo in the Michael Moore documentary Bowling for Columbine. All are well worth checking out, especially since most of these works probably won't be seen outside of the film-festival circuit. All the screenings listed here are $9.

In Igor Stravinsky, Composer, Chilean-born filmmaker and classically trained musician Janos Darvas has crafted an insightful portrait of the man who revitalized Western music in the early 1900s with a troika of innovative ballets and orchestral suites that ushered in the modern-music era. Constructed entirely from rare black-and-white archival footage, the film offers a fascinating glimpse into the creative process of an unrivaled impresario.

Indiana Aria, a short film that traces four Indiana University vocal students through the rigors of an audition, opens the program. Both films screen Sunday, Oct. 6, at 7pm and Thursday, Oct. 10, at 7:15pm at the Rafael Film Center.

Jimmy Scott: If You Only Knew details the strange and beautiful life of idiosyncratic jazz singer Jimmy Scott, whose unusual high pitch is the result of a rare genetic defect. Director Matthew Buzzell's account of the singer's odyssey of loss and redemption is, like Scott's hypnotic music, meditative, melancholy, and heartbreakingly bittersweet. It screens Monday, Oct. 7, at 9:30pm and Sunday, Oct. 13, at 9:30pm at the Sequoia Theatre in Mill Valley.

Standing in the Shadows of Motown, bankrolled by Sonoma County telecom engineers Paul Elliot and David Scott (who were part of a group that purchased the Phoenix Theatre a couple of years ago), is simply a must-see film for any true fan of great '60s and early '70s pop music. Based on Allan Slutsky's acclaimed book of the same name, Standing in the Shadows of Motown chronicles in fabulous detail the saga of the Funk Brothers, the ace studio musicians selected by label founder Berry Gordy from Detroit's best jazz and blues players to create the grooves behind such Motown stars as the Temptations, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, the Supremes, and many others. The film screens Thursday, Oct. 10, at 7pm and Sunday, Oct. 13, at 4pm at the Sequoia Theatre.

A Thousand and One Voices: The Music of Islam is a timely examination of the always soulful and often ecstatic music and chants of the Sufis, a mystical branch of Islam. Filmmaker Mahmoud Ben Mahmoud traces the musical practices of several Sufi brotherhoods, from the graceful whirling dervishes to the high-energy rituals of an Indian order. A Thousand and One Voices screens Saturday, Oct. 12, at 4:45pm at the Rafael Film Center.

Welcome to the Club: The Women of Rockabilly sets the record straight on the contribution made by the dynamic female contingent of early rock and roll pioneers. Director Beth Harrington uses powerful, seldom-seen archival footage to flesh out the stories of Wanda Jackson, Brenda Lee, and the Collins Kids. Get ready for beehives and jumpin' jive. And get in the mood with the short opening film Cowgirls, an ode to hard-riding rodeo gals. The films screen Wednesday, Oct. 9, at 7pm at the Sequoia Theatre and will be followed by a live musical tribute at Sweetwater, right up the street.

For additional ticket information, visit or call 415.383.5256.

From the October 3-9, 2002 issue of the North Bay Bohemian.

© Metro Publishing Inc.

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