by Molly Oleson
It’s three days before the opening night of the 38th annual Mill Valley Film Festival (MVFF), and Executive Director Mark Fishkin is on his way to a screening. “So we’re gonna talk about music?” he asks excitedly over the phone.
He begins with a story from years ago, when guitarist Michael Bloomfield—who worked with Bob Dylan on Highway 61 Revisited—would sit down at a small, upright piano to play for audiences as they waited for films to begin. He then reminisces about events during which well-known cinematographers were honored with shows played by the likes of Jerry Garcia and Carlos Santana.
“There was always this incredible history of music that surrounded the festival,” Fishkin says. “We decided this year, let’s take it up a notch in terms of the amount of music we do.”
Take it up a notch they did. For the first time, in a new series dubbed MVFF Music, the California Film Institute has announced that the Mill Valley Film Festival will be in residence at the landmark Sweetwater Music Hall for nine nights of exclusively curated live music.
Master guitarist Dean Ween, of the Dean Ween Group, will kick off the series on Friday, October 9, and The Great Mill Valley Gospel Show—featuring Narada Michael Walden and members of The Love Center Choir—will close it on Saturday, Oct. 17. In between, The Mother Truckers will take the stage (Oct. 11), along with folky-bluesy string band The Brothers Comatose (Oct. 12), ’60s-and-’70s cover song specialists Olive and the Dirty Martinis (Oct. 13), global drumming icon Tommy Igoe (Oct. 14) and alternative band Stroke 9 (Oct. 15).
Much of the music, Fishkin says, deals directly with the films that will be shown. The “Sing Out For Sight” show (Oct. 10) will feature the premiere of the documentary Open Your Eyes, and tunes by Bob Weir.
“I think most exciting on the second weekend is The Great Mill Valley Gospel Show,” Fishkin says, noting that it includes musicians who come from incredible roots in gospel music and have played with stars ranging from Aretha Franklin to Diana Ross to Whitney Houston.
Fishkin looks forward to an eclectic soundtrack by versatile performers—sure to continue the festival’s strong tradition of intertwining, and celebrating, film and music.
“Just incredible master musicians,” he says of the lineup. “I’m really excited about this program.”
For more information, visit mvff.com/music/.