The 39th Mill Valley Film Festival (Oct 6-26,2016) is packed with so many wonderful films that it is going to be a challenge to figure out which ones to watch.

For the next couple of weeks I will share a few of the films that caught my eyes. Here are my first 3 films that had me rooted in my seat and had me thinking about them long afterwards. When a film makes you think then the filmmaker has succeeded in connecting with you. That does not happen so often in this information rich age of ours, where we are bombarded with information every breathing second. I sat transfixed as I watched these films. I somehow managed to scribble a few lines in my notebook to remind me later what was it about these film that caught my attention. Transfixed is the right word to describe all 3 films:

  • The Eagle Huntress 
  • Moonlight 
  • The Salesman

Director Otto Bell’s documentary The Eagle Huntress is a stunning and gorgeous film set in Mongolia that will take your breath away. The film is about a young Kazakh teenager Aisholpan Nurgaiv, who with the help and support of her father trains and becomes an eagle huntress and breaks down an ancient social tradition and barrier in her community. There are no shrill dialogs or long arguments in the film. It is all about patience, courage and trying over and over again until you get it right. We also get to see the teenage side of Aisholpan as she hangs out with her girl friends and paints her nails with her younger sister.

Traditionally, the training and learning the skills to become an eagle hunter is passed from father to son. In The Eagle Huntress we see how one father decides to break the norms and mores of his society and train his young daughter to become a hunter. Aisholpan displays innate courage and strength as she learns to catch and train her own eagle with the steady support of her father.

Special mention must be made of the scenery in The Eagle Huntress and the fantastic work by cinematographer Simon Niblett. The vast steppes of Mongolia in its various moods are gorgeously captured in the film.  I suspect they used drone cameras for some of those beautiful shots of the Mongolian landscape. Watching the Mongolian landscape reminded of John Ford and Sam Peckinpah’s films, where the scenery is a definite character in their films.

Here is the screening and ticket information for The Eagle Huntress at MVFF.

Filmmaker Barry Jenkin’s  Moonlight is a poetical and lyrical film about love and masculinity in the African-American community. The film is based on a play by Tarell Alvin McCraney’s called In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue.

Moonlight is about a young boy and how his family, friends and society shape his growth from boyhood to adulthood. What is interesting is the way the camera was used for each act.  James Laxton‘s camera work brilliantly captures and sets the mood for the film. You will have to watch Moonlight to find out for yourself on how the camera was deployed to create that mood for each act. This is a film that will stir your emotions and make you think about how we treat and judge people. It also underscores how a little love and kindness goes a long way.

Jenkins will be at the screening of Moonlight at MVFF.

Here is the screening and ticket information for Moonlight at MVFF.

Iranian filmmaker Farhad Ashgari’s award-winning film The Salesman (Forushande in Persian) makes for an absorbing watch and leaves you thinking about marriage, love, friendship and about truth and our value system.

The Salesman is about a young couple in Teheran, who are part of a small theatre group that is staging Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman.The young couple’s life undergoes a significant change when they move into a new apartment. The film stars Shahab Hosseini and  Taraneh Alidoosti as the young couple. Hosseini won the best male actor and Ashgari won the best screenplay award at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival.

Ashgari will be at the screening The Sales at MVFF.

Here is the ticket and screening information for The Salesman at MVFF.

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