We established the Mendocino Film Festival in 2006. In developing our vision statement and goals, we strove to reflect our appreciation of community and the simpler, outdoors-oriented Mendocino lifestyle. In such a quiet and beautiful environment, attending filmmakers can focus less on hype and more on craft and creative kinship. They can hike the headlands and share their work with passionate colleagues and attendees. Mendocino is known for its artistic and politically active population, so local audiences are informed, engaged and supportive.
BUILDING UPON OUR SUCCESS
Filmmakers and filmgoers love our Festival. It’s easy to see why, in a very short time, we have attracted the attention and warm support of both these groups. In 2006, legendary director Sydney Pollack helped us found the Festival as our Special Guest and Advisor.
By 2007, our second year, over 70 filmmakers and celebrity guests attended the Festival, from around the country and across the globe. They came with their unique visions, expressed in both documentary and narrative films, short and feature-length.
That year Special Guest Albert Maysles attended for an intimate conversation and screening of The Beales of Grey Gardens, and in his enthusiasm for the Festival offered to establish an annual award in his name, the Albert Maysles Award for Excellence in Documentary Filmmaking, the first time he has done this in his career. This award has since been bestowed upon Jasmine Dellal, Robert Elfstrom, Haskell Wexler, Les Blank and Ralph Arlyck.
In 2008 the Festival launched a new category of films, Films for Our Future. The North Coast of California has long been associated with vigorous social and environmental activism. This new category is guided by the words: Films for Our Future – Changing the world, one film at a time.
Our second special category, introduced at our inception, is Films on the Arts. Mendocino County has more artists per capita than any other county in California. In acknowledgement of this creative community, the Festival expressed its commitment to the arts by establishing this special category. This grouping brings to the festival the life and work of outstanding artists, dancers and musicians, whose stories and lives are highlighted through the lenses of world-class filmmakers.
Our trademark shorts program, always with an upbeat theme, sells out with multiple screenings each year and rivals shorts programs from the biggest and best festivals in the country.
With an interest in educating and entertaining our youngest community members, we also established a Children’s Program in 2008. In 2009 this highlighted Azur and Asmar, the stunning animation from France, in 2010 The Secret of Kells, Academy Award ® nominated animated feature from Ireland, and since then, rich programs of short films from around the world.
We also select films of importance for our local Mendocino High School student-body, including The World We Want about teen activists around the globe taking action in their communities,Happy, about the true meaning of happiness, Wonder Women! The Untold Story of American Superheroines, and A Fierce Green Fire, on environmental activism of the past century.
MUCH MORE THAN FILM SCREENINGS
Almost every film screened at the Mendocino Film Festival is represented by its director. Given this rare proportion of filmmakers to regular attendees, combined with the intimacy of our venues, there is ample opportunity for film-goers to interact with screenwriters, directors, producers and celebrities from across the industry.
In addition to Q&A’s, the MFF is committed to incorporating panels and special augmentations of programs whenever possible. For example, a film about Princess Farhana, internationally known belly dancer, was followed by a belly dance performance by two local groups; Silent Films have flickered in the dark with the accompaniment of special guest live musicians; a panel of Native-American tribal representatives and fishermen’s associations followed a film on restoration of the Klamath River; The Topp Twins from New Zealand brought their own guitars to entertain the crowd after screening of Topp Twins: Untouchable Girls; and, a film on master tattoo artist Ed Hardy was followed by a Tattoo Fashion Show organized by coastal tattoo buffs.
With all this provided against the backdrop of the stunning Mendocino Coast, wrapped up in the trademark welcoming warmth of the Coast’s residents, it is no surprise that this Festival has been labeled a “gem” and is quickly becoming the Go-To film festival of intimate film festivals.