California Film Institute

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California Film Institute's logo
Christopher B. Smith Rafael Film Center on 4th Street in San Rafael, California.

The California Film Institute, (CFI), is a film organization based in San Rafael, California. The organization presents the annual Mill Valley Film Festival, exhibits films year-round at the Christopher B. Smith Rafael Film Center and supports the CFI Education Program. The founder and current director of CFI is Mark Fishkin.


For over 20 years, the California Film Institute has been a beacon for film culture with a global reputation for excellence. The annual Mill Valley Film Festival, now in its 39th year, draws a huge international audience with programs ranging from Hollywood premieres to cutting-edge independent films. Set against the backdrop of scenic Northern California, the festival has become a destination event each fall and is a major milestone on the march towards awards season.

In addition, CFI acts as a year-round film-centric town hall through a diverse calendar of programming at one of the leading non-profit independent theatres in the country, the Christopher B. Smith Rafael Film Center, with films that address a breadth of social, environmental and cultural issues. Programming at this state-of-the-art three-screen facility includes documentaries, silent film, retrospectives, classics and contemporary international films as well as first run theatrical releases.

Working closely with 200 Bay Area schools and community groups, CFI Education provides Bay Area students and lifelong learners from diverse backgrounds the opportunity to interpret the world and themselves through film with a variety of programs including My Place, My Story, A Place in the World, Filmmakers in Schools, the Mill Valley Film Festival Children's FilmFest, Community Screenings and Summerfilm.

CFI seeks to broaden all aspects of film culture, offering a wide range of activities that engage emotions, inspire action, change perceptions and advance knowledge.

Christopher B. Smith Rafael Film Center[edit]

The Christopher B. Smith Rafael Film Center reopened on April 16, 1999, renovated from a 1938 theater and refurbished with the highest technical specs.[1][2] That opening weekend included Sean Penn, Robin Wright Penn, Nick Nolte, Matthew Broderick and director Alan Rudolph as guests.[3] The theater is one of a few nonprofit theaters in the United States. The venue shows film that include independent documentaries, classic films, retrospectives, features, and international works.[4] The theater also hosts special events with filmmakers from around the world year-round.[2][5] The Film Center annually serves approximately 150,000 attendees.[6]

The Smith Rafael Film Center still maintains film projectors in all of its theaters. Richard Peterson, director of programming, sees film as a diversifying agent for the theater. "Film has been around for a hundred years," Peterson explains. "And if I want to show a movie from the 1940s that hasn't been digitized, the only way I can do that is on 35mm. The theaters that only want to show new movies will have to go digital, but we're going to keep showing old ones."[7][8]

In July 2011, The Coolidge Corner Theatre and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation selected the Smith Rafael Film Center to implement their collaborative Science on Screen programs with at $7,000 grant. The Smith Rafael Film Center was one of eight independent non-profit theaters in the United States to receive the grant.[9]

Mill Valley Film Festival[edit]

Founded in 1978 by Mark Fishkin, the festival is held every October, and screens over 200 innovative US and international films for over 60,000 participants.[10] The annual event is consistently rated as one of the top film festivals in the nation.[11]

CFI Education[edit]

The CFI Education program is currently run by John Morrison. The institute also hosts filmmaking workshops, a year-long cinema appreciation curriculum, and over 100 free annual screenings for school groups.[12][13][14] Other activities include Q&A sessions hosted by various international filmmakers as well as seminars by industry professionals.

In August 2012, Mark Phillips, op-ed columnist for the Marin Independent Journal, called CFI Education "one of Marin's treasures."[15]


  1. ^ Liberatore, Paul (April 9, 2009). "Rafael Film Center celebrates 10 years looking back, forward". Marin Independent Journal. MediaNews Group. Retrieved 2013-01-17. 
  2. ^ a b Kaufman, Anthony (May 2, 2011). "How To Create a Thriving Arthouse Theater (Almost) Anywhere". indieWire. Archived from the original on 2011-11-03. Retrieved 2013-01-20. 
  3. ^ Liberatore, Paul (April 24, 2009). "Making a scene: Smith Rafael Film Center has brought Marin glam, a world-class film fest and indie treasures for a decade". Marin Independent Journal. MediaNews Group. Retrieved 2013-01-17. 
  4. ^ "ROAD TO NOWHERE / Monte Hellman in Person / Hellman Retrospective". Roxie Theater. 2011-07-19. Retrieved 2013-01-24. 
  5. ^ Karman, Mal (November 20, 2009). "Film: The abstract-minded professor". Pacific Sun. Embarcadero Media. Archived from the original on 2011-03-15. Retrieved 2013-01-20. 
  6. ^ "About the California Film Institute". Retrieved 2013-01-27.  External link in |work= (help)
  7. ^ Montgomery, Blake (July 13, 2011). "The Last Reel: As theaters convert to digital, film projectionists become a dying breed". North Bay Bohemian. Retrieved 2013-01-20. 
  8. ^ Guthmann, Edward (April 25, 2011). "Film projectionist makes sure picture is perfect". Retrieved 2013-01-20. 
  9. ^ SAVAGE, SOPHIA (July 14, 2011). "EXCLUSIVE: Coolidge Corner Theatre and Alfred P. Sloan's Science on Screen Picks Eight Cinemas". indieWire. To implement their collaborative Science on Screen programs, The Coolidge Corner Theatre and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation have selected eight independent non-profit cinemas throughout the US to each receive $7,000 in grant funding… Each has a strong reputation for contributing to their cultural community. Applicants were asked to pitch program concepts and detail strategies for recruiting speakers and building audiences, and the recipients will each host a minimum of three events during the June 2011-June 2012 period. 
  10. ^ "Mill Valley Film Festival 1978" (Press release). Mill Valley, CA. 1978. 
  11. ^ Cahill, Greg (October 1–7, 1998). "A Life in Film: Mark Fishkin ushers in Mill Valley Film Fest". Sonoma County Independent. Metro Publishing. Retrieved 2013-01-26. 
  12. ^ Welte, Jim (July 27, 2011). "Food and Film Workshop Seeks Teens". Mill Valley Patch. Retrieved 2013-01-24. 
  13. ^ Siegel, Tatiana (July 23, 2011). "Pic series explores science on screen". Variety. Retrieved 2013-01-24. 
  14. ^ Huizenga, Beth (July 26, 2011). "The School to Career Partnership Program Going Strong for Marin Public High School Students". Novato Patch. Retrieved 2013-01-24. California Film Institute’s Development Associate for the Mill Valley Film Festival, Beau Blanchard, takes it a bit further. After recently creating a consistent program with the local school districts providing year-round internships including those with the School to Career Partnership, he said, “We wanted to offer experience in an office environment and with a non-profit arts organization. We’ve had such a terrific group this far, not just bright and motivated, but also in terms of being an asset to what we’re doing. They are so skilled in some of the new medias as we’re moving forward with marketing and development – I’m very impressed. The more that we’ve given them, the more they’ve accomplished.” 
  15. ^ Phillips, Mark (August 13, 2012). "Marin Voice: Film program is a Marin treasure". Marin Independent Journal. MediaNews Group. Retrieved 2013-01-24. 

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