Notes on the Mill Valley Film Festival, 2014

I saw 19 films at the 2014, 36th Annual Mill Valley Film Festival (MVFF36) this October. After the first five films on my list I realized a pattern which the festival's programmers had not intentionally planned. There were at two major groups that stood out with some that crossed both.

One group of films dealt with people with Enormous Skill, or Promise, Meeting Extraordinary Adversity. They all in some way reflected the relationship between the brain and the mind or how the mind deals with the stress the brain transmits.  The dissolution of the Brain-Mind paradox also reflects ways in which new science, particularly neuroscience, is creating broader social inclusion of individuals with circumstances which previously, historically, would have stigmatized them; autism spectrum traits, physical disabilities, gender differences.

Beneficence - or doing "good" with knowledge, including technology, is Beneficence. I consider these films to illustrate “doing good” with knowledge. I call this set of films 'Promise meets Adversity,' They include: THE IMITATION GAME,  STATES OF GRACE, THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING, IMPERIAL DREAMS and MOMMY.  None of these were comedies but they are all very good.

A second large group of movies at MVFF36 thematically dealt with issues of Proxy Parenting. Who best raises a child? Ethically, we consider that parents represent the best interest of their children, unless proven otherwise.  These films pondered more questions than they answered but Then if not the parent - who? Sometimes the best a parent can do is to select others to act in their stead. Working parents do it all the time, if it can be afforded.  Overwhelmed parents do it also. When parents relinquish parental involvement, temporary or permanently how do we define their right to do so. At what age is a child able to decide on their own about who should parent them?

Medically and legally we have made a value judgment to emancipate children for sexual issues but not for other matters. Should the parameters of emancipation be psychological, cultural, religious or intellectual? Regarding autonomy, do we as bioethicists or clinicians,  “know it when we see it?”  I call this group of films 'Parents and Proxies.'  The MVFF2014 relevant films are: MARIE'S STORY, NATURAL SCIENCES/Ciencias Naturales,  LIKE SUNDAY LIKE RAIN. Li  THE TALE OF PRINCESS KAGUAY/Kaguya-Hime No Monogatari, BLACK AND WHITE and SOLEILS. Many of these films have significant comedic or lighthearted elements though the deal with serious issues.