The 36th Mill Valley Film Festival continues its recent tradition this year of celebrating an anniversary of the films from the original Star Wars trilogy by screening Return of the Jedi, the final chapter of that initial trilogy for which Lucasfilm is celebrating the 30th anniversary of its release in 1983.
But while devotees of San Anselmo filmmaker George Lucas can expect the costumed parade and Q&A with special guests of year's past at the Oct. 7 screening at the Century Cinema in Corte Madera, this year's MVFF also includes the re-emergence of a Star Wars-related short film that hasn’t been seen by the public in decades.
On Oct. 13 at the 142 Throckmorton Theatre in Mill Valley, a 25-minute film called Black Angel from Star Wars art director Roger Christian will be shown, 33 years since its last public screening. Credited with influencing some of the biggest fantasy films of the 1980s, Black Angel was the short film that ran before The Empire Strikes Back in 1980.
According to a comprehensive Ars Technica story about the rediscovery and restoration of Black Angel, an archivist at Universal Studios in Los Angeles found the film's negative and elements in a tin in 2011, ending Christian's nearly 20-year search for it. The subsequent restoration process, led by Brice Parker, David Tanaka, and the Bay Area Visual Effects Society (VES), "stretched all the way through August, with the MVFF screening only being confirmed within the last week or so," according to Ars Technica.
The film's plot centers "on a knight who falls into a river while returning from the Holy Wars. He’s drowning, struggling with his helmet as it pulls him under. He eventually surfaces in this strange world, where his maiden is trapped by an evil knight (called The Black Angel). From there the quest begins..." Christian told Ars Technica.
“We’re trying to preserve it for the next generation of moviegoers and filmmakers,” Tanaka told Ars Technica. “Not to be too self-deprecating, it’s kind of, we’re doing it because we appreciate all these filmmakers and hopefully whatever we do people will appreciate as well. It’s a huge nod of respect for Roger Christian and Star Wars, and we just want to be a part of it.”
The 411: Return of the Jedi screens at Century Cinema in Corte Madera on Monday, Oct. 7 at 6:30 p.m. Black Angel screens at 142 Throckmorton Theatre in Mill Valley on Sunday, Oct. 13 at 8 p.m. For more info and to buy tickets, visit the MVFF website.