The Virginia Film Festival, the annual four-day celebration of storytelling in film, which begins on Thursday of this week, will feature more than 100 film screenings, and related events, from A to Z; and as one might expect, tickets are going fast, even before any film has rolled.
This year’s special guests will include Baltimore native and Academy Award winning director, screenwriter, and producer, Barry Levinson; international best-selling author David Baldacci, who is a native of Richmond and a graduate of UVa Law School; New York Times best-selling author, journalist and television host Katie Couric, a UVa alum and a native of Arlington; award-winning actress and California native, Jenna Elfman; award-winning actress of stage and screen, Jasmine Guy, a Boston native who danced with the Alvin Ailey Company; and Frank Langella, the award-winning actor.
The ‘centerpiece’ of this year’s Film Festival features Hal Holbrook, now in his 89th year, who will present “Mark Twain Tonight!,” his award-winning one-man show, which has been an enormous audience favorite over the past 60 years. As Holbrook’s selection of the famous author’s writings has varied as the times have varied though the years, the wit and humor is always characterized by the kind of truth-telling that is legendary. Mr. Holbrook is quick to point out in interviews that he has always remained true to the actual language that Mark Twain used in his own presentations, and although certain elements are more appropriate for certain times, Holbrook has resisted the temptation to “update” the presentation, and he is always faithful to Mark Twain’s time and place.
This special event will take place on this Friday at 7:30 p.m. at the Paramount Theater in downtown Charlottesville. This performance at the Paramount Theater is a singular gem of the 27th annual Virginia Film Festival, which will run through Nov. 9 this year.
A related event, the documentary film “Holbrook/Twain: An American Odyssey” also starring Sean Penn, Martin Sheen, Cherry Jones, Robert Patrick, will take place this Saturday, At 4:30 p.m. in the Earl Dickinson Building at Piedmont Virginia Community College, off Rte 20, a few miles south of Charlottesville, just this side of the intersection with Rte 53. Following the showing of the film, Mr. Holbrook and the director of the film, Scott Teems, will join Stephen Railton in a discussion.
While the deadline has passed for submitting a film to be considered for the Festival (individuals were notified of acceptance in early October) there is an additional opportunity to participate through the annual Adrenaline Film Project, a 72 hour filmmaking competition involving 10 to12 teams of three filmmakers each, who will write, cast, shoot, and edit and then screen it within 3 days during the Festival. Each of the five phases of production and screening will be closely supervised and advised provided by Adrenaline Film Project mentors. The films will be screened competitively in front of a live audience at the University of Virginia’s Culbreth Theater on Saturday, November 8, 2014, at 9:00 p.m., with an award ceremony to follow:
In previous years, the film sets of Adrenaline teams have also been visited by guest mentors including legendary director Norman Jewison (Director, In the Heat of the Night), Mark Johnson (Producer, The Chronicles of Narnia), Brad Silberling (Director, Lemony Snicket), Ron Yerxa (Producer, Little Miss Sunshine), and many more!
The Virginia Film Festival is also marking the 25th Anniversary of the transformational fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, with The Berlin Wall Symposium: A series of screenings, live performances, and discussions.
Continuing the tradition of the Presidency in Film series, this year’s Festival will include a screening of the film Frost/Nixon, followed by a discussion with actor Frank Langella, nominated for an Academy Award for his role as Richard M. Nixon. Also featured will be 41 on 41, an in-depth view of President George H. W. Bush; and the film Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb
The UVa Center for Politics will continue its popular annual screening series with Bombs Away: LBJ, Goldwater and the 1964 Campaign that Changed it All, a documentary which looks up-close and personal at the 1964 Presidential Election between Lyndon B. Johnson, a Democrat from Texas and Barry Goldwater, a Republican from Arizona. This film is co-produced by the Center for Politics, and examines the genesis of negative campaign ads that some believe have “set the stage” for the vitriol and extreme partisanship in the current political climate.. This film will be followed by a discussion featuring Barry Goldwater, Jr., both sponsored by The UVa Center for Politics and moderated by notable UVa Professor Larry J. Sabato, and publisher of The Crystal Ball which features predictions of the outcomes of political races known for its statistically-significant accuracies.
The Film Festival’s partnership with the Library of Congress will celebrate classic American filmmaking with a series featuring films from the National Film Registry:
Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb (1964); which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year; Gordon Parks’ Shaft, (1971), which honor Parks and his legacy in American cinema and photography; and The Wizard of Oz (1939), the quintessential musical fantasy film that will be the screened as part of our Family Day festivities this year.
The University of Virginia Office of Diversity and Equity, will present Freedom Summer which looks back at the summer of 1964, in which more than 700 brave student activists mobilized the segregated state of Mississippi. Distinguished UVa. Professor, Civil Rights activist, and former NAACP Chariman Julian Bond, plays a significant role in the documentary and will join us for a discussion following the screening. An Afternoon with Rita Dove and Julian Bond will feature a pair of short films from director Eduardo Montes-Bradley highlighting the accomplishments of the was and the films, Julian Bond: Reflection from the Front lines of the Civil Rights Movement and Rita Dove: An American Poet, will both be screened, followed by a discussion that will provide audience members a unique opportunity to pose questions and comments.
As part of the Indigenous film series, the Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Museum Collection, the Festival will showcase a trio of films, as well:
Drunktown’s Finest follows three unlikely Navajo Nation characters as they chart a course to leave their small dead-end town behind. What We Do in the Shadows chronicles the everyday concerns of three flat-mates trying to navigate their lives … as vampires.
Miyarrka Media’s Ringtone is a beautiful, funny, and surprisingly moving film that offers glimpses into the lives of Yolngu Aboriginal families through their choice of ringtones.
Focused initially on American Film, the Virginia Film Festival returns to its roots in the Opening Night Film, Big Stone Gap, the tale of a “a self-proclaimed small-town spinster who finds her life turned upside-down by a secret.”
Best-selling Virginia author David Baldacci will be available for a discussion to follow an adaptation of his novel Wish You Well, adapted from his novel about “what happens when a young girl and her brother are forced by a family tragedy to move with their grandmother to the mountains of Virginia, and how experience teaches her about her family and herself.”
The American Films continue with an appreciative glimpse of Appalachian mountain culture:
The documentary Big Moccasin recounts the rich relationships and colorful characters that inhabit this 25-mile area in Southwestern Virginia. Big Significant Things follows Craig, a man about to make significant life-changing decisions, and his decision to embark on solitary soul-searching road trip instead.
Additional films in the American Film series, include a highlight on filmmaking in the Commonwealth of Virginia, with Fishing Without Nets, “a gripping tale about the life of a young Somali pirate, told from his perspective.” Goodish, is a Richmond-based film, which follows the lives of four young friends and the complexities in their relationships. Led Zeppelin Played Here, is a documentary about a legend “surrounding an alleged concert held in a Maryland gymnasium on the night of Richard Nixon’s 1969 inauguration;” From Grain to Growler is “a documentary about the explosion of craft beer culture in the Commonwealth;” The Winding Stream tells the tale of a “Virginia-based musical dynasty at the very heart of country music; Waking Marshall Walker is the most recent film from award-winning experimental filmmaker and UVa professor Kevin Everson. The film follows a young woman’s tireless efforts “to save her father from being stuck between past, present, and future.” These particular films are each being presented by the Virginia Film Office.
Two films from UVa graduates, relating to current quality of life issues in the Charlottesville and Albemarle County communities, will be presented by Charlottesville Tomorrow, in partnership with the VFF, which highlight “ways we can make our community even better:”
Fed Up, produced by Katie Couric, reveals the startling and upsetting truth that the everyday eating habits of American children are contributing to, and sometimes causing, serious health problems, and tries to find how we can find a solution to this worsening epidemic. Couric and Dr. Mark Hyman will join us to further explore these questions in a post-film discussion. Charlottesville Tomorrow will host an Are you Fed Up? public reception at 4:00 p.m. at the UVa School of Architecture’s Campbell Hall.
Landscapes of Longevity, co-directed by graduate researchers from U.Va.’s Departments of Landscape Architecture and Urban Planning Asa Eslocker and Harriet Jameson, explores the three known “Blue Zones” in the world – places whose residents live measurably longer, healthier lives than other areas plagued by chronic disease.”
For additional information, or to purchase tickets, visit the Virginia Film Festival website.