It’s almost film festival season in Charlottesville.
In one month, from Nov. 1 through 4, film buffs and casual moviegoers will gather in Charlottesville and at the University of Virginia for the annual Virginia Film Festival, a program of the University, its Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost and the vice provost for the arts. Now in its 31st year, the festival has become an important proving ground for many of the year’s most compelling films and documentaries and draws filmmakers, actors, artists and moviegoers from across the country and even around the world.
“We are thrilled to announce our 2018 program, which is highlighted by a selection of some of the most-talked-about films on the current film festival circuit, including many that have vaulted to the top of the current major award-season conversations,” said Jody Kielbasa, the festival’s director and vice provost for the arts.
Highlights, outlined below, include a guest appearance by Martin Luther King III, screening a new documentary, “Charlottesville”; screenings of several films already gaining Oscar buzz; and a comprehensive look at Orson Welles’ final film, “The Other Side of the Wind,” which Kielbasa called “one of the most anticipated projects in film history.”
Tickets will be available at virginiafilmfestival.org; in person at the UVA Arts Box Office (in the lobby of the UVA Drama Building), open weekdays from noon to 5 p.m.; and by phone at 434-924-3376. Beginning Oct. 24, tickets will also be available at the festival’s downtown box office in the lobby of Violet Crown on the Downtown Mall.
Insightful Special Guests
Chief among the luminaries appearing at the festival is Martin Luther King III, the eldest son of the late Martin Luther King Jr.
King will speak following the screening of the new documentary, “Charlottesville,” about the violent white supremacist demonstrations at UVA and in Charlottesville in August 2017, presented by the UVA Center for Politics and the Community Idea Stations.
King’s appearance is part of a larger “Race in America” program, presented in partnership with James Madison’s Montpelier, that the festival began last year and will continue with six film screenings and discussions this year.
Other special guests include director and actor Peter Bogdanovich, presenting a recently completed film he stars in, “The Other Side of the Wind,” begun by his late friend and mentor Orson Welles.
Welles, best known for his film “Citizen Kane,” died in 1985 and left behind an unfinished film that Bogdanovich and others have now completed after more than 40 years. Bogdanovich will offer festival audiences an inside look at the revitalization of the film, which premiered Aug. 31 at the 75th Venice International Film Festival and will debut on Netflix on Nov. 2.
“To have a current, new film from Orson Welles is remarkable,” festival programmer Wesley Harris said. “We are very proud to be presenting this.”
Another guest, director and producer Allen Hughes, will present his popular HBO docu-series, “The Defiant Ones,” and a screening of his 1993 film, “Menace II Society.” That film was the first major motion picture to come directly out of hip-hop culture.
The festival’s opening night, Nov. 1, will feature the film “Green Book,” a debut effort by director Peter Farrelly inspired by the real-life friendship between world-class black pianist Don Shirley and New York bouncer Tony Lip, who drove Shirley on a concert tour through the Jim Crow South.
On Nov. 2, audiences can take in “The Favourite,” set in Queen Anne’s reign in the early 18th century. Starring Olivia Colman, Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone, the film is already being talked about for an Academy Award.
Kielbasa, who saw “The Favourite” at the Telluride Film Festival, called it “a stunning film” and an “incredibly fun watch with tremendous Oscar buzz.”
The festival’s centerpiece film, slated for Nov. 3, is “Roma.” Directed by Alfonso Cuarón of “Gravity” fame, “Roma” has already received international acclaim and been nominated as Mexico’s foreign-language submission for the 91st Academy Awards. The film follows Cleo, a domestic worker in 1970s Mexico City, and the upper-middle-class family she cares for.
“It’s a remarkable film,” Kielbasa said. “It’s clearly a very personal experience for Alfonso and it becomes a very personal experience for the audience as well.”
The festival will close with “The Front Runner,” a timely film starring Hugh Jackman as 1988 presidential candidate Gary Hart, as he faces allegations of an extramarital affair that threaten to upend his campaign days before midterm elections.
Many of the festival’s planned events will make use of a unique resource available to the Virginia Film Festival: faculty and scholars at the University.
UVA’s Miller Center will present several films in partnership with the festival, including “1968: The Year That Changed America,” a documentary from Tom Hanks and Mark Herzog, and “An Acceptable Loss,” a political thriller starring Tika Sumpter and Jamie Lee Curtis. Experts from the Miller Center, which studies the presidency and public affairs, will lead post-screening discussions.
Another documentary, “Seats at the Table,” features a unique program at the University. “Books Behind Bars,” taught by Russian literature scholar Andrew Kaufman, takes UVA students into Virginia juvenile detention facilities to study Russian literature with inmates.
Charlottesville-based filmmaker Chris Farina created the documentary as he spent a semester shadowing Kaufman’s class, which has also been featured in the Washington Post and on NBC’s “Today” morning show.
“It’s a really interesting, really hopeful documentary,” Harris said.
These are just a few of the films queued up for the festival. Visit the festival website for the full list and schedule as it is released.