Cult Celebrity and Celebrated Filmmaker John Waters to Headline U.Va. Arts Assembly and Screen Films in the Virginia Film Festival Nov. 6

September 22, 2009

Please note changes in location for the Arts Assembly, to Culbreth Theater, and time, 4:30.

September 22, 2009 — The University of Virginia and the Virginia Film Festival welcome cult artist, photographer, author, actor and filmmaker John Waters to Grounds Nov. 6 for two special events.

Waters will be the featured speaker at the second annual Arts Assembly in Culbreth Theater at 4:30 p.m. and later that evening two of his films will be screened at the Virginia Film Festival.

The Arts Assembly talk will be based on his one-man performance, "This Filthy World," in which Waters will discuss his career and what being an artist means to him.

In addition to being a celebrated filmmaker, Waters has written five books, with his sixth, "Role Models," due out in 2010. His photography and sculpture have been shown at galleries throughout the world and in books including "John Waters: Change of Life," which accompanied a Waters retrospective at the Museum of Contemporary Art in New York.

Throughout his career, Waters has been known for his use of humor to highlight the lives of those outside the mainstream. American author and social critic William Burroughs described Waters as the "pope of trash" for his obsession with elevating all that is trashy in life.

"The altered perspectives on everyday life that Waters conveys in his work have won him a wide appeal among a broad spectrum of audiences as well as a cult following among filmmakers," said Elizabeth Turner, U.Va.'s vice provost for the arts . "He, by his own description, is obsessed – obsessed with pushing the boundaries and provoking thought and change. That's what great art does.

"We are delighted to have him at the University for the second annual Arts Assembly."

Tickets to Arts Assembly are free and the event is open to the public. Visit U.Va. Arts Box Office in the Drama Building on Culbreth Road, call 434-924-3376 or send e-mail to

Tickets will be available on a first-come, first-served basis for U.Va. students, faculty and staff until Oct. 23, after which members of the public may pick up a free ticket. Reserved U.Va. tickets not picked up in person by Oct 28 will be released.

Tickets may be available at the door. For information click here.

"Pink Flamingos" and "Hairspray," two of Waters' best-known films, will be featured at The Virginia Film Festival in screenings in Newcomb Hall Theater.

Festival director Jody Kielbasa said Waters' visit fits this year's theme, "Funny Business."

"We are thrilled to have John Waters at the Virginia Film Festival. He is a fearless artist whose work as a filmmaker and actor has consistently pushed the established order and opened doors to new forms of expression," Kielbasa said.

From the time he made his first 8-millimeter film in 1964 through his rise to becoming one of the cinema's most colorful cult heroes, Waters has prided himself on being an equal opportunity offender. The Baltimore native, who uses the Charm City as both a setting and a muse, used a subscription to Variety as a springboard to his fascinating career, devouring its movie facts and insider lingo. By his teen years, he had begun to amass an impressive list of filmmakers as inspiration, including Jean-Luc Godard, Walt Disney, Andy Warhol, Russ Meyer, Ingmar Bergman and others.

Waters' enigmatic style first came to the public's attention in the late 1960s and early '70s with features like "Mondo Trasho" and "Multiple Maniacs."

Then, in 1972, Waters created "Pink Flamingos," a film featuring a unique stable of outsized characters, including favorites Divine and Mink Stole. The film launched Waters into the realm of cult celebrity and helped set the stage for a string of films that would carry him through the decade, including "Female Trouble" and "Desperate Living."

Waters celebrated the arrival of the '80s with "Polyester" – presented in "Odorama," complete with scratch-and-sniff cards that allowed audiences to follow his characters' fragrant search for love and happiness.

Waters brought his trademark genius to Hollywood for the first time in 1990 with the release of "Cry-Baby," a juvenile delinquent musical comedy satire starring Johnny Depp. Other highlights have included the comedy action thriller "Cecil B. Demented" (with Stephen Dorff and Melanie Griffith) and "A Dirty Shame" (starring Tracey Ullman and Johnny Knoxville).

Movie and television audiences have also seen Waters in front of the camera in acting roles in Woody Allen's "Sweet and Lowdown" and the NBC show "My Name is Earl," among others.

The Arts Assembly is free and open to the public.

Tickets for the Virginia Film Festival go on sale Oct. 9 and are available online at or in person or by phone from the U.Va. Arts Box Office, located in the lobby of the Drama Building at 109 Culbreth Road. The box office is open weekdays from noon to 5 p.m.; its phone number is 434-924-3376.

— By Jane Ford