Faculty Shift From Classroom to the Theater for This Weekend’s Film Festival

Last year’s Virginia Film Festival drew record crowds to Charlottesville. (Photo by Amanda Maglione)

This weekend’s Virginia Film Festival will feature appearances from several Hollywood stars, including acclaimed filmmaker Werner Herzog, award-winning actress-director Liv Ullmann and Academy Award-winning actress and Richmond native Shirley MacLaine, as well as Virginia native and comic actor Danny McBride.

Meanwhile, many University of Virginia faculty will play key supporting roles, introducing films and participating in panel discussions following festival film screenings.

Beginning Thursday, the festival includes 17 screenings and events with faculty and staff members’ appearances as presenters, moderators and panel discussion participants – and even as filmmakers themselves. (For a complete schedule of film screenings and information on remaining ticket availability, visit the Virginia Film Festival website.)

Below is a list of scheduled appearances by UVA faculty, staff and students. 

• Screening: “Loving,” 7 p.m. Thursday, Paramount Theater (SOLD OUT)

Celebrating the real-life courage and commitment of an interracial couple, this movie chronicles the story of Richard and Mildred Loving, who fell in love and were married in 1958. In Virginia at the time, it was illegal for interracial couples to marry; they were jailed and banished from the state. Their civil rights case, Loving v. Virginia, went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which in 1967 reaffirmed the very foundation of the right to marry. This screening has been supported by UVA’s Office for Diversity and Equity and Office for Equal Opportunity and Civil Rights.

Discussion will be moderated by Doug Blackmon (UVA Miller Center), featuring director Jeff Nichols and actor Ruth Negga.

• Screening: “Bugs,” 7:45 p.m. Thursday, Violet Crown B (Downtown Mall)

Since the United Nations recommended edible insects as a resource to combat world hunger, “insects as food” has become a hot topic. Following a team from the Copenhagen-based Nordic Food Lab that has been traveling the world to explore communities that eat insects, “Bugs” documents the lab’s chefs and researchers’ encounters with everything from revered termite queens to venomous hornets to desert-delicacy honey ants. 

Manuel Lerdau (Department of Environmental Sciences) will introduce the film.

• Screening: “The Alchemist Cookbook,” 8:30 p.m. Thursday, Violet Crown A (Downtown Mall)

Setting out on alchemic pursuits, young outcast Sean has isolated himself in a trailer in the woods with his cat, Kaspar, as his sole companion. Contemptuous of authority, he’s holed up in the backwoods of western Michigan to escape a society that has no place for him. When he turns from chemistry to black magic to crack nature’s secret, however, things go awry and he awakens something far more sinister and dangerous.

Discussion moderated by Wesley Harris (Virginia Film Festival programmer and operations manager), with director-producer Joel Potrykus and producer Bryan Reisberg.

• Screening: “Landfill Harmonic,” 3 p.m. Friday, Newcomb Hall Theater (UVA)

Built in the shadow of a massive landfill, the Paraguayan community of Cateura survives by selling recyclable materials collected from the trash. A musical group known as the Recycled Orchestra of Cateura plays instruments made entirely out of garbage. When their story goes viral in the media, the orchestra is launched into the global spotlight. Guided by idealistic music director Favio Chavez, the orchestra navigates an unfamiliar new world of arenas and sold­out concerts. After a natural disaster strikes their country, Favio must find a way to keep the orchestra intact and deliver hope to their town.

Discussion with Matthew Burtner (McIntire Department of Music).

• Kevin Everson: Short Films, 3 p.m. Friday, Violet Crown A (Downtown Mall)

Internationally renowned filmmaker and UVA art professor Kevin Everson screens a selection of short films that combine historical observations with contemporary, socially relevant narratives. Everson’s films, richly abstracted and artfully constructed, have been praised for their rare ability to find the extraordinary and theatrical in the ordinary and everyday.

Discussion with Kevin Everson (McIntire Department of Art).

• Screening: “She Started It,” 5 p.m. Friday, Violet Crown A (Downtown Mall)

This documentary offers the first ever behind-the-scenes look at what it’s like to run a tech start-up as a young woman. Shot on location in New York, Silicon Valley and cities across the globe, the film follows five female entrepreneurs and their challenges and triumphs in a male-dominated field. It’s an exploration of the cultural roots of female underrepresentation in entrepreneurship – including pervasive self-doubt, fear of failure and risk aversion among young women – and the structural barriers that keep women from entering and succeeding in this male-dominated field.

Discussion moderated by Kisha Lashley (McIntire School of Commerce), with director Nora Poggi and Elizabeth Harrington (UVA engineering student).

• Screening: “Before the Fall,” 8:45 p.m. Friday, Piedmont Virginia Community College Dickinson Center

Set in the mountains of Southwest Virginia, an unexpected love story emerges in this modern take on Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice.” Ben Bennet, a gay, affluent attorney, unknowingly insults Lee Darcy, a welder charged with domestic abuse. The men’s mutual dislike for one another transforms into a quiet friendship after they find common ground. Their companionship becomes increasingly complicated as they confront their prejudices in the face of surfacing love.

Discussion moderated by Andrea Press (Departments of Media Studies and Sociology), with writer-director Byrum Geisler, director of photography Brandon Garza and assistant director Alex Bice.

• Screening: “Heaven’s Floor,” 9 p.m. Friday, St. Anne’s-Belfield Upper School Greenway Rise Auditorium

Based on a true story, the film details the journeys of Julia, who sets out from Los Angeles on a photographic expedition to the frozen tundra of the Canadian Arctic, and Malaya, an 11-year-old Inuit girl who rescues Julia when she finds herself stranded and alone. Over the course of a few days, Julia discovers the dark underbelly of Malaya’s world and realizes that Malaya may be the one who needs rescuing.

Discussion moderated by Margo Smith (Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Collection), with writer-director Lori Stoll, producer Justin Ford and executive director Malaya Qaunirq-Chapman. 

Family Day, 10 a.m. Saturday, Betsy & John Casteen Arts Grounds (UVA)

Family Day events include a screening of Disney Animation Studio Shorts, a 20th anniversary celebration of “James and the Giant Peach” and arts-inspired workshops led by UVA faculty and students and community organizations. 

Family Day is supported by Charlottesville Newsplex, the UVA Office of the Provost and Vice Provost for the Arts and Z-95.1. Elizabeth Roberts (McIntire Department of Music) has coordinated a chamber music ensemble performance with the Charlottesville Symphony, as well as a musical instrument “petting zoo” where aspiring musicians of all ages can try out different instruments. 

• Screening: “Good Work: Masters of the Building Arts,” 1 p.m. Saturday, Violet Crown A (Downtown Mall)

In their first collaboration since winning an Academy Award for their documentary short, “The Stone Carvers,” directors Marjorie Hunt and Paul Wagner offer a group portrait of American artisans in the building trades. The documentary illustrates the diversity of customs present in the United States that lead to beautiful and functional works of art, from Scottish-American decorative painters restoring the ceiling of Trinity Church in Boston to Mexican-American terra cotta workers restoring a Chicago skyscraper.

Discussion moderated by Sarita Herman (UVA Facilities Management) with directors Paul Wagner and Marjorie Hunt and artisan John Canning.

• Screening: “Putuparri and the Rainmakers,” 1:15 p.m. Saturday, Newcomb Hall Theater (UVA)

Director Greg Whiteley examines the history of education in the United States, revealing the growing shortcomings of conventional educational methods in today’s innovative world. San Diego’s High Tech High poses an alternative to traditional rote-based learning and standardized testing, focusing instead on a project-based curriculum and student-focused learning that develop critical and collaborative skills. Through interviews with students, teachers and parents, this hopeful documentary points to a potential paradigm shift in education that could reawaken the love of learning and hold the key to success for millions of youth.

Introduction by Margo Smith (Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Collection). Discussion moderated by Henry Skerritt (Kluge-Ruhe), with Ngarralja Tommy May (Wangkajunga and Walmajarri elder and artist) and Wes Maselli  (Mangkaja Arts Coordinator).

• A Conversation with Werner Herzog (SOLD OUT), 2 p.m. Saturday, Paramount Theater (Downtown Mall)

Hailed as one of the most innovative contemporary directors in the world and as a pioneer of the postwar West German cinema movement, Werner Herzog made his first film in 1961 at the age of 19. Since then, he has produced, written and directed more than 60 feature and documentary films, including “Aguirre,” “The Wrath of God,” “Grizzly Man” and “Rescue Dawn.” Over the span of his 40-year career, he has won 51 awards and received an additional 45 nominations.

Discussion moderated by Wesley Harris (Virginia Film Festival programmer and operations manager).

• Screening: “Beauty and the Beast,” 3 p.m. Saturday, Culbreth Theatre (UVA)

The first animated film to be nominated for an Academy Award, “Beauty and the Beast” celebrates its 25th anniversary this year. This version, which originally premiered as a “work in progress” at the New York Film Festival in September 1991, features approximately a third of the film as original drawings and storyboards by the animators, showcasing the extensive creative process that goes into the production of animated film. Sparking a renaissance of Disney animation under the guidance of producer Don Hahn, the film revitalized not only the original fable, but also animation itself.

Discussion moderated by Carmenita Higginbotham (McIntire Department of Art), with actor Paige O’Hara and producer Don Hahn.

• Screening: “The War Room,” 6 p.m. Saturday, Culbreth Theatre (UVA)

Illustrating the monumental effort required to conduct a winning presidential campaign, “The War Room” reveals insider footage of Bill Clinton’s campaign center in Little Rock, Arkansas during the 1992 presidential election. Managing several key campaign events, from the debates with George H.W. Bush and H. Ross Perot, to the final days leading up to the election itself, campaign advisers George Stephanopoulos and James Carville mobilize staff to develop new campaign approaches as uncertainty about voter preference intensifies.

Discussion moderated by Larry Sabato (UVA Center for Politics), with directors D.A. Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus and political consultant Paul Begala.

• Screening: “Unlocking the Cage,” 1 p.m. Sunday, St. Anne’s-Belfield Upper School Greenway Rise Auditorium

Lawyer Steven Wise is making history by filing the first lawsuits that seek to transform an animal with no rights to a “person” with legal protections. Using two years of behind-the-scenes footage, the documentary team of Chris Hegedus and D.A. Pennebaker chronicles Wise’s unprecedented struggle to break down the legal wall dividing animals and humans. Arguing to secure the rights of four chimpanzees in New York State, Wise maintains that cognitively complex animals have the capacity for limited personhood rights that would protect them from physical abuse. Signifying a groundbreaking shift toward the acknowledgement of animal rights, Hegedus and Pennebaker provide an intimate look at a lawsuit that could forever alter our legal system. 

Discussion moderated by Mimi Riley (School of Law), with directors D.A. Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus and film subject Steven Wise.

• Screening: “SEED: The Untold Story,” 3:45 p.m. Sunday, Violet Crown B (Downtown Mall)

As 94 percent of seed varieties have disappeared in the last century, directors Taggart Siegel and Jon Betz follow the passionate seed keepers fighting a David-and-Goliath battle to defend the future of a 12,000-year-old food legacy. These reluctant heroes rekindle a lost connection to this most treasured resource and revive a culture, even as biotech chemical companies continue to control more and more of the seed industry with genetically identical crops.

Introduction by Manuel Lerdau (Department of Environmental Sciences).

• Screening: “The Yellow Ticket,” 4 p.m., Sunday, Old Cabell Hall (UVA)

This German silent film from 1918 tells the story of Lea, a young girl living in the Jewish ghetto of Warsaw who hopes to study medicine at a university in Russia. When her father dies, she moves to St. Petersburg to pursue her dream, but must assume the identity of her tutor’s deceased sister in order to be accepted to the university. Lea attends school during the day, but spends her nights working as a prostitute until a fellow student discovers her secret.

Esteemed klezmer musicians Alicia Svigals, Marilyn Lerner and Arts & Sciences faculty member Joel Rubin (McIntire Department of Music) will accompany the screening with a live performance of a score written by Svigals and commissioned by the Foundation for Jewish Culture’s 2013 New Jewish Music Network.

• Screening: “A Tickle in the Heart,” 7 p.m. Sunday, PVCC Dickinson Center

The Epstein Brothers – Max, Willie, and Julius – are legends in the world of klezmer music, a Jewish musical tradition originating in Eastern Europe. Their sense of life, music and family as they tour through places they love, from Poland to Brooklyn to Florida, is as life-affirming and intoxicating as the joyous music they play. This documentary was the culmination of several years of documenting the group, who received the prestigious National Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts in 1998.

Discussion moderated by Asher Biemann (Department of Religious Studies), with jazz and klezmer pianist Pete Sokolow and clarinetist Joel Rubin (McIntire Department of Music).

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