The 2018 Virginia Film Festival kicks off Thursday with plenty of great cinema in store, including both award-season favorites and hidden gems.
The festival, now in its 31st year, will run through Sunday, with screenings and events scheduled around Charlottesville’s Downtown Mall, the University of Virginia Grounds and other locations. It is a program of the University, its Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost and the vice provost for the arts.
One of the festival’s distinguishing features is its combination of film screenings, discussion sessions and talks that – thanks to its unique partnership with UVA – include academics from all corners of the University leading important debates about social, political and cultural issues.
This year, for example, Martin Luther King III, the eldest son of the late Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., will join Larry Sabato, the director of UVA’s Center for Politics, for a screening and discussion of “Charlottesville,” a new documentary about the violent white supremacist demonstrations at UVA and in Charlottesville in August 2017. It is the national premiere of the documentary, presented by the Center for Politics, Community Idea Stations and the Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy.
Other highlights, outlined below, include a discussion with two-time Academy Award-winning actor Christoph Waltz, known for films like “Django Unchained” and “Inglorious Basterds,”; a film by the late Orson Welles that is just being released more than 40 years after its inception; award-season front-runners like “Roma” and “The Favourite”; and films starring the likes of Hugh Jackman, Mahershala Ali, Viggo Mortensen, Emma Stone and more.
A full schedule and ticket information is available at virginiafilmfestival.org. Tickets are also on sale at the UVA Arts Box Office (in the lobby of the UVA Drama Building), open weekdays from noon to 5 p.m.; in the lobby of the Violet Crown cinema on the Downtown Mall; and by phone at 434-924-3376.
More than 150 films will be screened during this year’s festival, making it hard to pick just a few highlights. As a starting point, here are the featured films scheduled for each day.
- “Green Book,” Thursday’s opening night film, chronicles the real-life friendship between world-class black pianist Don Shirley and New York bouncer Tony Lip as they travel the Jim Crow South for a concert tour. Mahershala Ali stars as Shirley, with Viggo Mortensen playing Lip.
- The Favourite,” playing Friday night at The Paramount Theatre, is set in Queen Anne’s court during the early 18th century and stars Olivia Colman, Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone. It is already being talked about for an Academy Award.
- “Roma” is the festival’s centerpiece film, playing on Saturday. Directed by “Gravity” director Alfonso Cuarón, the film has already been nominated as Mexico’s foreign-language submission for the 91st Academy Awards. It follows Cleo, a domestic worker in 1970s Mexico City, and the upper-middle-class family she cares for.
- “The Front Runner,” starring Hugh Jackman, will close out the festival. Jackman plays 1988 presidential candidate Gary Hart in a very timely storyline, as allegations of an extramarital affair threaten to upend Hart’s campaign days before midterm elections.
For more, see the full schedule of films.
The festival hosts more than 100 visiting guest artists each year. Here are a just a few of the actors, directors, cinematographers and public figures coming in town for this year’s events.
- Christoph Waltz – Waltz is a two-time Academy Award-winning actor best known for his work with filmmaker Quentin Tarantino on “Inglorious Basterds” and “Django Unchained.” He has also starred in Tim Burton’s “Big Eyes,” the James Bond film, “Spectre,” and many other films. During the festival, he will join UVA alumnus, Academy-Award winning producer and festival advisory board chair Mark Johnson for an onstage interview on Saturday.
- Martin Luther King III – Like his father, King has dedicated his life to civil rights and humanitarian causes. During the festival, he will speak at the national premiere of “Charlottesville,” a two-hour documentary on the violent white supremacist demonstrations at UVA and in Charlottesville on Aug. 11 and 12, 2017 that includes firsthand accounts from victims and witnesses.
- Allen Hughes – The director and producer, along with his brother Albert, is best known for his 1993 breakthrough film, “Menace II Society,” which premiered when he was only 20 years old. He has enjoyed continued success since and will be on hand to present his HBO series, “The Defiant Ones,” a special screening of “Menace II Society” and a discussion of Orson Welles’ “F for Fake.”
For a full list of special guests, visit the festival website.
In addition to the “Charlottesville” documentary screening, there are several other planned events featuring UVA departments and faculty. Here are just a few.
- “1968: The Year That Changed America” is presented by UVA’s Miller Center. The documentary, from Tom Hanks and Mark Herzog, chronicles tragedies like the assassinations of Robert F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. After the screening, experts from the Miller Center, which studies the presidency and public affairs, will lead a public discussion.
- “An Acceptable Loss,” will also be presented by the Miller Center. The political thriller stars Tika Sumpter and Jamie Lee Curtis, with Sumpter playing a former top U.S. security adviser threatened by secrets and associates from her past, including politician Rachel Burke (Curtis).
- “Seats at the Table” is a documentary by local filmmaker Chris Farina about a unique course at the University, called “Books Behind Bars.” Taught by Russian literature scholar Andrew Kaufman, the course takes UVA students into Virginia juvenile detention facilities to study Russian literature with inmates. It has been featured on NBC’s “Today” show and in the Washington Post, among other media outlets.
Held Saturday on the UVA Arts Grounds, the festival’s Family Day will welcome children and their parents for a series of free movies, art and music from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. This year’s event features a 1 p.m. screening of Disney/Pixar’s hit film, “Coco”; several short film screenings; free arts-inspired workshops led by UVA faculty, students and community organizations; a “musical instrument petting zoo”; and an interactive outdoor arts festival.
Local students who participated in the festival’s Young Filmmakers Academy also will walk the red carpet as they prepare to premiere the short films they created with their classmates this fall.
More information about Family Day is available here.