'Kin Flicks' Growing Family: Film Festival Announces Addition of Actor/Director John Turturro and Actor and U.Va. Grad Sean Patrick Thomas to 20th Annual Event

October 15, 2007

Oct. 15, 2007 – Famed actor/director John Turturro has been added to the guest list for the 20th annual Virginia Film Festival, set for Nov. 1-4 at venues throughout Charlottesville. Known to movie audiences for his roles in more than 60 films, Turturro will present his work as a director, including his first film, "Mac," and his latest, "Romance and Cigarettes."

Also joining the impressive guest list will be actor Sean Patrick Thomas, a University of Virginia alumnus known to audiences from high-profile roles in films including "Save the Last Dance" and the highly successful "Barbershop" franchise.

The pair join legendary American independent filmmaker John Sayles atop a list of more than 80 guests who will complement the 90 films being screened over the course of the festival’s four days. The festival's theme is "Kin Flicks."

The film lineup also received a boost with the addition of "Persepolis," the acclaimed Sony Pictures Classics animated release centered around the coming of age of a young girl in the midst of the Islamic Revolution. The film received the prestigious closing-night slot at this month’s New York Film Festival, and was cited by New York Times critic Stephen Holden as “an unqualified triumph.”

“John Turturro is one of the most talented and consistently adventurous actors in the film world today,” said Richard Herskowitz, the festival's artistic director. “And in a year where we are focusing so much attention on filmmakers, it is particularly appropriate that he is coming here as a director. Audiences will get a chance to see and hear his perspective on his first directorial effort, 'Mac,' and his latest, 'Romance and Cigarettes.' This is a totally unique and engaging musical production featuring an incredible cast, including James Gandolfini, Kate Winslet, Susan Sarandon and Christopher Walken."

The project, Herskowitz said, is fueled by its director’s passion. “This is a film that Turturro is so passionate about that he is foregoing traditional studio routes and releasing it himself. We are delighted to be part of the first phase of this effort.”

Turturro has appeared in more than 60 films and has had a close working relationship with Spike Lee (appearing in eight films, including "Do The Right Thing," "Jungle Fever," "Summer of Sam," "Girl 6" and "Mo Better Blues") and the Coen Brothers ("Miller’s Crossing," "Barton Fink," "The Big Lebowski" and "O Brother, Where Art Thou?"). Other memorable movie roles include "Quiz Show," "Secret Window", and "The Good Shepherd." His television credits include an Emmy Award-winning turn in "Monk" (as Adrian’s eccentric brother, Ambrose Monk) and the ESPN original miniseries "The Bronx is Burning," in which he played the famously fiery New York Yankee manager Billy Martin.

"Romance and Cigarettes" will be presented Nov. 3 at 6:30 p.m. at the Paramount Theater, in a program that will include a post-film discussion with Turturro, conducted by New York Magazine film critic David Edelstein. His earlier directorial effort, "Mac," will be presented on Nov. 4 at 10:15 a.m. at Regal Downtown 3.

Sean Patrick Thomas first dipped his toe into the acting waters by auditioning for a role in a U.Va. Drama Department production of "A Raisin in the Sun." He later appeared in a television production of the play with a cast including Sean Combs and Phylicia Rashad. He comes to the festival as a member of the cast of John Sayles’ "Honeydripper," which will be presented on the festival’s opening night, Nov. 1, at 7 p.m. in the Paramount Theater.

Mainstream movie audiences first discovered Thomas through his pivotal role in "Cruel Intentions," which starred Sarah Michelle Gellar, Reese Witherspoon and Ryan Phillippe. He then played a lead role in the 1999 film "Save the Last Dance," a tale of interracial romance set in Chicago’s South Side in which the actor starred opposite Julia Stiles. Thomas reached a larger audience than ever before in his role as in the wildly successful films "Barbershop" and "Barbershop 2: Back in Business." He was also hailed for his work in the CBS-TV show "The District," which starred Craig T. Nelson.

"Peresepolis," based on the graphic novel of the same name by Marjane Satrapi, is a look at the Islamic Revolution through the eyes of a precocious and outspoken 9-year-old. Finding ways around the “social guardians” who were installed throughout the culture, Marjane somehow discovers punk, ABBA and Iron Maiden before leaving her country to face a new scrutiny in Europe. Torn between the home in which she was born and the reality of what it has become, she faces heart-wrenching decisions as we watch her grow up with a series of unimaginably difficult challenges and choices. Introducing the film will be Farzaneh Milani, who teaches in Persian Studies and Studies in Women and Gender at U.Va.

The Virginia Film Festival is hosted by the University of Virginia. To learn more, order tickets online or receive information about the year-round activities and events of the Virginia Film Society, visit www.vafilm.com. Festival information is also available by calling 1-800-UVA-Fest.