Opening night drew a large crowd to the Paramount Theater in downtown Charlottesville, eager to see “Green Book,” starring Mahershala Ali as African-American pianist Don Shirley and Viggo Mortensen as New York bouncer Tony Lip. The pair travel through the Jim Crow South for a concert tour, forming an unlikely friendship along the way.
The first weekend of November was a star-studded one at the University of Virginia, thanks to the 31st annual Virginia Film Festival.
Film-worthy moments abounded throughout the festival, which is a program of UVA, its Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost and the vice provost for the arts.
Civil rights activist Martin Luther King III, the eldest son and namesake of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., retraced his father’s footsteps at Old Cabell Hall, where the elder King delivered a stirring address to the University in 1963.
Two-time Academy Award winner Christoph Waltz, known for portraying iconic villains in films like “Inglorious Basterds” and “Django Unchained,” took in UVA’s iconic Rotunda.
And UVA students, faculty members and enthusiastic filmgoers joined actors, directors and filmmakers from all over the country to take in more than 150 films, many of them frontrunners in the race for Academy Awards, Golden Globes and other accolades.
Here are some of our favorite photos from the weekend.
University President Jim Ryan took the stage before the screening to welcome the crowd and introduce UVA Vice Provost for the Arts Jody Kielbasa, the director of the festival. Ryan recounted his first experience at the Virginia Film Festival as a UVA Law student. He saw the 1962 film “To Kill a Mockingbird” and got to hear directly from the lead actors in a post-screening discussion, including Gregory Peck, who played one of Ryan’s fictional heroes, Atticus Finch.
As a law student, Ryan said, it was like meeting Michael Jordan in person.
Kielbasa took the stage after Ryan, thanking audience members for their support of the festival and previewing some of the weekend’s highlights. This year marks Kielbasa’s 10th year directing the festival, which has grown exponentially under his watch.
The festival drew large crowds throughout the weekend, as well as hundreds of community and student volunteers who came together to help the massive event run smoothly.
UVA students had the opportunity to learn from the actors, directors, producers and filmmakers visiting for the festival. Here, actress Kelli O’Hara, with second-year student Payton Moledor, leads a master class for UVA drama students in the Helms Theatre, which was followed by a Q&A session.
The festival’s special guests included Martin Luther King III, the eldest son of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and his wife, Coretta Scott King. King spoke after the Saturday night screening of a new documentary, “Charlottesville” – produced in part by UVA’s Center for Politics – about the violent Unite the Right rallies in Charlottesville and on Grounds in August 2017.
Before the screening, King visited Old Cabell Hall, where his father spoke to a full house of UVA students and faculty members 55 years ago. A small student group fighting for civil rights at the University invited the elder King to Grounds, where he spoke about inclusion and equity in higher education.
Award-winning actor Christoph Waltz also headlined the festival, visiting the Rotunda and later discussing his career in a public event with the festival’s advisory board chair, UVA alumnus and accomplished producer Mark Johnson. Here, he talks with UVA media studies professor Shilpa Davé during a reception in the Rotunda.
Waltz, a two-time Academy Award-winner, is known for his portrayal of SS Col. Hans Landa in “Inglorious Basterds,” as well as roles in “Django Unchained,” Tim Burton’s “Big Eyes,” the James Bond film “Spectre,” and “Downsizing,” a film that Johnson produced and screened at the festival last year.
Also on Saturday, filmmaker Allen Hughes, who broke into the film industry with his hit 1993 film “Menace II Society,” presented his HBO docu-series, “The Defiant Ones,” about music moguls Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine.
Here, Hughes talks with film and stage director Mitch Levine.
UVA faculty members led many discussions throughout the weekend, and they also had plenty of opportunities to take everything in as audience members. Here, A.D. Carson, Professor of Hip Hop and the Global South in the McIntire Department of Music, listens to Hughes.
In addition to traditional films, the festival featured experiments in virtual reality, including an interactive Virtual Reality Lab.