Virginia Film Festival to Return With In-Person and Drive-In Presentations in October

A drive-in movie event at Morven Farm during the 2020 Virginia Film Festival. (Photo by Sanjay Suchak, University Communications)

September 14, 2021

The Virginia Film Festival announced Tuesday that it will be returning for its 34th year with a program of in-theater and drive-in presentations from Oct. 27-31. Festival officials also announced that this year’s lineup will include an episode of the highly anticipated Hulu limited series “Dopesick,” presented in partnership with the Virginia Festival of the Book. The screening, which will be held at the Paramount Theater, will be followed by a conversation with writer and executive producer Danny Strong.

The Virginia Film Festival, a program of the University of Virginia and the Office of the Provost and the Vice Provost for the Arts, is returning to theaters after presenting an exclusively virtual and drive-in format in 2020.

“After last year’s necessary and successful pivot to virtual screenings, we are thrilled to return to theaters in person and to reprise last year’s popular drive-in movie screenings. We are very happy to announce that we are back this year with a somewhat smaller, but incredibly robust program of films,” said UVA Vice Provost for the Arts and VAFF Director Jody Kielbasa. “This year’s festival will include in-person theatrical screenings downtown at the Paramount Theater and Violet Crown Charlottesville, and at Culbreth Theatre on the Grounds of the University. The festival will also continue its very popular drive-in movies series at the beautiful Morven Farm in Eastern Albemarle County.” Kielbasa added, “As always, the festival will work to create the safest environment possible for its audiences, requiring masks at all indoor venues.”

Starring and executive produced by Michael Keaton, and filmed in Virginia, “Dopesick” examines how one company triggered the worst drug epidemic in American history. The series takes viewers to the epicenter of America’s struggle with opioid addiction, from the boardrooms of Big Pharma, to a distressed mining community, to the hallways of the DEA. The limited series is inspired by the bestselling book by Beth Macy, who appeared at the 2019 Virginia Festival of the Book. “Dopesick” stars Keaton along with Peter Sarsgaard, Michael Stuhlbarg, Will Poulter and John Hoogenakker, with Kaitlyn Dever and Rosario Dawson. Guest stars include Phillipa Soo and Jake McDorman. The series is directed by Oscar-winner and former VAFF guest Barry Levinson. The “Dopesick” screening and discussion will be presented by the Virginia Film Office with support from the Virginia Festival of the Book.

Writer and executive producer Danny Strong started his career as an actor in numerous classic films and TV shows, then transitioned into screenwriting and producing with his scripts “Recount” (2007) and “Game Change” (2008), both of which became award-winning HBO films. Since then, he has become a prolific writer, director and producer, working on films such as “The Butler” (2013), “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay: Part I and II” (2014; 2015), and his 2017 directorial debut, “Rebel in the Rye.” Strong was co-creator and executive producer of the hit FOX drama “Empire,” of which he wrote and directed numerous episodes. As an actor, Strong is well-known for the five seasons he played Jonathan on “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” the four seasons he played Doyle on “Gilmore Girls,” and for being on seasons 4 and 6 of “Mad Men.”

“We are proud to be able to share this powerful look at a crisis, the effects of which are felt every day across the country and here in the commonwealth,” Kielbasa said, “and to work alongside our friends at the Virginia Festival of the Book. We are also delighted to be working with our longtime partners at the Virginia Film Office, whose hard work to attract and to host productions like ‘Dopesick’ continue to raise the commonwealth’s profile as a one of the nation’s premiere locations for major film and television projects.”

The 2021 Virginia Film Festival program will be announced on Sept. 28. On Thursday, Sept. 30, the full schedule of films and guests will be available to browse online at 10 a.m., and tickets will go on sale to the public at 1 p.m. For more information, visit the Film Festival’s site.

Masks will be required for all VAFF events held at indoor venues, regardless of vaccination status. In compliance with the Paramount Theater’s policy, VAFF events at the Paramount will require proof of vaccination or proof of a negative PCR test within 72 hours prior to the event, along with a photo ID.

The 2021 Virginia Film Festival is presented by the Joseph and Robert Cornell Memorial Foundation. The 2021 Virginia Film Festival is also generously supported by the following “Premiere Sponsors”: Bank of America, National Endowment for the Arts, Office of the Provost and the Vice Provost for the Arts, Violet Crown Cinema, Virginia Film Office, and VPM.

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John Kelly

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