October 7, 2008 — The Virginia Film Festival announced today that it will welcome special guests Sissy Spacek and Troy Garity for its opening night screening of the film "Lake City."
Spacek and Garity will be joining the film's producers Mark Johnson and Weiman Seid and co-directors Perry Moore and Hunter Hill to present the film. Johnson, Seid and Moore are alumni of the University of Virginia, the festival's presenting sponsor, and Johnson and Moore first met at the Virginia Film Festival when Moore was a student. "Lake City" has even deeper roots in the commonwealth since it was filmed mostly in Richmond and features Charlottesvilleans Spacek and Dave Matthews in its cast.
Spacek returns to the festival for the first time since 2006, when she joined an all-star panel at The Paramount Theater to discuss the Rodrigo Garcia film "Nine Lives." Spacek has been nominated for six Academy Awards as best actress, including "Carrie," "Missing," "The River," "Crimes of the Heart" and "In the Bedroom," and claimed her Oscar for "Coal Miner’s Daughter" in 1981. Garity, a Golden Globe-nominated actor and the son of Jane Fonda and Tom Hayden, is known by millions of moviegoers for his role as Isaac Rosenberg in the smash-hit "Barbershop" series. Garity's Golden Globe nomination came for his role as Barry Winchell in the 2003 Showtime film "Soldier's Girl." He had a leading role in Danny Boyle's 2007 sci-fi film "Sunshine" and will star in the upcoming release "Winged Creatures."
The festival also announced today that a pair of the hottest films from the fall film festival circuit, both early frontrunners for 2009 Oscar consideration, will screen on Friday, Oct. 31 at Culbreth Theatre.
The first of these, scheduled for 7 p.m., is "The Wrestler," starring Mickey Rourke. The film, hailed at the Toronto and Telluride Film Festivals in September as a remarkable comeback vehicle for the actor, tells the story of a down-on-his-luck former wrestling star seeking one more shot at the big time. Rourke's portrayal of the character, who is some 20 years past his prime and battling formidable personal demons, has been wildly acclaimed by leading critics. Variety recently said of the performance, "Rourke creates a galvanizing, humorous, deeply moving portrait that instantly takes its place among the great, iconic screen performances."
Following on Friday at 10 p.m. will be "Slumdog Millionaire," the latest film from director Danny Boyle ("Trainspotting," "28 Days"), and the winner of the coveted audience award at this year's Toronto Film Festival. The film tells the story of an Indian teenager whose life of extreme poverty makes him an unlikely winner on the nation's version of "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" – and inspires great suspicion among the show's organizers and police. Boyle intersperses harsh interrogation with flashbacks of the life experiences that are the source of the young man's knowledge. The Wall Street Journal called the film "groundbreaking in substance and damn near earthshaking in style."
Another major regional debut added to the program is "Phoebe in Wonderland" (Thursday, 10 p.m. at Newcomb Theatre). The film stars Felicity Huffman, Patricia Clarkson and Elle Fanning. It is an artfully layered tale about a 9-year-old girl struggling to fit in and live within the rules that bind her. The film, by first-time director Daniel Barnz, has been likened to a look through a kaleidoscope, with perspectives changing based on each character we see. The film was praised at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival, with special accolades going to Fanning, whom reviewers said was as talented as her sister, Dakota: "How these little girls are able to summon such powerful reserves of fear and anguish and terror, I have no idea," wrote Mike D'Angelo of ScreenGrab.
Finally, Virginia Film Festival director Richard Herskowitz has also announced two new programs of films by Charlottesville-based filmmakers. On Saturday, Nov. 1 at 4:15 p.m., the festival will present three films by film, video and photography faculty in the U.Va. Art Department. Kevin Everson's "The Golden Age of Fish" interweaves various fragmentary narratives about the landscape of Cleveland, Ohio, from the perspective of an African-American geologist-explorer. Everson's film will be supplemented by Bill Wylie's "Secret," which explores the movement of light through the Enola Gay hanger in Nevada, and Lydia Moyer's "Hyacinth," a poetic, nonfiction video incorporating archival footage and images recently filmed at the People's Temple in Jonestown, Guyana. Additionally, a free program of films by Charlottesville filmmakers Doug Bari, Elizabeth Howard and Light House students will screen at the Gravity Lounge at 3:30 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 2, under the heading "Moviemaking in Charlottesville."
This year's festival, built around the theme of "Aliens!," will include some 80 films and more than 100 guests covering the alien experience in all its forms, from immigration to extraterrestrials.
The University of Virginia hosts the Virginia Film Festival. 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.