Virginia Film Society Announces Fall 2007 Schedule

September 06, 2007

The Virginia Film Society, the year-round membership program of the Virginia Film Festival, kicks off its 2007 fall season with a special preview screening of "The Jane Austen Book Club," a film adaptation of the novel by Karen Joy Fowler.

Other highlights of the season include the return of "The Manhattan Short Film Festival," a nationwide event that casts local cinema goers in the role of judges to determine the best short films in the world; "Killer of Sheep," American filmmaker Charles Burnett's first feature, a semidocumentary impressionistic account of a family in the Watts community of Los Angeles: "The Fall," considered to be the most important film of the avant-garde British filmmaker Peter Whitehead, who chronicled the '60s counterculture; and "Smiles of a Summer Night," the 1956 prize-winning comedy of recently deceased Swedish filmmaker Ingmar Bergman that put him on the international scene.

According to Virginia Film Festival Artistic Director Richard Herskowitz, “We’re proud of the Film Society’s rich mix of feature and short film premieres and international classics. However, we’re especially excited about our two-evening tribute to the Maysles Brothers, featuring the legendary cinema verite director Albert Maysles.” 

Maysles’ first show will be a retrospective with rare clips from the Maysles Brothers’ entire career, including outtakes from "Gimme Shelter" and "Grey Gardens." The second program will bring Maysles and photographer William Christenberry together for a screening and discussion of Maysles’ award-winning "Lalee’s Kin."

The special preview of "The Jane Austen Book Club" will be screened on Wednesday, Sept. 19, 7 p.m. at Vinegar Hill Theatre, two days before its release by Sony Pictures Classics in New York and Los Angeles. The plot involves five women and one man who meet to discuss the works of Jane Austen and discover that their 21st century love lives are uncannily parallel to those Austen wrote about in her 19th century novels. The film was produced by Virginia Film Festival board member Julie Lynn and directed by Robyn Swicord, who also adapted the script. The striking cast includes Maria Bello, Emily Blunt, Hugh Dancy, Amy Brenneman, Kathy Baker and Jimmy Smits. The film is an official selection of the 2007 Toronto International Film Festival.
University of Virginia English professors Alison Booth and Susan Fraiman will conduct a live phone Q&A with screenwriter-director Swicord after the screening, moderated by Media Studies department chairman Andrea Press.

All Virginia Film Society events are co-sponsored by the Virginia Film Festival and the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities. Most screenings feature special guest speakers. Screenings are held at Vinegar Hill Theatre at 7 p.m. with the exception of "Killer of Sheep," which will be shown at Regal Downtown on Nov. 1 and 2. Admission to individual screenings is $9 and free to Film Society members.

A full year membership in the Virginia Film Society is $60 ($50 for students and seniors). Membership benefits include admission to Film Society screenings throughout the year, one free pass to Regal Cinemas, $2 off Mondays at Sneak Reviews and $6 Tuesday movies at Vinegar Hill Theatre. In addition, the first 20 membership applications received will be given a vintage Film Festival T-shirt.

Individual admission tickets may be purchased 30 minutes before the screening at the venue box office, when seats are available.

For information on membership in the Virginia Film Society, to download an application form or to view the full fall season schedule, visit


Special Preview from Sony Pictures Classics!
Wed., Sept. 19 @ Vinegar Hill, 7 p.m.
with Susan Fraiman and Alison Booth (U.Va. English Dept.) conducting live phone Q&A with director Robin Swicord

(2007) As five women and one enigmatic man meet to discuss the works of Jane Austen, they find their love lives playing out in a 21st-century version of her novels.  Director Robin Swicord has adapted her screenplay from the novel by Karen Joy Fowler. Virginia Film Festival board member Julie Lynn produced the film and has pulled together a striking cast, including Maria Bello, Emily Blunt, Hugh Dancy, Amy Brenneman, Kathy Baker and Jimmy Smits.

Wed., Sept. 26 @ Vinegar Hill, 7 p.m.
"The Manhattan Short Film Festival" is hailed as the festival showing the most creative short films in the world, judged by the cinema-going public around the world. Audience members, here and in 50 other cities within a 10-day period, will be handed a voting card upon entry and asked to vote for the one film they feel should win the festival. Last year’s program delighted the audience, and the quality of the films is certain to be exceptionally strong.

Albert Maysles is a pioneer of "Direct Cinema." He and his brother David were the first to make nonfiction feature films ("Gimme Shelter," "Salesman," "Grey Gardens"), where the drama of life unfolds as is without scripts, sets, interviews or narration. His 36 films include "What's Happening! The Beatles in the USA" (1964), and six films of the projects of Christo and Jeanne-Claude (1972 to 2007). In 1999 Eastman Kodak saluted him as one of the 100 world's finest cinematographers.

Wed., Oct. 10 @ Vinegar Hill, 7 p.m.
In this special showcase originally curated for the Sundance Institute at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, filmmaker Albert Maysles will present work spanning the 195Os to a sneak peek at his current projects. Featuring rarely and never screened footage from classic films like "Gimme Shelter" and "Grey Gardens," to short films, to remarkable footage from the 196Os and beyond, this screening is a must for any documentary fan.

Thurs., Oct. 11 @ Vinegar Hill, 7 p.m.
(2000) For generations, the legacy of the cotton industry for African-Americans in the Mississippi Delta has been hardscrabble poverty and virtual illiteracy. LaLee Wallace, a former cotton picker retired on disability, is a great-grandmother struggling to support and encourage her family, while Reggie Barnes, a crusading superintendent, strives to save the failing West Tallahatchie school system from takeover by the state. “'LaLee's Kin' adheres to the rigorous and sober-minded Maysles brothers' tradition of presenting things as they are without editorializing. The balance between feeling and distance is never a contradiction here but, rather, the dynamic that makes this film an especially humanistic entry in the Maysles canon."--Robert Koehler, Daily Variety. 2007.

Friday, Nov. 1 at 10:15 p.m. and Saturday, Nov. 2 at 10:15 a.m. @ Regal Downtown
(1977) One of the unsung masterpieces of American filmmaking, Charles Burnett’s first feature was first seen at film festivals in 1977 but was not commercially released until this year. Using semidocumentary techniques and a cast of nonprofessional actors, Burnett created an impressionistic yet finely detailed account of family and community ties within the Watts ghetto of Los Angeles, then set it to an unforgettable soundtrack of blues, jazz, pop and classical music. The film focuses on working-class father Stan (Henry Gayle Sanders), who works at a local slaughterhouse and suffers from insomnia and alienation from his wife and family.

Wednesday, Nov. 14 @ Vinegar Hill, 7 p.m.
(1968) Considered by Peter Whitehead to be his most important film, "The Fall" is an extraordinary piece of filmmaking, an extremely personal statement on violence, revolution and the turbulence within late '60s America. Filmed entirely in and around New York between October 1967 and June 1968, it features Robert Kennedy, The Bread and Puppet Theater, Paul Auster (fresh-faced as a Columbia student), Tom Hayden, Mark Rudd, Stokely Carmichael, H. Rap Brown, Arthur Miller, Robert Lowell, Robert Rauschenberg and The Deconstructivists. "Peter Whitehead was the greatest avant-garde British filmmaker of the Sixties. His films stand together as an unrivalled record of that decade's counterculture." (Dave Calhoun, Time Out). 


Wednesday, Dec. 5 @ Vinegar Hill, 7 p.m.
(1956) After 15 films of mostly local acclaim, the 1956 prize-winning comedy "Smiles of a Summer Night" at last ushered in an international audience for director Ingmar Bergman. In turn-of-the-century Sweden, four women and four men attempt to juggle the laws of attraction amidst their daily bourgeois life. When a weekend in the country brings them all face to face, the women ally to force the men's hands in their matters of the heart, exposing their pretensions and insecurities along the way. Chock full of flirtatious propositions and sharp-witted wisdom delivered by such legends of the Swedish screen as Gunnar Björnstrand, Eva Dahlbeck, Harriet Andersson, and Ulla Jacobsson, "Smiles of a Summer Night" is one of film history's great tragicomedies, a bittersweet view of the transience of human carnality. Co-sponsored with Live Arts, which is presenting Stephen Sondheim’s musical adaptation, "A Little Night Music."