From Thursday night’s screening of “Downsizing” amid Oscar buzz to Sunday’s powerful showing of “Charlottesville: Our Streets,” this weekend’s Virginia Film Festival had it all.
Thousands escaped the cold to take in the more than 150 films shown throughout the weekend and to celebrate the 30th anniversary of this unique festival, a program of the University of Virginia and its Office of the Provost and Vice Provost for the Arts.
“This is a time for our community to come together in a shared experience, to listen to some truly remarkable stories, to laugh, to cry and to be inspired,” festival director and UVA Vice Provost for the Arts Jody Kielbasa told a sold-out crowd in the Paramount Theater on the festival’s opening night.
Take a look back at the weekend.
Charlottesville’s Downtown Mall filled with festivalgoers over the weekend despite cold temperatures. Last year’s festival attracted more than 32,000 viewers, as well as hundreds of student and community volunteers. (Photo by Ashley Twiggs)
The opening film, “Downsizing,” set the tone for the festival – it was clever, poignant and funny, and even had a strong connection to the University. Producer Mark Johnson, shown here with Washington Post film critic Ann Hornaday, is a 1971 UVA graduate and currently chairs the festival’s advisory board. (Photo by Tom Daly)
Kielbasa, left, introduced Johnson on Thursday. He noted that the filmmaker, who also produced the hit television show “Breaking Bad,” actually met “Breaking Bad” writer Vince Gilligan at a screenwriting contest during the 1988 Virginia Film Festival, when Gilligan was a young, unknown writer. (Photo by Tom Daly)
“So, there is no way I am not coming back here, year after year, to look for the next Vince Gilligan,” Johnson said to rousing applause.
Another special guest, internationally acclaimed filmmaker Spike Lee, wowed audiences Saturday. As part of the festival’s “Race in America” series, Lee screened his 1997 documentary “4 Little Girls” about the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama and his short film, “I Can’t Breathe,” about Eric Garner’s 2014 chokehold death in police custody. (Photo by John Robinson)
Lee joined Maurice Wallace, associate director of the Carter G. Woodson Institute for African-American and African Studies at UVA, for an hourlong discussion of a variety of issues, including the history of slavery in America and at the University, the importance of addressing controversial topics and Lee’s advice for aspiring filmmakers. See full coverage of Lee’s talk here. (Photo by John Robinson)
Margot Lee Shetterly, a UVA alumna, took the festival stage on Sunday after a screening of the 2016 Oscar-nominated film, “Hidden Figures,” based on her best-selling book of the same name. Shetterly, shown at center with UVA media studies professor Aniko Bodroghkozy, left, and English professor and director of the Carter G. Woodson Institute Deborah McDowell, right, undertook years of research to tell the true story of the African-American women at NASA who made critical contributions to the space race. (Photo by Ashley Twiggs)
Other special guests included director and actor William H. Macy, right, producer Rachel Winter, center, and actor Nick Robinson, left, all on hand to discuss their film “Krystal” on Friday. (Photo by Jack Looney)
The festival’s numerous screenings, combined with the opportunity to hear directly from actors, directors and producers, proved to be a powerful draw. Large crowds were on hand throughout the weekend, packing theaters throughout the city. (Photo by Jack Looney)
Audiences included both UVA students and local residents, plus filmmakers who had flown in from across the country to see their own and others’ work, and to spend a fall weekend in Charlottesville. (Photo by Ashley Twiggs)
Plenty of family fun was available, especially on Saturday’s Family Day hosted at UVA. Parents and kids could enjoy free screenings; arts-inspired workshops led by UVA faculty, students and community organizations; dance and music performances and plenty of other activities. (Photo by Jack Looney)
A musical instrument “petting zoo” encouraged young musicians to test out different instruments with members of the Charlottesville Symphony at UVA. (Photo by Jack Looney)
The festival’s events benefitted from the leadership and insight of the many UVA faculty members who led discussions. Above, Lynn Novick, who co-directed the ten-part documentary series “The Vietnam War” with Ken Burns, joined English professor Steve Cushman, left, who is teaching a class on the war and the documentary, and associate professor Marc Selverstone, chair of the Miller Center’s Presidential Recordings Program. (Photo by Ashley Twiggs)
Broadcaster Jim Lehrer, the PBS “NewsHour” cohost who has moderated dozens of presidential and vice presidential debates, led a discussion after a special screening of “Broadcast News.” The event was part of the festival’s collaboration with the Miller Center. Wyatt Andrews, left, a professor of practice in UVA’s Department of Media Studies, joined Lehrer for a post-screening discussion. (Photo by Ashley Twiggs)
The festival also gave audiences a look at the future of the filmmaking industry, including the possibilities of virtual reality technology. The Virtual Reality Lab offered several immersive experiences, including film projects by UVA Assistant Professor of Digital Media Design Mona Kasra and her students. (Photo by Ashley Twiggs)