Virginia Film Festival, 2006 -- Day One:
The 19th Virginia Film Festival opened Thursday night. The first film to be screened was Swedish Auto, which was made last year in Charlottesville. It was directed by one of our native sons, Derek Sieg, and produced by University of Virginia graduate Tyler Davidson.
Swedish Auto was not only made in Charlottesville, it was set here, as well. The story does not take place in some unnamed town. Charlottesville is mentioned and is present throughout, as are many of our city's landmarks, including the Rotunda and Lawn at the University of Virginia, Chap's Ice Cream, the Downtown Mall, and, most prominently, Mel's Cafe on West Main Street.
The screening of Swedish Auto -- which has not yet been released in theatres, but has had a good deal of success on the festival circuit -- featured a discussion with its director, Derek Sieg, and actress January Jones, on the stage of the Paramount Theatre. It was moderated by Virginia Film Festival Director Richard Herskowitz.
* * *
Earlier in the evening, at the Charlottesville Pavilion on the east end of the Downtown Mall, a small group gathered to celebrate various religious traditions and pray for peace. The multifaith ceremony was tied to the theme of the Virginia Film Festival, Revelations: Finding God at the Movies.
* * *
I closed the evening by attending a screening of Monty Python's Life of Brian. The venue was the Newcomb Hall Theatre on the grounds of the University of Virginia, so a large portion of the audience was made up of college students. (To my delight, I was joined for the show by Waldo Jaquith and his wife, Amber.)
Suffice it to say that this movie, which is almost 30 years old, is as relevant today as it was when it first came out. Its portrayal of Middle Eastern politics is more in tune with 2006 A.D. than it is with 33 A.D. Whose side are we on? The Peoples' Front of Judea or the Judean Peoples' Front? Or the Popular Front for Judea? And what should we call a man who wants to be a woman? (Answer: Loretta.) The more things change ...
But remember: "Always look on the bright side of life."
(Life of Brian photo courtesy Virginia Film Festival)