Thursday, November 01, 2007

Virginia Film Festival 2007 - Preview

Last night I traveled to Harrisonburg to see a play by Paula Vogel, The Mineola Twins, performed by a local community theatre group, The Playhouse, at Court Square Theatre. The Mineola Twins is a provocative but ultimately unsatisfactory (and unsettling) bit of political satire (my colleague, Tim Hulsey, prefers the term "agitprop"), which sets up two twin sisters as left-wing and right-wing terrorists (though not in as balanced a manner as that nutshell description implies). The play has many pop-culture references that evoke laughs from those in the know (which should be virtually anyone who lived in the '50s, '60s, '70s, or '80s), but many of the jokes fell flat among the audience that watched the show with me.

There were a few highlights worth noting, however, such as the performance of John Michael Schott in two roles, as cousins Kenny (son of right-wing Myrna) and Ben (son of left-wing Myra), both 14 years old and neither inheriting the values of their respective mothers. With a twinkle in his eye and a firm understanding of the emotional crippledness of each character, Schott was the clear stand-out in the gender-bending cast of five.

Live theatre aside, however, tonight is the beginning of what I have come to view as the best weekend of the Charlottesville calendar year: the annual Virginia Film Festival opens tonight with a screening of John Sayles' new film, Honeydripper, which explores the roots of rock and roll music in the American south.

The Virginia Film Festival is in its 20th year (already?) and this year it brings directors, screenwriters, producers, and a few actors to Charlottesville to celebrate the artistry of film and to discuss their craft with fans and aspiring filmmakers. Among those who will be appearing to discuss their films are director Tamara Jenkins (Slums of Beverly Hills), screenwriter Stewart Stern (Rebel Without a Cause), director Charles Burnett (Killer of Sheep), UVa film professor Walter Korte (discussing the films of Luchino Visconti), actor and director John Turturro (Romance and Cigarettes), and many others. (A full film festival program can be found at

The theme of the 2007 Virginia Film Festival is "Kin Flicks" -- not to be confused with the 1976 novel of the same name, by Lisa Alther -- with a focus on films about families and their relationships.

The Volvo Adrenaline Film Project will be the climax of the festival again this year. This gives teams of young filmmakers an opportunity to produce a short film within a 72-hour period in which they must write, film, and edit it before being shown to an audience that acts as a jury to award the best of the dozen or so films created in those three days. Charlottesville native and film director Jeff Wadlow and his producing partner, Beau Bauman, act as mentors during the project.

Another highlight will be screened on Saturday afternoon: the 1924 silent version of Peter Pan, with live musical accompaniment by Donald Sosin, Joanna Seaton, and Paul Reisler, along with Terri Allard's Kid Pan Alley (local school kids singing original music in chorus). This film, with cinematography by the legendary James Wong Howe, was long thought to be lost, but it has been found and will be on screen at the Paramount.

Watch this space over the course of the weekend for nightly updates -- with photos, video, and text -- on the 2007 Virginia Film Festival.

(Photos and graphics courtesy of the Virginia Film Festival.)

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