Friday, November 16, 2012

Panel Discussions at the 2012 Virginia Film Festival

Carl Bernstein
Although a presidential election has intervened, absorbing much of our attention, since the last popcorn was popped and the last screening went dark, I think it's worthwhile to visit the 2012 Virginia Film Festival and look at a few of the stimulating panel discussions that followed some of the features.

The headliners on Friday night were former Virginia Governor Gerald Baliles, who was one of the founders of the Virginia Film Festival, along with authors Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward. Baliles led a conversation with Woodward and Bernstein about the 1976 movie based on their book, All the President's Men, which chronicled their investigation of the Watergate break-in and cover-up as young reporters with the Washington Post.

Bob Woodward
All the President's Men won four Academy Awards (supporting actor, sound, art direction-set decoration, and adapted screenplay) and was nominated for four others, including Best Picture. (By odd coincidence for me, the screenplay was by William Goldman, who also wrote The Lion in Winter, a play I saw last night at the American Shakespeare Center's Blackfriars Playhouse in Staunton last night.)

Woodward and Bernstein discussed many aspects of their investigative work, the making of the movie, and the legacy of the Watergate scandal. One nugget that I excerpted from the longer discussion focused on President Gerald Ford's pardon of Richard Nixon just one month after Nixon resigned the presidency.

Woodward explained that he interviewed Ford about the pardon some 25 years after it occurred, and that Ford said he did it to spare the country of further pain over Watergate. Although he and Bernstein had been appalled by the pardon at the time it happened, they now agree that Ford "did the right thing."

Here's the clip:

The longer, more wide-ranging, conversation is also worth a look. Considering that Watergate happened 40 years ago, it is fascinating to hear the stories directly from some of the principal players in the investigation that brought down a president and proved that our Constitution can endure even the worst crisis that threatens its integrity.

Here's the complete panel discussion with Baliles, Bernstein, and Woodward:

For the record, here is Governor Baliles' introduction of the film and the participants:

Another political movie was also featured at this month's film festival. A screening of John Frankenheimer's 1962 psycho-political thriller, The Manchurian Candidate (starring Frank Sinatra, Laurence Harvey, Angela Lansbury, and a cast of distinguished character actors of the 1950s and 1960s), was followed by a discussion among the hosts of the public radio program, BackStory with the American History Guys.

The American History Guys are two University of Virginia historians, Brian Balogh (20th century history) and Peter Onuf (18th century), and the president of the University of Richmond, Ed Ayers (19th century).

The screening and panelists were introduced by Jody Kielbasa, director of the Virginia Film Festival, who notes that The Manchurian Candidate has been added to the Library of Congress's National Film Registry.

Here's the full discussion, including questions and comments from the audience:

In a non-political category, on Saturday afternoon, actor and Oscar-winning songwriter Keith Carradine discussed his role in Ridley Scott's 1978 film, The Duellists (costarring Harvey Keitel). The conversation was moderated by New York University film scholar Harry Chotiner and included questions from the audience about Carradine's career and the art/craft of acting.

Here's the post-screening discussion, which lasts just over one-half hour:

Finally, a new movie, based on a popular young adult (YA) novel, from a first-time director was one of the closing-night screenings in a newly refurbished Newcomb Hall Theatre on the grounds of the University of Virginia.

Director Matthew Lillard (better known as an actor for such films as Scream and Scooby-Doo) discussed his new film, Fat Kid Rules the World, along with actor Billy Campbell, who has a major role in it. The conversation was moderated by Sandy Hausman of WVTF-FM.

Fat Kid Rules the World is based on the novel of the same name by K.L. Going and stars Jacob Wysocki, Matt O'Leary, and Dylan Arnold, as well as Campbell (who attended Western Albemarle High School).

The conversation took some interesting turns. As Lisa Provence reported in The Hook, for instance,
Billy Campbell's shocking confession about what really went on at Fork Union Military Academy: The star of The Killing says his six years at FUMA provided the military experience for playing a former-Marine dad in Fat Kid. "What were you doing there?" asks Hausman. "A lot of masturbating," replies Campbell.
Here's the whole rollicking thing:
For more of my coverage of this year's Virginia Film Festival, see this article about Woodward & Bernstein and this pre-festival interview with Jody Kielbasa.

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