Thursday, October 08, 2009

2009 Virginia Film Festival Program Announced

Oscar-winning screenwriter Alan Ball. Oscar-nominated actress Annette Bening. Tony-winning actor Matthew Broderick. Tony winner Cherry Jones. Academy Award-winner Norman Jewison. Cult-film director and arbiter of good taste John Waters.

These are among the dozens of artists, scholars, and film lovers who will be attending this year's Virginia Film Festival in Charlottesville.

Virginia Film Festival director Jody Kielbasa, who just recently succeeded Richard Herskowitz in that job (Kielbasa and his family moved to Charlottesville in June), announced the line-up of films, panel discussions, and special events at a news conference at the UVA Art Museum on Wednesday. About 90 minutes later, he repeated the announcement at a reception for the festival's supporters and staff.

Kielbasa inherited a theme that had been selected by the festival's board earlier this year, "Funny Business." He noted that the natural meaning to draw from that is "comedy," but upon reflection it is easy to widen the scope, since "funny business" also means "shenanigans," "double-dealing," and mischief-making.

Consequently, the festival will include movies about the "funny business of politics" (Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, for instance) and the "funny business of business" (Wall Street).

The film festival will also feature several regional premieres, including an opening-night presentation of the documentary film Marching Band, which focuses on the Marching Cavaliers of the University of Virginia and the Marching Trojans of Virginia State University. Marching Band was directed by French documentarian Claude Miller and was previously screened at the Cannes Film Festival.

A special emphasis on local topics and Virginia film making will include the documentary Bedford: The Town They Left Behind, about the small town that lost the most (proportional) number of servicemen in the D-Day invasion, and how the town's residents today face the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Locked Out: The Fall of Massive Resistance is a documentary film about the decision to close Charlottesville's government schools rather than open them up to racial integration; it will be followed by a panel discussion with former Virginia Governor L. Douglas Wilder, UVA political scientist Larry Sabato, and several of the students whose educations were disrupted by massive resistance. A film about Prince William County's immigration policy, 9500 Liberty, will also be screened, as well as With These Hands, a documentary about the closing of a Martinsville factory.

Classic films that are marking their -5 or -0 anniversaries this year will also be screened, including Buster Keaton's Sherlock, Jr. (85 years old); Billy Wilder's Some Like It Hot (50 years old); Police Academy (25 years old); Spike Lee's Do the Right Thing and Steven Soderbergh's sex, lies, and videotape (both 20 years old); and Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction (15 years old).

Other classics on the program are the Marx Brothers' Duck Soup, Charlie Chaplin's Modern Times, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, and a newly restored 35mm print of Akira Kurosawa's Rashomon.

All of Jody Kielbasa's remarks, both at the press conference and at the reception that followed, are now available on YouTube. Here they are, divided into six (nearly equal) parts. (I apologize for the low lighting conditions. It was dim inside the UVA Art Museum.)

Part I (news conference):

Part II

Part III:

Part IV (reception):

Part V:

Part VI:

The Virginia Film Festival takes place the weekend of November 5-8, 2009, at various venues in Charlottesville, including Culbreth Hall and Newcomb Hall on the grounds of the University of Virginia, and the Paramount Theatre and Regal Cinemas on the downtown mall. A full schedule of confirmed screenings and other events should be on line already; tickets go on sale through the Virginia Film Festival web site on Friday morning at 10:00 o'clock.

Lisa Provence has a brief report in The Hook. Keith McGilvery has the story at NBC29. Sharon C. Fitzgerald reports on the film festival in the Daily Progress.

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