Virginia Film Festival Lights Its 30th Candle

Nov 7, 2017

The 30th annual Virginia Film Festival kicks off Thursday, with more than 120 films over the weekend throughout Charlottesville. WMRA’s Marguerite Gallorini has this preview.

[Clip from Beetlejuice trailer]: The fun has just begun...

The renowned Virginia Film Festival will blow out its 30th candle this year with blockbusters, short films plus new discoveries and foreign films. And you can ease into it with the classics: Bonnie and Clyde, Broadcast News, Beetlejuice.

[Clip from Beetlejuice]

ADAM MAITLAND: Can you be scary?

BEETLEJUICE: What do you think of this?


A recent big hit nominated for three Academy Awards, including Best Picture, is Hidden Figures, based on the book by UVA alumna Margot Lee Shetterly. It recounts the true story of a group of black female mathematicians working during the early days of the space race at NASA, while also dealing with  segregation.

[Clip from Hidden Figures]

KARL ZIELINSKI: Let me ask you: if you were a white male, would you wish to be an engineer?

MARY JACKSON: I wouldn’t have to. I’d already be one.

If you missed the chance to see the film when Shetterly presented it at the Paramount back in September, you have another chance to catch it on Sunday. And you’re in luck: the author will be available again for a discussion after the screening.

[Clip from Hidden Figures]

CATHERINE JOHNSON: Yes, they let women do some things at NASA Mr. Johnson. And it’s not because we wear skirts. It’s because we wear glasses.

Hidden Figures is part of the festival’s special focus this year: Race in America. VFF collaborated with James Madison’s Montpelier, which has revisited its own slavery legacy with exhibitions and even the re-creation of slave dwellings on its historic property. As part of this focus on race, the festival will also screen the documentary 4 Little Girls, telling the story of the 1963 terrorist bomb attack by white supremacists on a Baptist Church in Alabama that  killed four black girls.

[Clip from 4 Little Girls]        

RICKEY POWELL: These little girls will never get the chance to realize life, because of some person’s decision to make them the - maybe the victims of why the movement should stop.

And as usual, notable Hollywood names will be present again this year. Director and Oscar winner Spike Lee will engage in  a discussion of the film prior to the screening on Saturday afternoon. As a side note: the last living convicted bomber of this attack, former KKK member Thomas Edwin Blanton Jr. who was convicted only in 2001, was denied parole last year.


It was also inevitable that the events of August 12 would be addressed somehow: so on Sunday the festival will screen a documentary – which is still a work in progress – entitled Charlottesville: Our Streets compiling the work of local journalists, photographers and filmmakers, and 20 interviews with witnesses. Director Brian Wimer and writer Jackson Landers will be present for a discussion.

But that’s not the only way Charlottesville will make its mark on this festival.

[Clip from Double Dummy]

PATTY TUCKER: The game itself is elegant and beautiful and interesting and fun. But the people that you meet and the friends that you make: that’s the treasure.

VFF again this year is showcasing Virginia filmmaking through a collection of movies made or having roots in the Commonwealth. And one of them is Double Dummy, a documentary on the game of bridge by local bridge aficionado John McAllister.

[Clip from Double Dummy]

JORI GROSSACK: I’m Jori Grossack, mother of Adam and Zachary.

ADAM GROSSACK: When I have to tell my friends on a Saturday night or Friday night that I can’t hang out because I have a bridge tournament, eh… Alright, fine - eventually they got used to it though.

Saturday is the festival’s Family Day, hosted on UVA Arts Grounds, and it will feature crafts, performances, music, and free arts-inspired workshops; and you can see – for free – Harry Potter and the beloved Aristocats in the Culbreth Theater.

[Clip from The Aristocats]

SCAT CAT: Everybody wants to be a cat, because a cat’s the only cat who knows where it’s at.

This year’s festival also reaches around the world to feature international movies from Australia and Estonia to Russia and Nepal; there will also be a 100th Anniversary screening of Charlie Chaplin’s The Immigrant; and even the season 6 final episode of the series Homeland. And this year, the famous Shot-by-Shot Workshop will look at the quirky black comedy drama Harold and Maude, which the Library of Congress selected for preservation in the National Film Registry in 1997.

[Clip from Harold and Maude]

MAUDE: Try something new each day. After all, we’re given life to find it out - it doesn’t last forever.