A Preview of the 31st Virginia Film Festival

Oct 26, 2018

Many guest speakers are set to make an appearance at this year's Virginia Film Festival, including actor Christoph Waltz.
Credit Virginia Film Festival

This year’s Virginia Film Festival [Nov. 1-4] is expanding the scope of its film selection. WMRA’s Marguerite Gallorini has this preview.

[Music from the Virginia Film Festival’s 2018 Promotional Video]

The 31st Virginia Film Festival showcases more than 150 films in four days, special guests, free events and parties: it can be hard to know where to start. So let’s take it from the beginning: 2018 marks exactly 50 years since 1968, and the social landscape is again shifting now, just as it did 50 years ago. So the festival will open its film line-up on November 1st  with the docuseries 1968: The Year That Changed America.

[Clip from 1968: The Year That Changed America]

RICHARD NIXON: I hope to restore respect to the presidency.

And on the theme of change and social movements, the festival will shine a spotlight on important issues of our time, such as Race in America. In this category, the two-hour feature simply called Charlottesville provides an in-depth reading of the town in the wake of August 12 last year, from racial divides to local government mistakes.

INTERVIEWEE: It is disheartening to see Charlottesville be pegged as this one attack and this one weekend.

The screening will precede a community address by guest speaker Martin Luther King III, followed by a discussion moderated by Larry Sabato from the UVA Center for Politics.

Beyond Charlottesville, the festival’s “Spotlight on Virginia Filmmaking” celebrates movies and short films from around the state, on a variety of issues – such as dementia.

[Clip from Revolutionizing Dementia Care]

BRIAN LEBLANC: It’s hard. Your whole life changes in an instant when you hear those words – that, you know, you have Alzheimer’s disease.

Close to 6 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s – and the number is projected to rise to 14 million by 2050. The documentary Revolutionizing Dementia Care, supported by the Richmond-based Community Idea Stations, explores dementia awareness.

[Clip from Revolutionizing Dementia Care]

LAURIE SCHERRER: A lot of mentoring is helping people to understand: no, you can’t do all the things you did do, but you still can do a lot; you still have a lot to be thankful for.

The film will premiere at the festival on November 1st at the Violet Crown Theater, and will be followed the next day by a related workshop in Richmond for care partners, to share new and best practices for people living with dementia in the U.S. And if you can’t make it to the festival, the film will air on various PBS stations on November 15.

[Music from Rafiki]

The festival will also focus on the struggles of the LGBTQ community everywhere. In the Kenyan film Rafiki – which means “Friend” in Swahili – Kena is the daughter of a local politician and always hangs out with the guys. But Kena will make her first female friend when Ziki, the daughter of her father’s political rival, moves to town. But when the two girls’ relationship develops into romance, they must defend themselves against Kenya’s anti-gay laws.

[Clip from Rafiki]

ZIKI (played by Sheila Munyiva): Let’s make a pact, that we will never be like any of them down there.

KENA (played by Samantha Mugatsia): Instead, we’re going to be something… real?

ZIKI: Yes, something real.

The festival also features a whole section entitled “Middle Eastern & South Asian Sidebar.” The light-hearted movie Hell in India will be introduced by guest speaker Samhita Sunya, who’s the Assistant Professor of Cinema at UVa’s Department of Middle Eastern and South Asian Languages and Cultures. In this Egyptian comedy, a misunderstanding propels a band of musicians to India as a special forces squad to free the Egyptian ambassador and his family, kidnapped by an evil billionaire.

[Music from Hell in India]

The festival definitely has something for everyone: local, national and international movies, comedies, classics, documentaries, drama and more experimental films. Many guest speakers are set to make an appearance, including actor Christoph Waltz.  There will be discussion panels; and visitors can even catch a glimpse into immersive film technologies with the Virtual Reality Lab.

[Clip from The Other Side of the Wind]

Juliette Riche (played by Susan Strasberg): I just want to know what he represents.

Last but not least: the festival features four films in tribute to director Orson Welles, including his unfinished last movie, The Other Side of the Wind, which has finally been completed after decades of speculation.

[Clip from The Other Side of the Wind]: Is that what this movie’s about?

A Netflix documentary mixing archival footage and contemporary interviews also chronicles the somewhat “cursed” making of this movie, and the director’s maddening and tragic end. Its title:

[Clip from They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead]: They’ll love me when I’m dead.