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Sigourney Weaver to attend film fest

Entitled "TechnoVisions," this year's Virginia Film Festival hopes to draw a large audience by featuring big-name actress Sigourney Weaver and Stan Winston, a University alumnus and special effects guru.

In contrast to last year's "Cool" theme, the technological aspects of this year's Festival will be "more of a visceral experience" for filmgoers, said Richard Herskowitz, festival director and drama professor.

"We're having many more rides and virtual reality experiences ... We're emphasizing movies as thrill rides. There's a big emphasis on special effects," Herskowitz said.

The Festival will kick off Oct. 21 with an opening night tribute to Winston, who will receive the Virginia Film Award for his groundbreaking work in the field of creature and makeup effects. Winston has designed creatures and effects in blockbuster films such as "Aliens," "The Terminator" and "Jurassic Park," as well as the recent summer movies "Austin Powers 2" and "The Sixth Sense."

Herskowitz said he is pleased that Weaver and Winston will be attending, but said there is more to the Festival than just the tribute festivities.

"The stars' presence is really the icing on the cake. The whole program is very rich -- with both independent films and classics," he said.

Weaver's "presence is the lightning rod which calls attention to the program, but the depth of this year's festival" is its strength, he added.

English Prof. Eric Lott, who serves on the Festival's Faculty Advisory Board, said the program has broad-based appeal.

"What's nice is that you can engage yourself in the Festival as much or as little as you want," Lott said.

Fourth-year College student Adam Popp, coordinator for independent movies at the Festival, said he thinks Weaver's presence will encourage many students to come to the Festival for the first time.

"Big names are the key," Popp said. For some students, "they're the doorway to the Festival."

He noted that the Festival's technology theme ties in well with the current Internet and Y2K crazes.

One name missing from this year's program, however, is film critic Roger Ebert, who has attended several Festivals in the past.

"We have an understanding with him that he will come alternate years," Herskowitz said. "He's promised to come next year"