The Virginia Film Festival (VFF) set a record this year and issued 28,609 tickets.This is impressive not only for the sheer quantity, but also for the number of University students who attended. When I went, I saw many University students in the audience, which is inspiring because we tend to distance ourselves from the Charlottesville community. Though students partake in programs such as Madison House and attend activities such as the Saturday morning Farmer’s Market, students spend far more time on Grounds and around other students. Our relationships within the University community are important, but it is also important that we immerse ourselves in the surrounding area. Charlottesville has so much to offer, such as various celebrations, international events, sales and concerts. In light of the recent success of VFF, I hope students will continue to seek out and attend Charlottesville community events. Recently I received an email from Third Year Council that included a section called “Five Things to Do Around Charlottesville.” This is a great start to promoting involvement. It is important that we get to know our beloved city, not just for the sake of community, but also for the knowledge we can gain. In Charlottesville, I have gone to international events — such as Cville Sabroso — agricultural events — where local farmers bring their best cows, goats, etc. to put on display and where they talk about their demanding jobs — and artistic events, where various musicians and other artists perform and share their skills. The VFF is especially important because the movies shown tend to be thought-provoking and Virginia-related. Many University students enjoyed the film festival. Fourth-year student Monica Cogo said, “The film festival was definitely worthwhile. The movie I saw, ‘All Fall Down,’ was complex and lead to a discussion with my friends afterwards. It’s great to see films that make you think. I would absolutely come again.” Besides the potential for personal growth, VFF is also a great way for Virginia to establish itself as a creative hub. Charlottesville is home to notable talent and known for its music production, but its film expertise should not be underestimated. The Virginia Film Festival brought over 150 filmmakers, actors and other industry guests to Charlottesville, and was advertised successfully, introducing Charlottesville to the filmmaking community. One of the movies from the festival, “Big Stone Gap,” focuses on the small Virginia town that the film is named for. It was entirely filmed in Virginia and is about Virginians and was extensively promoted by VFF. Director Adriana Trigiani did a lot of research and made sure the film was authentic: “When people talk about Southwest Virginia — or that phrase ‘poverty-stricken Southwest Virginia’ — it’s always a negative connotation, and I would not accept that, and I still don’t,” she said. “This movie is about celebrating these folks I grew up with.” Films have the ability to change perceptions and to enrich viewers. In the case of VFF, films were able to bring together a community, as well as the entire state of Virginia, to celebrate a shared love of history and art. Students tend to live in a bubble here at the University, but the participation in the Virginia Film Festival will hopefully continue. Sending emails that provide students with information on local events they can attend which are not University-related is one way to increase involvement, but there are others. By checking the local papers, fliers and other advertisements we can learn about upcoming events and make time in our busy schedules to attend. Charlottesville is an incredible city, so let’s take advantage of it. Meredith Berger is an Opinion Columnist for The Cavalier Daily. She can be reached at email@example.com.