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Virginia Film Festival latest installment furthers impactful dialogue

Star-studded guest list and program lineup support student-driven efforts

The University will this weekend host the 28th annual Virginia Film Festival, an event that seeks to bring together filmmakers, scholars and students to view and discuss films ranging from classics to documentaries and foreign films.

The film festival aspires to engage audiences in an active dialogue with artists on pertinent social issues, festival director Jody Kielbasa said.

“The thing that distinguishes us from the maybe 125 other film festivals in our country is that we’re able to bring imminent scholars from U.Va. [together] with filmmakers and social change agents,” Kielbasa said.

Previous Virginia Film Festival talks have been given by the late Julian Bond, a former University professor and civil rights activist. This year’s festival will include a discussion with Larry Kramer, a noted LGBTQ rights activist.

Academy Award-winning director Oliver Stone, Emmy- and Tony-winning actress Cherry Jones and famed film scholar and historian Leonard Maltin will also sit on panels.

McCailin Wunder, assistant director of University arts development, described the festival as an “opportunity to go see something new, something different.”

“The information’s not just being deposited in you; there’s this incredibly engaged ‘talk back,’” Wunder said. “We want to enhance the student experience; when students are involved, the festival comes to life.”

From 1989 to 2009, the festival selected films based on a new theme each year. Themes included “Aliens,” “Funny Business” and “Cool.” The festival has since discontinued this practice, hoping to expand its reach.

“[The change] allowed us to explore a much wider variety of topics — sexuality, religion, politics,” Kielbasa said. “[We’re] now a contemporary film festival.”

While the festival provides an opportunity for students to explore new films, it also provides practical work experience through its student internship program. A team of 12 interns assists the festival team in marketing and fundraising, giving interns the chance to see all that goes into putting on the festival each year.

“Our interns make the festival possible,” Wunder said.