On Tuesday at the Jefferson Theater, Virginia Film Festival director Jody Kielbasa announced the lineup for the 29th annual event, which will take place in Charlottesville Nov. 3 to 6. The schedule includes major releases and hits from other festivals like Telluride, as well as movies from Virginia filmmakers and screenings of old classics.
“The Promise,” in its North American premiere, is this year’s centerpiece film. The film is a German documentary, which details the 1985 murder of Lynchburg residents Derek and Nancy Haysom.
The closing film is festival darling “La La Land,” starring Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone. With critical acclaim already pouring in, it certainly should be one of the highlights.
Shirley MacLaine will be at the festival for a program entitled “Salute to Shirley MacLaine,” featuring a moderated discussion and a viewing of clips from her films as part of the festival’s conversation series. Other notable events include discussions with actress Liv Ullmann and legendary filmmaker Werner Herzog, the latter of whom will be presenting his new film “Into the Inferno.” Virginia native Danny McBride will be at the festival with collaborator Jody Hill for a screening of two episodes of their new show “Vice Principals.”
The influence of politics will certainly be present at the festival in this election year. A screening of the classic documentary “The War Room,” which chronicles Bill Clinton’s presidential run, will be followed by a discussion with filmmakers D.A. Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus, moderated by professor Larry Sabato. The film “All the Way,” starring Bryan Cranston as Lyndon B. Johnson, will also be screened in collaboration with the Miller Center.
The 25th anniversary of the classic Disney film “Beauty and the Beast” will be celebrated in style, with a special screening of the film followed by a discussion with stars Paige O’Hara and producer Don Hahn, moderated by professor Carmenita Higginbotham.
The festival will also screen seven foreign films that have been submitted for Academy Award consideration, including “Land of Mine” from Denmark, “Elle” from France and “Fire at Sea” from Italy.
The festival will also be celebrating several films from local artists, including “The Rebound,” a documentary about adaptive basketball players directed by James Madison University alumna Shaina Allen, and “Hot Air,” a comedy starring Matthew Gray Gubler from director and Charlottesville native Derek Sieg.
Other notable films include a restoration of “Ran,” by iconic Japanese filmmaker Akira Kurosawa; the Studio Ghibli film “The Red Turtle”; “Bleed for This,” a boxing film starring Miles Teller; and “Lion,” starring Dev Patel and Rooney Mara.
More films will be added to the lineup in the coming days, including the opening film, to be announced by Gov. Terry McAuliffe this Thursday. While Kielbasa didn’t give any hints as to what the film will be, he assured everyone that it would be a significant film and “part of the Oscars and Golden Globes dialogue.”
This year’s schedule may be its best yet. The sentiment was certainly shared by Kielbasa, who praised the festival’s “rich and compelling program.” Tickets are available to the general public Friday, and a full list of films can be found on the Virginia Film Festival website.