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Virginia Film Festival combines old classics, newcomers

Spike Lee headlines long list of highlights

<p>The lineup for this year's Virginia Film Festival features both locally-based documentaries and national big names and releases.</p>

The lineup for this year's Virginia Film Festival features both locally-based documentaries and national big names and releases.

Now approaching its 30-year anniversary, the Virginia Film Festival has become a staple within the University community. Taking place on the Downtown Mall as well as on Grounds, the four-day festival is a great way to unify students and community members. 

With a history of special guests such as Morgan Freeman, Sandra Bullock and Anthony Hopkins, the VFF has another exciting lineup in store for 2017. Running from Nov. 9 to Nov. 12, there are plenty of opportunities to take in a film or two. Here’s what — and who — to look out for at this year’s events. 

Opening Night Gala: Nov. 9, 9:30 p.m. at the Jefferson Theater

Over the course of the festival, there are two 21-and-over parties held at the Jefferson Theater, with one of them being the prestigious Opening Night Gala. While it’s easy to get sticker shock at the $75 ticket fee, the gala will boast a number of appearances by the festival’s visiting stars, as well as catered hors d’oeuvres and live music from Kool Kats Lite. There’s no better way to open the festivities of the week than with a good party, and that’s exactly what the Opening Night Gala provides.

Spike Lee: Nov. 11, 1:30 p.m. at the Paramount Theater

Acclaimed industry stalwart Spike Lee — director and producer of films like “Malcolm X” and “Do the Right Thing” — brings to Charlottesville his unabashed commentary on racial inequalities, accompanied by both a 2014 short film and a 1997 feature film. Unarguably relevant in the wake of the events of Aug. 11 and 12, “4 Little Girls” — the story of the 1963 bomb-related deaths of four black Alabama teens — will be shown. The film will be preceded by a short film about the death of Eric Garner, who died after being held in a chokehold by police. These two hard-hitting works are unmissable by themselves, and the addition of Lee to the speaking panel creates quite the draw.

“The Long Road Home” (2017): Nov. 10, 5:30 p.m. at the Culbreth Theatre

A quality screening that’s closer to Grounds is attainable as well, with an episode of a recent miniseries screened in Culbreth Theatre. Mikko Alanne’s “The Long Road Home” is a depiction of one particular day during the Iraq War in 2004 that came to be known as “Black Sunday.” Featuring “Shameless” actor Noel Fisher in the lead spot, this transformation of Martha Raddatz’s book hits home emotionally as it alternates between grueling action in Iraq and the families back in the U.S. who are awaiting news of their ambushed soldiers. The sixth episode of the miniseries, “A City Called Heaven,” will be the episode showcased at the festival, followed by a discussion panel with Fisher.

“Bonnie and Clyde” (1967): Nov. 9, 3 p.m. at the Paramount Theater

For those attendees looking to get both their vintage and their true crime fix at the festival, “Bonnie and Clyde” fits the bill. The classic story of Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow’s crime spree during the Great Depression — critically acclaimed and remembered to this day — celebrates its 50th anniversary at the Paramount. With revered performances by Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway, the festival presents a great opportunity to watch an all-time great film that masterfully mixes romance, crime and violence. Asst. Media Studies Prof. William Little will give an introduction before the film, which will be screened in rare 4K resolution.

“O.J.: Made in America” (2016)

Parts 1 and 2: Nov. 9, 4 p.m. at the Violet Crown

Parts 3 and 4: Nov. 10, 4 p.m. at the Violet Crown

Part 5: Nov. 11, 7 p.m. at the Vinegar Hill Theatre

Following in the vein of the recent revisiting of the O.J. Simpson trial and aftermath, “O.J.: Made in America” takes a documentarian approach to the 1994 case of Ron Goldman and Nicole Brown Simpson’s murder. Looking at Simpson’s rise to fame — one that was contradictory to the racial boundaries of the time — gives the backstory to perhaps the most-watched trial of the last century. All five parts of the miniseries will be screened Thursday, Friday and Saturday during the festival. Director Ezra Edelman will participate in a moderated discussion Nov. 11 at 7 p.m. at the conclusion of Part 5.