Jody Kielbasa, director of the Virginia Film Festival and vice provost of the Arts, announced the lineup for the 32nd festival in a press conference Tuesday. The festival, which now begins on a Wednesday and lasts for five days, contains nearly 200 films and features many University professors and significant local figures. Kielbasa gave a sampling of the program onstage at the Jefferson Theater alongside Assistant Programmer Chandler Ferrebee and Senior Guest Programmers Andrew Rodgers and Iana Dontcheva.
“Just Mercy,” the Opening Night Film and biopic of Bryan Stevenson (played by Michael B. Jordan), will screen Oct. 23, Kielbasa said. This follows a special “School Screening” of documentary “True Justice: Bryan Stevenson’s Fight for Equality,” which details the lawyer’s life work opposing racial discrimination.
Kielbasa also highlighted Bruce Springstreen concert documentary “Western Stars,” mentioning that the VAFF is “one of the only festivals in the United States” showing this film, and a screening of “Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead,” which will feature a conversation with co-star Ethan Hawke.
Ferrebee took the stage to highlight the screening of A24 drama “Waves” and “Jojo Rabbit,” Taika Watiti’s black comedy set in Nazi Germany. She also focused on the LGBTQ series of the festival, which will include “Gay Chorus Deep South” and “Trixie Mattel: Moving Parts,” a documentary following the life of the “RuPaul’s Drag Race” alum.
Rodgers mentioned several political documentaries, including a special screening of 1960s “Primary,” an account of the Wisconsin primary election between John F. Kennedy and Hubert Humphrey. The event will feature a conversation between political journalist Jonathan Karl and District 57 candidate Sally Hudson, moderated by Larry Sabato.
Dontcheva gave a preview of many of the international films to be featured, a lineup she called “the best of the best … in global cinema.” These will include Korean dark comedy “Parasite” and Senegalese romantic drama “Atlantics.” Documentaries such as “The Cave,” about an underground women’s hospital in Syria, will also be featured.
The VAFF is marketed this year as “150 Films in 5 Days,” so the press conference was necessarily only a “small snapshot,” as Kielbasa said. Other notable titles and events include a 25th anniversary screening of John Grisham adaptation “The Client,” at which Grisham will be a special guest, a “collection of the shorts” of Kevin Everson, a professor of Art at the University who recently won the 24th Heinz Award and a reprising of 2018’s “Rafiki,” this year featuring director Wanuri Kahiu. The “Race in America” series continues in its third year, with films including documentary “Always in Season,” a history of lynching from a modern perspective, and “Harriet,” a biopic of the Underground Railroad organizer featuring Charlottesville-frequenter Leslie Odom Jr. The New York Times columnist Jamelle Bouie will moderate a conversation with individuals involved in the film.
Tickets for the 32nd Virginia Film Festival will be available for purchase starting Sept. 30 at noon. As always, students can receive free tickets through the Arts Program.