On the morning of Oct. 8, the 33rd annual Virginia Film Festival released its program list for 2020, consisting of an abundance of events in both virtual and drive-in formats. The festival will be presented on its originally scheduled dates, Oct. 21 to 25, and features a diverse offering of feature-length, documentary and short films along with panel discussions, Q&As, and a series of conversations with today’s top film artists. Notably, more than half of the filmmakers, experts and guests in this year’s festival are women or represent Black, Indigenous or people of color communities.
The virtual program for the festival is hosted on the Eventive platform, offering over 50 narrative and documentary features, shorts and more. The festival’s opening night film is Academy Award-winning actress Regina King’s directorial debut, “One Night in Miami,” which is a fictionalized story of Cassius Clay, Malcolm X, Jim Brown and Sam Cooke as they celebrate Clay’s 1964 win over Sonny Liston in Miami Beach. Another standout film is “Boys State,” a fascinating political coming-of-age documentary that examines the health of American democracy through an unusual experiment with teenage boys in Texas. Other highlights are “Alice,” by local filmmaker Eduardo Montes-Bradley, and “Ammonite,” a romantic drama with actresses Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan. As always, this year’s festival offers a large variety of content for all kinds of viewers to enjoy.
Despite the unusual circumstances brought by the pandemic, the festival will host a number of impressive guests on their online circuit. Appearances to support the screenings include Vince Gilligan — creator of “Breaking Bad” and “Better Call Saul” — Leslie Odom Jr., who will speak on his acting role in the festival’s Opening Night Film “One Night in Miami,” actor Ethan Hawke, NPR host Diane Rehm, actress Annette Bening and many more.
The Special Presentation events will include “Light House Studio Shorts,” a series of 15 short films created by students at Charlottesville's House Studio, as well as a tribute to 15-time Academy Award-nominated film composer Thomas Newman. Newman will discuss his career with Benjamin Rous, director of the Charlottesville Symphony at the University of Virginia. The tribute will also include clips from various movies linked to Newman including “The Shawshank Redemption,” “American Beauty,” “Finding Nemo” and “1917.”
Each night of the festival, a number of films will be hosted at two socially-distant drive-in locations — the Dairy Market in Charlottesville and Morven Farm in Albemarle. According to the event’s website, the opening night film, “One Night in Miami,” the centerpiece film, “Ammonite,” and the closing night film, “Nomadland,” will be shown at both locations, as well as four other anticipated new releases. Information about drive-in tickets and what to expect at each location can be found at the festival’s website.
Full-time U.Va. students will still have the opportunity to receive free access to the festival, and can request a Virtual Student Pass through the Art$ program. The deadline to request a pass is Oct. 19 at noon. To find out more information about ticketing, access to events, safety and the full schedule, visit the website at virginiafilmfestival.org.