In its 36th year, the Virginia Film Festival is back — once again bringing a diverse collection of films to the heart of Charlottesville. The films and guests for the festival were announced Tuesday.
The Virginia Film Festival is a University program that brings new films, television series and industry professionals to Charlottesville annually. This year’s picks include a number of films with star-studded casts and crews.
The festival will open on October 25 with “Maestro,” a musical drama written, produced and directed by Bradley Cooper. Starring Cooper himself alongside Carey Mulligan, the film follows the relationship between composer Leonard Bernstein and Felicia Montealegre Cohn Bernstein. Makeup artist Kazu Hiro, who worked on the film, will accept the VAFF Craft Award for his artistry.
“The Holdovers,” directed by Alexander Payne, is the festival’s Centerpiece Film. In the movie, Paul Giamatti plays a crotchety prep school teacher who takes a misbehaving student under his wing. After the viewing, award-winning producer Mark Johnson will hold a Q&A about the film.
Another exciting pick is “American Fiction,” a film by Emmy award winner Cord Jefferson adapted from the book “Erasure” by Percival Everett. Already acclaimed, the film won the People’s Choice Award at the Toronto International Film Festival.
As part of its Black Excellence series, the festival will show “Origin,” a film about the life of journalist Isabel Wilkerson, written and directed by acclaimed filmmaker Ava DuVernay. At the screening, she will accept the VAFF Visionary Award.
DuVernay — the creator of works such as “When They See Us” and “Selma” — is known for creating films and series that amplify Black voices. M’kayla Ainsworth, publicity and marketing intern for the festival and a fourth-year College student, shared her excitement about the director’s appearance in Charlottesville.
“I like seeing people that look like me succeed, especially Black women,” Ainsworth said. “I’m so excited to hear from [DuVernay] and see what she’s bringing to our lives.”
With panels and discussions throughout the weekend, the Film Festival promises to be as educational as it is entertaining. On Oct. 28, the event will feature three film-related panels. “The Last of Us — Production Masterclass” will use the hit series “The Last of Us” as a case study on perfecting physical production.
Another panel, entitled “Beyond the Headlines: The WGA,” will explore the intricacies of the Writers Guild of America, and as well as the issues behind its recent strike.
“Making It — Film Industry Career Panel” will feature several filmmakers who are early in their career. These professionals will provide insight into how they got their start and what their careers in the film industry look like.
In addition to Black Excellence, the festival also announced several film series that uplift the work of marginalized creatives. Other series in the festival include Indigenous Cinema of the Americas, which highlights the work of Indigenous filmmakers, and Latinidades, which showcases works made by or featuring members of the Latinx community.
Closing the festival is “American Symphony,” a film by Matthew Heineman and musician Jon Batiste. An intimate documentary, the film follows Batiste, who gained immense acclaim around the same time his wife, journalist Suleika Jaouad, was battling cancer. Both Heineman and Batiste will make appearances at the festival — Heineman will receive the VAFF Directorial Achievement Award, and Batiste will perform a set after the screening.
Since tickets to the festival are free for those enrolled at the University, students are encouraged to take advantage of the festival while it is in town. While the event is an opportunity for entertainment, it is also a chance to connect with the greater Charlottesville community.
“The film festival is a great way to not only connect with films themselves, but also with other people that love film,” Ainsworth said. “That’s an unmatched experience, and I just hope as many people as possible get to enjoy these new films with people that they care about.”
Tickets for the festival will be available beginning at 12 p.m. Friday, Oct. 6. The full program of events is available on the Virginia Film Festival website.