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As an English major and student journalist, I’m no stranger to writer’s block. I’ve had my fair share of deadline-related stress — from my first article for Arts and Entertainment four years ago to the first draft of my thesis just a few weeks ago. None of it, though, compares to what I’ve felt while trying to write this parting shot.
The choice of film for the Virginia Film Festival’s opening night film carries considerable weight. In fact, it’s arguably the most important movie shown at the festival, the closing night film being its only real competition. The opening sets the tone for the next three days — or four, as is the case this year. It must be a crowd-pleasing, big-studio production while simultaneously providing more food for thought than other blockbusters.
Seven years ago, Toni Morrison (1931–2019) delivered a Harvard Ingersoll Lecture titled “Goodness: Altruism and the Literary Imagination.” The 2012 speech questioned why, in popular media, the presence of evil is so emphasized while “goodness sits in the audience and watches.” Morrison then examined instances of goodness in her own novels, advocating for an increased representation of human charity and kindness, of “allowing goodness its own speech” — which, she argued, leads to the “acquisition of self-knowledge.”
“What makes up a black girl?”
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.
On June 9, 1870, Charles Dickens was halfway through his 15th novel when he “committed the one ungenerous act of his entire career — he died.” That novel was “The Mystery of Edwin Drood.” The titular mystery concerns Drood himself, a young orphan whose disappearance in the novel may have something to do with his opium-addicted uncle John Jasper. It’s hard to say — the story is half-finished, so the mystery is unsolved. The most readers can do is speculate.
It’s that time of year again — the time of year when the Helms Theatre opens its doors for six performances over the course of two weekends. The time of year when those six performances consistently sell out days in advance, and students swarm the box office for the chance of snagging spare tickets. The time of year when an unembellished stage is transformed into platform to proclaim black love, bemoan black injustices and celebrate every facet of black identity. The Black Monologues have returned.
Decades after he played a troubled jock suffering through detention in a high school library, Emilio Estevez has returned to a library — this time, to tell a very different sort of story. “The Public,” which Estevez wrote, produced, directed and starred in, received a special screening Friday, March 22, at the Paramount Theater. Co-sponsored by the Virginia Festival of the Book and the Virginia Film Festival, the event also featured an appearance by Estevez himself, who spoke alongside a panel of community leaders moderated by The Washington Post film critic Ann Hornaday.
Doomsday approaches. Homeless street preachers, once dismissed as lunatics, are promoted to prophets. Miss Templeton, a mysterious figure who also has oracular tendencies, suffers recurring nightmares of Satan conducting strange business deals. God Himself appears, apologetic but determined to destroy His creation and its inhabitants. Among all the cataclysmic mayhem, normal humans are trying their best to stay alive, and maybe even to find love — while they still have the chance.
Here’s a tip — don’t Google “Brie Larson ‘Captain Marvel’ controversy.” Don’t give the internet trolls the satisfaction.
“Encompassing Multitudes: The Song of Walt Whitman,” a new exhibit located in the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library — and curated by George Riser, alongside Robert C. Taylor Professor of English Steve Cushman, Director of Creative Writing Lisa Russ Spaar and Library Ambassador and former Wolfe Undergraduate docent Charlotte Hennessy — is designed with purpose. Upon entering the main room, viewers immediately notice the first display, an impressive poster filled with quoted early reactions to Whitman’s magnum opus “Leaves of Grass,” originally published in 1855. One side of the poster features positive reviews — while the other is, to say the least, a bit more critical.
Sharon Van Etten has built her career around the concept of the slow burn. This is exemplified in her previous album “Are We There,” an 11-track immersion into folk style, which solidified the singer-songwriter’s career — inoffensive rambling of guitar chords underneath Van Etten’s unmistakable, sultry croons. The album’s title, along with its black-and-white, blurry cover art of a contented car passenger, suggests that Van Etten wants to take listeners on a journey. The album succeeds in doing so, and beautifully, but ends as ambiguously as it began. It would be boring if it weren’t so lovely to listen to.
As titles go, “The Recovering” is a bit of a misnomer. Make no mistake — Leslie Jamison was several years sober at the time of her memoir’s publication in April 2018 — but the work is just as concerned with the author’s fall as it is her rise. Aside from chronicling her own alcoholism, Jamison also brings her analytical, deeply personal eye to other stories of addiction and to the history of addiction itself. Readers looking for the standard dependence-to-recovery timeline might be disoriented, but as Jamison says in “The Recovering,” “Nothing about recovery had been singular … recovery had been about immersion in the lives of others.”
The Virginia Film Festival’s “Race in America” series is a collaboration with James Madison’s Montpelier and is, in the words of the Festival website, “a multi-faceted series of films and discussions inspired by and built around Montpelier’s ongoing commitment to exploring its own legacy of slavery.” After an impressive first year, successful largely for its inclusion of special guest Spike Lee, the series’ second run includes documentaries — such as “16 Bars” and “Charlottesville,” which discusses the white supremacist rallies of Aug. 11 and 12, 2017 — alongside fictional movies.
Sam Bathrick’s documentary “16 Bars” opens with a shot of one of Richmond’s most famous and controversial monuments — a statue of Robert E. Lee on horseback, perched on a pedestal looming over Monument Avenue. Then the camera pans over top of the monument, moving into the city itself, and a rap song bursts to life in the background. It’s an angry track, and rightfully so, describing the experiences of underprivileged black people and their myriad struggles.
Hours before Leslie Cockburn’s C’Ville Stand Up and Vote rally at The Jefferson Theater last Sunday, the iconic Downtown Mall venue was bustling with the Fifth Congressional District candidate’s staff and volunteers. They were hard at work, transforming The Jefferson into a suitable space for the supporters who had already begun to form a line outside. These attendees’ buttons and shirts asserted support for Cockburn, but with a lineup as impressive as this event’s — boasting Cockburn’s daughter and actress Olivia Wilde, her fiancé and fellow actor Jason Sudeikis along with a host of figures both political and musical — C’Ville Stand Up and Vote felt more like a festival of culture than a partisan rally.
Jody Kielbasa, director of the Virginia Film Festival and Vice Provost for the Arts at the University, released the preliminary lineup of films, guests and events for the 31st Virginia Film Festival alongside Festival Programmer Wesley Harris in an event Tuesday at the Jefferson Theater.
The University’s creative writing program — as prestigious as it is — is often overlooked by the average student. The MFA program has taught such celebrated writers as Aja Gabel, Christina Baker Kline and current professor Thomas Pierce. Its faculty is just as impressive, boasting the highly awarded Jeffery Renard Allen, Elizabeth Denton and former Poet Laureate Rita Dove.
The McIntire Amphitheatre underwent one of its more interesting transformations Saturday night. As one of the most iconic structures on Grounds, its uses range from a study space to the location for the fall Activities Fair to the ideal place to eat dumplings — and occasionally, a concert. The Amphitheatre boasted a free show for students from hip-hop legend T-Pain Saturday night, a University Programs Council-sponsored event which helped kick off this year’s Welcome Week festivities.
With the stressful combination of starting classes, adjusting to dormitory life and learning to love — or at least stomach — dining hall food, it’s easy for a first-year to forget that the University exists within the city of Charlottesville. And what a city — particularly for the arts! Whether it’s a tiny theater company tucked away on Allied Street or a cozy little concert venue hidden downtown, Charlottesville has a plethora of arts-related destinations ideal for any age. This list aims to highlight a few, and to propose the radical idea that a city exists outside of this school — and it’s a city that deserves every student’s attention.