Best o' the fest: What real filmmakers want to see

Salivation. That's what happens when you're a cinephile and you pick up the program for the 24th annual Virginia Film Festival and see all those unreleased new movies, and all those classics you've wanted to revisit, and all those films you really won't get to see anywhere else, and the filmmakers and actors who will be in town, and then–

Head explosion. How in the world are you going to sift through the more 100 screenings and cram in as many as possible during the few short festival days of November 3-6?

Expert assessment. That's where the Hook steps in, offering insight into what the pros are going to see.

And we'll caution you: Some of the obvious must-sees– The Descendants, the new George Clooney movie; Melancholia, the new Lars von Trier film; and JFK with director Oliver Stone– sold out in the first 72 hours, although festival director Jody Kielbasa says there may be a few tickets turned back in by the time the festival starts. We Need to Talk about Kevin also has sold out.

Advance ticket sales are up 25 percent over last year, Kielbasa says, and 2010 was a record-breaking year in which 17 films sold out. More advice from the Hook: Get those tickets now, before it's too late.

Here's what four locals in the film biz have on their go-see lists.

Chris Farina

UVA grad Chris Farina directed World Peace and Other Fourth Grade Achievements, a festival darling last year. He also appears in The Parking Lot Movie.

Badlands (1973)
5pm Saturday, Paramount Theater

A Terrence Malick film on the big screen, with the added bonus of Sissy Spacek and Jack Fisk? Malick is such a visual filmmaker that anytime you can see him on the big screen, you should. I've seen Badlands many times and would go again. Fisk, as art director, was integral to the film's beauty. Dream double-feature with Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1:45 Saturday at the Paramount).

The Interrupters (2011)
4pm Saturday, Downtown Regal

This film has gotten a lot of acclaim. Gang members try to stem gang violence. They were screening it in Aspen when we were there with World Peace. Anything with Steve James– he did Hoop Dreams– I would go to see. And he's going to be here.

Inquiring Nuns (1968)
5:30pm Thursday, Downtown Regal

It's a late '60s documentary in which nuns go around and ask people if they're happy. Director Gordon Quinn is a founder of Kartemquin Films, which makes really great films (he produced Hoop Dreams). I'm the product of a Catholic school from the late '60s, and when you survive that, you never forget it. I love the premise.

The Other F Word (2011)
11:30am Saturday, UVA Nau Auditorium

It's about punk rockers as dads. There are so many documentaries that bring you down that to see one about regular life that makes you smile, well, this one jumped out at me.

Armadillo (2010)
9:30pm Sunday, Vinegar Hill

Not an overtly political film, Armadillo puts you in these boys'/young men's lives as they go from Denmark and get planted in Afghanistan. The filmmaker doesn't tell you what to think as the kids are trying to deal with a situation you could never imagine– and that they couldn't imagine either.

Jay Lavender

Charlottesville-based writer and filmmaker Jay Lavender is heading into his second year working with Jeff Wadlow as a mentor for the Adrenaline Film Project. He's the co-writer of the Vince Vaughan/Jennifer Aniston film, The Break Up. And his short film, Wounded Warriors’ Resilience, will be shown at 4pm Sunday at UVA's Nau Auditorium. 

The Descendants (2011)
7pm Thursday, Culbreth Theatre

We’ll be hearing about this movie for a long time. While George Clooney and Alexander Payne are the marquee names, I’m more excited to see the breakthrough by co-writers Nat Faxon and Jim Rash. Until now, they’ve have been better known as actors who met years ago at L.A.’s Groundlings improv group. They started writing to take more control of their destinies, and their hard work has paid off big.

Elevate (2011)
6:45pm Friday, Downtown Regal

I’m a big fan of inspiring sports movies that capture the persistence, determination and teamwork it takes to succeed in sports and life. Chariots of Fire, Hoosiers, The Natural, and Field of Dreams are some of my all-time favorites. Growing up near Chicago during the Michael Jordan era inspired my love of basketball, and I’ve been to Africa, so can’t wait to see this film about the journey athletes take in pursuit of a better life.

Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1945)
1:45pm Saturday, Paramount Theater

One of the all-time classics. Deemed so important that its print was selected for preservation by the Library of Congress. Humphrey Bogart stars. John Huston won the Academy Award for writing and directing, and his father won the Oscar for supporting actor. I feel like I’ve heard this title 100 times– but I’ve never seen the movie! Can’t think of a better first time than watching it on the big screen.

Farmageddon (2010)
3pm Saturday, Culbreth Theatre

This title is my new favorite word. Grabbed me instantly. Although I grew up in the Midwest, I lived in suburbia and spent 13 years in L.A., so I've spent the majority of my life removed from the food chain. From spending time in Charlottesville, I’ve gained more of an appreciation for local farmers and am curious to learn more about their challenges with big government regulations.

Adrenaline Film Project
10pm Saturday, Culbreth Theatre
10:30am Sunday,
Downtown Regal

In 2009, I experienced Adrenaline for the first time when Jeff Wadlow invited me to the Saturday-night screening. The crowd was electric. The filmmakers were hyper and exhausted from their 72-hour marathon of pitching-writing-filming-and-editing their shorts. Friends and family were packed in to cheer them on. I was hooked. Wadlow invited me to mentor with him last year, and I’m back in the mix again to support the teams.

Richard Knox Robinson

Richard Knox Robinson is an award-winning photographer and director. His first documentary, The Beekeepers, premiered at Sundance in 2009. His photographs have appeared in Smithsonian Magazine, the Washington Post Magazine, and on the Discovery Channel. He'll screen Seattle Film Fest jury prize nominee Rothstein's First Assignment, about how eugenics played in the creation of the Shenandoah National Park, at 6:30pm Saturday at Vinegar Hill.

Melancholia (2011)
9pm Friday, Vinegar Hill
Lars von Trier has come a long way from his Dogme 95 days and his vow of chastity. Breaking the Waves is still one of my favorite films, while Dancer in the Dark with Bjork and Catherine Deneuve I think is vastly underrated. I can't wait to see how Trier directs Kirsten Dunst.

!Women Art Revolution (2010)
12:45 Saturday, Downtown Regal
It wasn’t long ago that women had to dress in gorilla suits to challenge the gender stereotypes of the art world. With footage spanning over 40 years, !Women Art Revolution looks at the feminist movement in the arts from an artist’s perspective, that of Lynn Hershman Leeson. Every artist should see this. 

The Loving Story (2011)
6:30pm Friday, UVA Nau Auditorium

The Loving Story, directed by Nancy Buirski, focuses on the now almost-forgotten Virginia law barring interracial marriage. The Racial Integrity Act of 1924 marked the beginning of a dark period in Virginia’s history that ended only when the Lovings took their case to the Supreme Court in 1967. Only then could they legally live together as a married couple in Virginia.

Kevin Everson: 5 Films (2011/2012)
2pm Friday, Downtown Regal
When I first starting making films, I went to Kevin. He was doing things I had never seen a filmmaker do. It was like a whole new world opened up for me. Fresh off his Whitney Show, Kevin Everson’s five new works are bound to challenge and inspire.

The Turin Horse (2011)
4pm Sunday, Downtown Regal
The Turin Horse is Bela Tarr’s reflection on a story that has Nietzsche suffering a mental breakdown after witnessing the whipping of a horse. As it's been difficult to see Tarr’s work and this is reported to be his last film, it’s a welcome opportunity.

Erica Arvold

For more than 20 years, Erica Arvold has been involved in casting over 90 films, including Natural Born Killers, Backdraft, and Charlotte's Web, and 75 television projects while in Chicago, Los Angeles, and Charlottesville. She's chair of Charlottesville's chapter of the Virginia Production Alliance and founder of Arvold Studios, an education hub for filmmakers and actors.

Butter (2011)
7pm Sunday, Culbreth Theatre

Um, butter. Need I say more? Seriously, finding a story in a butter-carving competition intrigues me. Plus the performance level of actors Jennifer Garner and Hugh Jackman, coupled with its political slant, reminds me a bit of Election. I’m going to this one.

Albert Nobbs (2011)
8:30pm Saturday, Paramount Theater

Rodrigo Garcia’s films always take me on an introspective journey. I have no doubt this one will deliver as well. Since it was produced by the accomplished and kind Julie Lynn and stars fresh, strong actors (especially Janet McTeer and Mia Wasikowska), I expect this one to soar.

Restoration (2010)
2:30pm Friday, Downtown Regal

The fact that this film has been nominated for 11 Israeli Academy Awards and was an official selection at Toronto makes it a no-brainer. I like to see actors I don’t yet know, too– and this film is full of them.

Evita: The Documentary (2006)
11:30am Friday, Downtown Regal

I worked on this show in Chicago many moons ago. The musical is astounding and Eva Peron even more so. Influential women are fascinating in and of themselves; I expect that telling her story using previously unseen footage along with an exposed plot to hide her corpse will make this an even more compelling film. I’m very much looking forward to the post-film discussion with Eduardo Montes-Bradley.

Growing Up Cason (2010)
1pm Saturday, Vinegar Hill

Doug Bari is a local filmmaker I've known for many years. The seamless way he layers his point of view into his films is always a pleasant surprise. His ability to find a story and wrap his metaphoric arms around both the subject– the Cason family– and the audience amazes me.