New wave: Lots o' new movies at VA Film Fest, plus 'Hellboy' filmmaker and 'Belle' voice
You read what's hot at Sundance, at Toronto, at Cannes, and wonder, when will these movies come–- if ever–- to Charlottesville?
Good news. This year's Virginia Film Festival brings more festival darlings from around the globe, and kicks off with the eagerly anticipated Black Swan, the new film from the director of The Wrestler, Darren Aronofsky, and starring Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis, and Winona Ryder.
On October 7, festival director Jody Kielbasa unveiled the headliners and highlights for the November 4-7 fest, which runs for the first time without the constraints of themes, like last year's "Funny Business" or the previous year's "Aliens!" with an exclamation point. "There seemed to be no love lost around that theme," Kielbasa says he discovered.
He's upped the typical 80 screenings to 100 movies in four days, while slicing the number of classics. "I want people to have to make tough choices," he says.
And tough choices there will be. Leading the list is Guillermo del Toro, creator of the Hellboy series and Pan's Labyrinth. Del Toro unveils his latest horror thriller, Don't be Afraid of the Dark, as the festival's Saturday night film November 6 at the Paramount, with long-time festival board member and the film's executive producer, Mark Johnson.
CBS How I Met Your Mother star Josh Radnor will be on hand to present his directorial debut, happythankyoumoreplease, which drew raves at Sundance and closes the festival on Sunday night.
Last year, True Blood creator Alan Ball and his live commentary on an episode from the HBO series was one of the most memorable festival events. In a reprise of noting critically acclaimed small-screen hits, this year, Vince Gilligan, creator of AMC's Breaking Bad, the story of a dying chemistry teacher who tries to provide for his family by cooking meth, will be on hand to comment and answer questions.
Festival Fellow Peter Bogdanovich had been previously announced, and he'll present his 1970 classic, The Last Picture Show, November 6 with film critic David Edelstein, as well as Paper Moon on November 5.
Other invitees include actress Paige O'Hara, the voice of Belle in Beauty and the Beast. She'll do a Family Day performance November 6 at the Paramount.
Director Tom Shadyac is already well-known locally after filming Evan Almighty here in 2006 and creating The Haven on Market Street. The UVA alum will be back to present his life-altering, post-bicycle-accident documentary, I AM, which explores the age-old theme, what's wrong with the world and how do we change it?
Other indies you may have been waiting for: Leaves of Grass starring Edward Norton, with UVA grad executive producer David Koplan; the Jack Abramoff-inspired Casino Jack with Kevin Spacey, and the zany prison film, I Love You Philip Morris, starring Jim Carrey and Ewan McGregor.
Even rarer making the local cinemas are foreign films, and this year's fest provides beaucoup offerings, including Kawasaki's Rose from Academy Award-winning Czech director Ian Hrebejk, Everyone Else from German director Maurn Ade, and Hot Summer Days, a romantic comedy from Hong Kong.
"Six from '60" is a festival sidebar in honor of the 50th anniversary of six film classics. Check out the birth of the New Wave with a newly struck 35-mm print of Godard's Breathless. Or the birth of the paparazzi in Fellini's La Dolce Vita. Or the end of an era in Billy Wilder's Best Picture, The Apartment.
Another 50th anniversary coming up is 1961, when people objecting to Jim Crow laws traveled on public transportation through the Deep South and got beat up–- or worse–- for their trouble. UVA's Center for Politics brings Freedom Riders, Stanley Nelson's documentary, and Larry Sabato moderates a panel joined by several Freedom Riders.
It's always wise for a Virginia-based film festival to showcase Virginia-made films, and this year's call for entries resulted in nearly triple the year before. Three local films are garnering national acclaim and will be screened at the festival: Meghan Eckman's The Parking Lot Movie, Chris Farina's World Peace and Other Fourth Grade Achievements, and Paul Wagner's Thoroughbred.
Another film that's close to home is Bill Reifenberger and Ben Clore's documentary, Vintage: The Winemaker's Year. Its November 6 screening at the Paramount will be preceded by a wine reception, natch.
"I fully expect we'll be adding more people," Kielbasa predicts.
Tickets go on sale Friday, October 8.