The falling of the leaves is the sign of many things, but the onslaught of autumn also marks the coming of the next Virginia Film Festival.
“I think of the Virginia Film Festival as a film festival for audiences,” said Steven J. Kung, writer/director and VAFF Advisory Board Member, in a promotional video that ran before the program for the 35th Virginia Film Festival was launched. “There are plenty of acquisition film festivals where you just hobnob and it’s sort of like [Los Angeles] goes to camp.”
“It’s amazing to think that we made that video that you saw in 2019 and really didn’t have much of an opportunity to show it since we were virtually in 2020 so it was kind of trot it out and remember what we once were and what we hope to be coming back to this year,” said Jody Kielbasa, vice provost for the arts and director of the Virginia Film Festival.
Tickets go on sale next Tuesday, and the full program will be released tomorrow. Kielbasa was on hand for a preview yesterday. The opening film stars former James Bond actor Daniel Craig in his second portrayal of a new character.
“It was particular fun for me as a former actor to see him flex his muscles and become Benoit Blanc and so we’re thrilled to be able to announce that our opening night film this year is Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery,” Kielbasa said.
Kielbasa went through many other highlights, such as the November 3 showing of a film called Devotion.
“Now this is a new film that focuses on the first African American naval pilot, Jessie L. Brown, who was killed in the Korean War,” Kielbasa said. “We’re excited to welcome Jonathan Majors with our break-through star award.”
Majors will take part in a question and answer period after the film. He’s also appeared in The Last Black Man in San Francisco and Lovecraft Country and plays Kang the Conquerer in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
“On Friday night, we’re screening Stay Awake,” Kielbasa said. “This film appeared at festivals around the world. It was a dual award winner at the Berlin Film Festival, it opened the San Francisco International, and the filmmaker, Jamie Sisley, is a local. Born in Virginia and now lives in Charlottesville. We actually screened his very first film at the Virginia Film Festival about four or five years ago and he returns with this new narrative film.”
This year, Ilya Tovbis has joined the festival as its senior programmer, having spent the past ten years as the director of the Washington Jewish Film and Music Festival.
“One of the things that we are thrilled to return to this year is so many conversations with artists, tributees, honorees, awards of all sorts, and one of the films that is very close to my hear that we’ll be showing is The Inspection,” Tovis said. “This is closing the New York Film Festival in just a couple of days. It’s Elegance Bratton’s fictionalized but true tale of his life as an African-American gay marine and the hardships that he went through there.”
The closing film in the 35th Annual Virginia Film Festival is Empire of Light, the debut solo script from director Sam Mendes.
For more from the festival and to get ready to buy tickets, visit virginiafilmfestival.org.