37th Annual VIRGINIA FILM FESTIVAL Oct 30-Nov 3, 2024

37th Annual VIRGINIA FILM FESTIVAL October 30-November 3, 2024

News & Press


by JennyM on September 25, 2019

Virginia Film Festival Announces 2019 Program

Special Guests to Include Ethan Hawke, Ann Dowd, John Grisham, Wanuri Kahiu, Debra Martin Chase, Dennis Christopher, and Vanessa Bell Calloway

2019 VAFF to Feature More Than 150 Films Including Sneak Peeks at Hotly Anticipated Titles Including Harriet, Just Mercy, Western Stars, Jojo Rabbit, Marriage Story, The Two Popes, The Report, Clemency, and Portrait Of A Lady On Fire

Additional Day Added to VAFF Festival with Wednesday Opening Night Film and Gala

CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA– September 24, 2019 – The 32nd Annual Virginia Film Festival will feature a deep and diverse program of more than 150 films, including some of the hottest titles on the festival circuit today, and an array of special guests from throughout the industry, and from across the globe. This year’s lineup includes award-winning actor, writer, and director Ethan Hawke, noted actor Ann Dowd, international bestselling author John Grisham, actor Dennis Christopher, acclaimed filmmaker Wanuri Kahiu – plus more than 100 filmmakers in all.

The Virginia Film Festival is a program of the University of Virginia and the Office of the Provost and Vice Provost for the Arts.

“We are thrilled to announce our 2019 program,” said Jody Kielbasa, director of the Virginia Film Festival and Vice Provost for the Arts at the University of Virginia, “Once again, we have a lineup of films that includes some of the year’s most heavily-discussed titles of the awards season, plus some of the most exciting work from around the globe. We have worked hard to present a program that both entertains and challenges audiences, making a concerted effort to present films that reflect the world we live in, and that inspire vibrant discussions. We are particularly proud to continue our focus on important issues of social justice through high-profile screenings of Harriet, which was filmed here in the Commonwealth of Virginia, Just Mercy, which tells the inspiring story of Bryan Stevenson and his ongoing crusade to right wrongs within the criminal justice system, and Clemency, featuring Alfre Woodard as a maximum security prison warden struggling with the burdens of her death row duties, among many others.

This year, Kielbasa and assistant programmer Chandler Ferrebee were supported by a team of guest programmers led by senior guest programmers Andrew Rodgers, former Executive Director of the RiverRun International Film Festival and the Denver Film Society, and the internationally acclaimed producer and film scholar Iana Dontcheva. The expanded guest programmer team includes indigenous artist and filmmaker Federico Cuatlacuatl, Another Slave Narrative filmmaker Michelle Jackson, filmmaker and programmer Joe Fab, international film scholar and curator Samhita Sunya, new media artist and scholar Mona Kasra, and Washington Jewish Film Festival director Ilya Tovbis.

“We are constantly striving to expand our reach and to showcase as wide a cultural range as possible in order to serve and to grow a diverse audience for the Virginia Film Festival,” said Kielbasa. “This team approach has greatly helped to achieve this goal, and we are proud to work with these experts as we continue to evolve as a festival.”

The full 2019 VAFF program will be posted online at 9:00AM on Thursday, September 26. Tickets will go on sale online at noon on Monday, September 30 at virginiafilmfestival.org; in-person at the UVA Arts Box Office in the lobby of the UVA Drama Building, open M-F from noon to 5:00 PM; and by phone at 434-924-3376. Beginning Wednesday, October 16, tickets will also be available at the Festival’s Downtown Box Office in the lobby of Violet Crown on the Downtown Mall.

Four-time Academy Award nominee Ethan Hawke will participate in a conversation about his remarkable career that will follow a screening of the acclaimed Sidney Lumet film Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead, in which he co-starred opposite Philip Seymour Hoffman. The conversation will be moderated by PBS News Hour’s Elizabeth Flock. Hawke has emerged as a multifaceted artist, challenging himself as a novelist, screenwriter, and director. Hawke most recently starred in Paul Schrader’s timely political and environmental thriller First Reformed, which won the Gotham Award, Independent Spirit Award and over 20 film critics’ awards for best actor. Hawke’s longtime successful collaboration with Richard Linklater has included Boyhood, which earned Hawke Academy Award, Golden Globe, Screen Actors Guild (SAG), and BAFTA nominations as Best Supporting Actor. Their projects have also included the acclaimed “Before” trilogy with Julie Delpy that included Before Sunrise, Before Sunset and Before Midnight, the latter two scripts earning him Academy Award nominations for screenwriting. Hawke has starred in more than 60 films overall, including White Fang, Hamlet, Juliet Naked, Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead, and Training Day, which earned him Academy Award and Screen Actors Guild nominations. Hawke’s directing credits also include his 2001 debut Chelsea Walls, Blaze, which premiered in 2018 at the Sundance Film Festival Sundance, and the documentary Seymour: An Introduction.

Ann Dowd was the recipient of the 2017 Emmy Award for Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Series for her acclaimed performance as “Aunt Lydia” on Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale, an adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel. She has also been nominated for a Golden Globe Award, Screen Actors Guild Award, and Critics Choice Award for her work on the show. Dowd will be on hand for a discussion to follow Dismantling Democracy, the new documentary co-produced by the UVA Center for Politics, which she narrates. Dowd received another Emmy nomination for her performance as “Patti Levin” on the beloved HBO series The Leftovers, created by Damon Lindelof and Tom Perrotta. In 2013, she was the recipient of Best Supporting Actress from the National Board of Review for her performance as “Sandra” in Craig Zobel’s controversial psychological thriller Compliance, which also earned her Independent Spirit Award and Critic’s Choice Award. Last summer, she shared the screen with Toni Collette in A24’s horror hit Hereditary, directed by Ari Aster, and had a notable supporting turn in Bart Layton’s American Animals. Dowd’s television career has been highlighted by an acclaimed performance alongside Frances McDormand in Olive Kitteridge, recurring roles on Good Behavior, Masters of Sex, Judging Amy, Third Watch, and Freaks and Geeks, and memorable appearances on True Detective (Season 1), Louie, Girls, House, and Chicago Hope, Her film work includes Collateral Beauty, Flags of Our Fathers, The Informant, The Manchurian Candidate, Garden State, and Philadelphia.

The Client with author John Grisham
The VAFF will celebrate the 25th Anniversary of The Client, including a conversation with John Grisham. The blockbuster legal thriller brought an Academy Award nomination for Susan Sarandon and marked an auspicious debut for the late Brad Renfro as an 11-year-old boy who finds himself way over his head in a scandal that reaches all the way to the halls of the United States Senate.

Guest Artist Residency: Wanuri Kahiu

Acclaimed director Wanuri Kahiu will join the VAFF for a screening of her film Rafiki followed by a conversation on her career and creation of the Afrobubblegum Movement. After the release and subsequent ban in 2018 in Kenya of her film Rafiki, a love story between two women, Kahiu took the Kenya Film Classification Board to court for her constitutional rights to Freedom of Expression as enshrined in the 2010 National Kenyan constitution. Rafiki meets the criteria of her Afrobubblegum Movement which pledges to feature at least two healthy Africans who are financially stable having fun and enjoying life.

Opening Night Film on Wednesday, October 23, 2019

The 2019 Virginia Film Festival will open with Just Mercy, the powerful and thought-provoking true story of young lawyer Bryan Stevenson (Michael B. Jordan), and his history-making battle for justice. Stevenson is the founder of the Equal Justice Initiative, a legal practice dedicated to defending the poor, the wrongly condemned, and those trapped in the furthest reaches of our criminal justice system. One of Stevenson’s first cases was that of Walter McMillian (Jamie Foxx), who was convicted of murdering an 18-year-old girl in a high-profile case marred by a preponderance of evidence proving his innocence and tainted by the testimony of a deeply compromised witness. With the support of local advocate Eva Ansley (Brie Larson), Stevenson dives into a world of corruption, prejudice and political machinations to fight for McMillian and others like him, languishing on Death Row.

Gala Screening on Thursday, October 24, 2019
Over several nights in his Colts Neck, New Jersey barn, Bruce Springsteen performed all 13 songs from his latest record, Western Stars, joined by a full orchestra, backing band, and his wife, the guitarist and singer Patti Scialfa. This documentary of the same name, presented in partnership with the Miller Center, is co-directed by Springsteen along with Thom Zimny, and gives audiences an intimate look at the latest chapter in the career of one of music’s most iconic figures. Zimny will be on hand for a post-screening conversation.

Centerpiece Film on Saturday, October 26, 2019
Based on the extraordinary life of Harriet Tubman, Harriet, filmed in Virginia, chronicles the American hero’s escape from slavery and transformation into a historic abolitionist. Tubman’s courage, ingenuity, and tenacity helped free hundreds of slaves through the Underground Railroad and changed the course of history. From acclaimed writer/director Kasi Lemmons, and starring Cynthia Erivo, this triumphant story of one woman’s journey to freedom remembers the dark and grueling realities of slavery. Leading with the themes of rebellion, justice, and the quest for freedom, Harriet brings to light the impact of a crucial figure who worked to dismantle an oppressive establishment unlike any other. The screening will be followed by a panel featuring actor Vanessa Bell Calloway and producers Debra Martin Chase, and Daniela Taplin Lundberg.

Closing Night Film on Sunday, October 27, 2019
Fresh off of critically-acclaimed screenings at the Telluride Film Festival and the Toronto International Film Festival, The Two Popes offers a surprisingly lighthearted look at the conversations between Pope Benedict (Anthony Hopkins) and Cardinal Bergoglio (Jonathan Pryce) on the eve of Benedict’s shocking 2013 retirement, and Bergoglio’s ascension to the Papacy. Directed by the Academy Award-nominated Brazilian director Fernando Meirelles (City of God), the film takes viewers beyond the gilded gates of the Vatican and into the minds and hearts of two men at a moment of historic transition in a Catholic Church grappling with how to lead its faithful in a rapidly changing world.

Spotlight Films

Once again, the Virginia Film Festival will present a lineup of some of the most acclaimed films on the current festival circuit. The 2019 lineup includes:

Clemency – Alfre Woodard stars as Bernadine Williams, a prison warden at a maximum-security prison whose soul and spirit are challenged by the many executions she has carried out. The job leaves her with psychological and emotional demons that have taken a toll on her entire life, and that ultimately help bind her to an inmate whose death she is scheduled to oversee next.

Driveways – Director Andrew Ahn’s intimate drama revolves around the unlikely friendship formed between a lonely young boy and his new octogenarian neighbor (Brian Dennehy). As his mother (Hong Chau) looks on, the boy provides the widowed veteran with a youthful outlook and begins to discover a newfound maturity within himself.

Jojo Rabbit – This daring, touching, and comedic satire, winner of the Audience Award at the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival, is the story of a lonely German boy named Jojo whose world is turned upside down when he discovers his single mother (Scarlett Johansson) is hiding a young Jewish girl. Aided only by his idiotic imaginary friend Adolf Hitler (director Taika Waititi), Jojo must confront his blind nationalism.

Marriage Story – Academy Award-nominated filmmaker Noah Baumbach directs this incisive and compassionate portrait of a marriage breaking up and a family staying together – starring Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson.

Motherless Brooklyn – Edward Norton wrote, directed, produced, and stars in this tale of a restless private detective with Tourette’s Syndrome whose investigation of his friend and mentor Frank Minna (Bruce Willis) sends him into the heart of 1950’s New York, from Harlem jazz joints all the way to the corruption-filled hallways of City Hall, to get answers.

Portrait of a Lady on Fire – One of the most popular films on the 2019 festival circuit, this is the story of a young painter in 18th century France Marianne (Noémie Merlant) who is commissioned to do the wedding portrait of Héloïse (Adèle Haenel) without her knowing. Therefore, Marianne must observe her model by day to paint her portrait at night. Day by day, the two women become closer as they share Héloïse’s last moments of freedom before the impending wedding.

The Report – Idealistic Senate staffer Daniel J. Jones leads an investigation into the CIA’s post 9/11 Detention and Interrogation Program, and uncovers shocking secrets, in this riveting drama from writer/director Scott Z. Burns and starring Adam Driver and Annette Bening.

Race in America – Presented with James Madison’s Montpelier
The Virginia Film Festival is partnering once again with James Madison’s Montpelier for the third annual Race in America series, exploring the complex and changing issues around what continues to be one of the most important and difficult issues of our time. This year’s series will include Clemency, Harriet, and Just Mercy, in addition to:

Always in Season – Jacqueline Olive’s documentary explores the lingering impact of more than a century of lynching African Americans and connects this form of historic racial terrorism to racial violence today.

Burning Cane – This extraordinary feature debut from 19-year-old director Phillip Youmans looks at faith, family, and violence among the cane fields of small-town Louisiana as an aging mother struggles between her religious convictions and the love of her son.

Pahokee – In a small agricultural town in the Florida Everglades, hopes for the future are concentrated on the youth. The documentary follows four teens as they face heartbreak and celebrate the rituals of an extraordinary senior year.

We are the Radical Monarchs – Follow the founding and growth of the Radical Monarchs, an Oakland-based alternative to the Girl Scouts for young women of color (ages 8-13) at the front lines of social justice and allyship.

UVA Center for Politics
The VAFF continues its longstanding partnership with the UVA Center for Politics with a screening of the documentary Dismantling Democracy, featuring special guest Ann Dowd. The documentary examines what many see as the retreat of the democratic form of government over the past two decades, and the perplexing set of challenges faced by the United States, and other democracies around the world, that test the effectiveness of government of, for, and by the people. The film features interviews with UVA Center for Politics director Larry Sabato, CNN journalist Margaret Brennan, Black Lives Matter activist and UVA Religious Studies associate professor Jalane Schmidt, Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), and former Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ). The Festival will also partner with the Center for Politics to show the landmark documentary Primary from Robert Drew that chronicles the 1960 Wisconsin primary between Democratic front runners John F. Kennedy and Hubert H. Humphrey and introduced groundbreaking hand-held camera work to the documentary form. The film will be followed by a conversation with ABC Chief White House Correspondent Jonathan Karl, moderated by Center for Politics Director Larry Sabato. Finally, Kyle Kondik, the Center’s Director of Communications and the Managing Editor for Sabato’s Crystal Ball, will moderate a conversation following a screening of Barak Goodman and Chris Durrance’s gerrymandering documentary Slay the Dragon.

The Miller Center
The Virginia Film Festival is once again partnering with The Miller Center, a nonpartisan affiliate of the University of Virginia that specializes in presidential scholarship, public policy, and political history, and strives to apply the lessons of history and civil discourse to the nation’s most pressing contemporary governance challenges. This year’s film is Port of Destiny: Peace, which chronicles former Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos’ path to peace: how he waged war on FARC, a terrorist guerilla movement, and risked his own career and legacy, to bring peace to his people in a polarized political environment.

Library of Congress
The Virginia Film Festival continues its unique partnership with the Library of Congress Packard for Audio Visual Conservation in Culpeper, Virginia in 2019 to present a series of films that celebrate the National Film Registry. This year’s series includes a special 40th anniversary screening of The Muppet Movie; the classic generation-uniting baseball film Field of Dreams (followed by a conversation featuring USA Today film critic Brian Truitt ) and Primary.


2040 – Environmental concerns are addressed with the hope that the filmmaker’s daughter, 21 years old in the year 2040, will face a hopeful future. Investigations into the potential of innovations like renewable energy and alternative transportation infuse this documentary with optimism and a sense of determination to affect positive environmental change

Autonomy – Author Malcolm Gladwell leads the first comprehensive documentary look at the human side of the emerging technology that will power self-driving vehicles. The film focuses on the human side of innovation and the psychology of control, fear, and adapting to change.

The Cave – The war in Syria has brought death to millions. Civilians live in constant fear of attacks, and for many, safety is found in an underground hospital known as The Cave. In these hidden tunnels, female doctors serve alongside men in roles that would be unthinkable in the sexist culture that exists above. The Cave, from National Geographic films, received the 2019 Audience Award at the Toronto International Film Festival.

Ernie & Joe – In an intimate portrait that illustrates progressive methods of policing by following two police officers specializing in the San Antonio Police Department mental health unit, this documentary reflects the best of public servants, one 911 call at a time.

It Started as a Joke – Comedian Eugene Mirman’s offhand joke of creating a comedy festival making fun of other comedy festivals, became the Eugene Mirman Comedy Festival. Featuring a star-studded lineup including Kumail Nanjiani and Mike Birbiglia, this documentary pays homage to what comedy is, is not, and everything in-between.

Kifaru – The northern white rhino species has long been in danger of extinction. With the number of surviving rhinos diminishing, a conservancy in central Kenya was established to breed and protect what remained of the species. Following two rangers for over four years, this film documents the joys and disappointments of conservation in this touching documentary.

Midnight Family – With a population of almost 9 million, Mexico City only operates 45 government emergency ambulances. Private EMTs step in to serve as a lifeline to those needing medical attention. The Ochoa family operates a for-profit ambulance; however, the lack of financial gain and local corruption often throw them into a moral and ethical gray area.

Varda by Agnes – From Agnès Varda, the “Queen of French Cinema” herself, this heartwarming piece combs through the artist’s remarkable life and career while allowing the filmmaker to have the final word on her films.

We Believe in Dinosaurs – In rural Kentucky, all eyes are on a life-size model of Noah’s Ark being built to prove the accuracy of the Bible. A creationist, a former creationist, and a pro-science activist become the main characters in an examination of the controversy encompassing evolution denial and the separation of church and state.

When All is Ruin Once Again – This poetic, meditative, beautifully shot black-and-white film is an ode to close-knit rural Irish communities, introducing us to the people who live on the borders of the counties of Galway and Clare in the west of Ireland.

You Don’t Nomi – The release of Showgirls in 1995 was met with ridicule from both critics and audiences. Following the journey of the film from initial flop to cult classic, this documentary provides a thought-provoking and entertaining window into American pop culture and the ways in which film can connect communities.

Other documentaries include Crisis: Behind a Presidential Commitment, Forman vs. Forman, General Magic, Human Nature, The Kingmaker, Oliver Sacks: His Own Life, and When All is Ruin Once Again, among others.

VAFF and VPM PBS, Virginia’s home for Public Media

The Virginia Film Festival is proud to partner with VPM PBS to present The Inn at Little Washington: A Delicious New Documentary, a film by Emmy and Peabody-winning Show of Force, in association with VPM PBS, Virginia’s home for Public Media, and Washington, D.C.-based chef and Executive Producer Spike Mendelsohn. The film takes viewers inside what has long been considered one of the greatest dining experiences in America, with the quirkiest cast of characters imaginable. Audiences see both the front and back of house as the “chef’s chef” Patrick O’Connell and his team celebrate the 40th year in business while chasing the ultimate accolade…a third Michelin star. The Inn at Little Washington is slated to have its broadcast premiere in early 2020 on PBS. The screening will be followed by a discussion with Chef Patrick and director Mira Chang, moderated by PBS NewsHour correspondent Roben Farzad. The VAFF/VPM partnership will also include a 50th Anniversary celebration of Sesame Street during the Festival’s Family Day on Saturday, October 26.

Spotlight on Virginia Filmmaking

The Festival will shine a spotlight on an impressive collection of films that were made in Virginia or have roots in the Commonwealth. Titles include:

Afrikana Film Festival – The VAFF is proud to partner with the Richmond-based Afrikana Film Festival for a special program of films dedicated to showcasing cinematic works by people of color from around the world, with a special focus on the global Black narrative.

Fishing with Dynamite – Director Paul Wagner examines how corporations and Wall Street and their obsession with short term profits are negatively impacting the foundations of American Capitalism in his newest documentary, presented in partnership with the University of Virginia Darden School of Business.

Best of Film at UVA, Best of VCUarts, and Best of Film at Mason – As the official film festival of the Commonwealth of Virginia, the VAFF will salute some of Virginia’s finest young filmmakers from the University of Virginia, George Mason University, and Virginia Commonwealth University in a special program that captures and celebrates the diversity of cinematic storytelling found at these institutions.

Southern Journey (Revisited) – In 1959, Alan Lomax set out on a road trip through the south to collect traditional American roots music. The recordings that Lomax made serve as both a collection of traditional music and a social document of the times. This film follows the route that Lomax previously traversed and takes the pulse of a nation, surveying what has and has not changed in the 6 decades since Lomax first made his trip.

Other Virginia films include Harriet, Inn at Little Washington, Queen of the Capital, and a short film showcase of work by UVA professor Kevin Everson.

International Films 

Continuing its strong track record of showcasing the very best in cinema from around the world, the VAFF will spotlight a selection of some of the most acclaimed films in foreign cinema this year.

Atlantics (France) – In Senegal, workers attempt to make the journey across the sea in search of a better life. After their abrupt disappearance, a strange fever begins to spread in this supernatural romance that won the Grand Prix at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival.

Parasite (Korea) – The Park Family is the picture of aspirational wealth. The Kim Family is rich in street smarts but not much else. In a chance opportunity, the Kim children become tutors to the Parks, and a symbiosis forms between the families. Darkly hilarious and heart-wrenching, this 2019 Cannes Palme d’Or-winner showcases director Bong Joon-ho at the top of his game.

Bacurau (Brazil) – The village of Bacurau is in dire condition. Basic supplies are running low, access to the outside world is fading, and the government begins to deny its existence, wiping it from all maps. As the outside world begins to close in, the villagers stand their ground with a secret weapon. The film won the 2019 Jury Prize at Cannes.

Frankie (France) – Iconic French actress Isabelle Huppert plays the title role of Frankie, a well-known movie star struggling with terminal illness and her own mortality, Frankie invites her extended family on a vacation to a picturesque village in Portugal. Although the entirety of the film occurs over one day, the family’s dynamics are quickly made known and deeply explored.

I Lost My Body (France) – In a desperate attempt to get back to its body, an amputated hand journeys across Paris. Flashbacks to the hand’s life show his body growing up and falling in love, slowly giving answers to the cause of the separation. This animated film, which won top honors at Cannes Critics Week and the Annecy Animation Festival, is captivating and poetic, providing a touching account of loss.

Pain and Glory (Spain) – The latest film from legendary filmmaker Pedro Almodóvar portrays a director (Antonio Banderas) facing the decline of his career. As he looks back on his life, he questions whether or not there is a life beyond his art. Memories of first love, childhood joys, and painful loss all flood back as he attempts to fill the void that brought his filmmaking to a halt.

The Song of Names (Hungary) – Centering on a young violin prodigy at the start of World War II who mysteriously vanishes without a trace before his debut performance, and his brother who tries to find him, this unwavering drama about friendship, betrayal, and reconciliation illustrates both the horrors of war and sibling rivalry with musical revelations.

Synonyms (Israel) – An Israeli twenty-something moves to Paris and intends to rid himself of his nationality. Synonyms, which won the Golden Bear at the 2019 Berlin Film Festival, explores the complexities of cultural identities and the challenges of putting roots down in a new place.

The Traitor (Italy) – In the early 1980’s, a war rages between Sicilian mafia bosses over the heroin trade. Tommaso Buscetta flees to hide out in Brazil. Arrested and extradited to Italy, Buscetta makes a decision that will change everything for the Mafia: he decides to betray the eternal vow he made to the Cosa Nostra.

Other films include Beanpole (Russia), Default (Korea), The Father (Bulgaria), Ghost Town Anthology (Canada), Grass (Korea), Oh Mercy! (France), Song Without a Name (Peru), and The Wild Goose Lake (China), among others.


Queer Love on Television – The search for love and connection between people of color in the queer community is explored in two episodes of television, both written by UVA alum, Steven Kung. In Dear White People Volume 3 episode “Chapter VII,” shy reporter Lionel begins to explore his Ivy League university’s queer spaces. In Falling for Angels episode “Koreatown,” two Asian men, one Korean American and the other Taiwanese American, explore their respective relationships to their cultures, and to each other, over 24-hours in Los Angeles’s Koreatown.

Changing the Game – High school athlete Mack Beggs made headlines when he became the Texas girls wrestling state champion for the second time. Despite his desire to wrestle against his fellow male opponents, Texas athletic rules force him to compete with young women. This film follows Beggs’ story along with two other transgender high school athletes to highlight the struggles of the fight for trans rights in high school athletic programs across the United States.

Gay Chorus Deep South – In response to a wave of discriminatory anti-LGBTQ laws and the divisive 2016 presidential election, the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus embarks on a tour of the American South. The conversations and connections that emerge offer a glimpse of a less divided America, where the things that separate us are set aside by the power of music, humanity, and a little drag.

Portrait of a Lady on Fire (France) – In eighteenth century France, Héloïse has rejected her mother’s attempts to commission a portrait which will lead to marriage. As a result, her newest painter, Marianne, must masquerade as a lady’s maid during the day to paint her subject by night. As the portrait materializes, an unlikely relationship blossoms between the two women as Héloïse enjoys her last moments of untethered bliss.

Queen of the Capital – Muffy Blake Stephyns and her everyday persona, Daniel, must navigate her bureaucratic day job in the Department of Labor in Washington D.C., all while balancing her role in the Imperial Court of Washington D.C., a philanthropic organization full of drag queens, drag kings, and other vibrant performers. This documentary illuminates the thriving D.C. drag scene and explores the story of an individual on a crusade for the community.

To the Stars – In a small town in 1960s Oklahoma, reclusive teen Iris forges a friendship with Maggie, the worldly but reckless new girl, who homes in on Iris’s untapped potential and coaxes her out of her shell. This subtle black-and-white film about friendship, growth and hope reveals the courage of individuals forced to take drastic measures when they’re made to stand up for themselves.

Trixie Mattel: Moving Parts – As the charming drag persona of Milwaukee-raised Brian Firkus, Trixie Mattel does it all; filming Drag Race All Stars, managing personal projects, recording a new album, and navigating relationships including an unexpected fallout with close friend and web series co-star Katya Zamolodchikova. This documentary is a raw and deeply personal portrait of the pitfalls of success and the endless churn of being a professional performer, singer, and comedian.

Family Day

The Virginia Film Festival’s annual Family Day returns on Saturday, October 26 on the Betsy and John Casteen Arts Grounds at the University of Virginia. In celebration of the 50th anniversary of Sesame Street, join VPM PBS and the Virginia Film Festival for a 60-minute screening of favorite clips from this iconic, award-winning children’s television series. Made up of a colorful community of monsters, birds, grouches, and humans, Sesame Street is a place where everyone counts. To add to the fun, the event will feature two chances for families to meet and take pictures with Walkaround Elmo, from 11:30 AM-noon and 12:45 PM-1:15 PM. ™/© 2019 Sesame Workshop. All Rights Reserved. The day will also include the return of the Charlottesville Symphony at the University of Virginia with their Musical Instrument Petting Zoo, allowing kids and adults alike to see, touch, hear, and play many different instruments found in the orchestra, and discover the ways that music and sound effects bring films to life. Families can choose from a variety of events and activities, including the Light House Studio’s Animation Station, where kids create their own stop motion animations using clay, paper, Legos, and Lighthouse Studio’s cameras and software. This year’s Interactive Arts Festival, a fun-filled celebration of UVA Arts, will feature tunes from a live DJ from WTJU, crafts tables, pop-up live performances from the Charlottesville Ballet, DMR Adventures, Hoos in Treble, and the UVA Salsa Club. Food trucks will provide plenty of lunch options, balloon artists and face painters will be on hand, and the MoxBox photo booth will be there to capture all the fun!

All Family Day events are free and open to the public and feature complimentary and convenient parking at the Culbreth Road Garage.

The Festival Scholars Program
The Virginia Film Festival is proud to present the return of the Festival Scholars program. The Program, which debuted last year, provides a 6-day immersive, educational, and networking experience for UVA students around the themes of filmmaking, film industry, and film criticism. The program will feature a mentored and guided program of studies, discussions, and overall experience led by noted film scholar, former studio executive, and longtime VAFF moderator Harry Chotiner. Participants will take part in intimate group discussions and Q&A sessions with visiting guest artists and VAFF Advisory Board Members. Students receive complimentary admission into all film screenings chosen as part of the Scholars’ course of study and full credentials to the 2019 Virginia Film Festival.

VAFF @ Common House – Panels & Virtual Reality

The VAFF will host a series of free panel discussions this year at Common House that will feature industry experts on the following topics: VR Filmmaking, led by Mona Kasra, assistant professor of Digital Media Design in the UVA Department of Drama, and Women and Work, featuring a panel of women in the filmmaking industry and their relation to work and the female experience.

Parties and Events
The 32nd Annual Virginia Film Festival offers plenty of reasons to celebrate, and some great ways to do it! Highlights of this year’s parties and events include:

Opening Night Gala on Wednesday, October 23 at The Jefferson Theater

Come celebrate the excitement of the first night of the Festival following the special opening night screening of Just Mercy, and toast to the Festival weekend with beverages, heavy hors d’oeuvres, and live big band music while mixing and mingling with special guests and VAFF friends and supporters.

Late Night Wrap Party – Saturday, October 26 at Three Notch’d Craft Kitchen & Brewery

Close out the 2019 Virginia Film Festival in style at this annual highlight event. It’s a great way to connect with filmmakers, VAFF special guests, and fellow film fans in a fun and festive atmosphere.

For complete information regarding the Virginia Film Festival, visit virginiafilmfestival.org. The full 2019 VAFF schedule will be available online at 9:00 AM on Thursday, September 26, and tickets will go on sale to the public at noon on Monday, September 30.

The 2019 VAFF Press Room can be accessed at virginiafilmfestival.org/pressroom.

The 2019 Virginia Film Festival is presented by The Joseph and Robert Cornell Memorial Foundation. The 2019 Virginia Film Festival is generously supported by the following Premiere Sponsors: The AV Company, Bank of America, CFA Institute, Harvest Moon Catering, James Madison’s Montpelier, Violet Crown Cinema, Virginia Film Office, and VPM: Virginia’s home for Public Media.

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