Virginia Film Festival Wraps Unforgettable 35th Annual VAFF Highlighted by Diverse Program of More Than 100 Films and Special Events and Outstanding Array of Special Guests and Fascinating Conversations
Festival Featured 28 Sold Out Screenings
Living Wins Audience Award For Best Narrative Feature; Dani’s Twins Wins Best Documentary Feature
CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA – November 10, 2022 – The credits have rolled on a remarkable 35th Anniversary Virginia Film Festival that combined more than 100 films with an unforgettable array of special guests and fascinating discussions that captivated, challenged, and delighted audiences over five days in Charlottesville.
The 35th Annual Virginia Film Festival saw a total of 17,292 total attendances, including both paid and free events. The Festival recorded 28 sold out screenings and welcomed 72 industry guests as well as 42 discussants and subject matter experts from around the globe to shed light on and add depth and context to films that both entertained audiences and tackled some of the most important topics of our time.
Festival officials also announced that the winner of the 2022 VAFF Audience Award for Best Narrative Feature was Living featuring Bill Nighy and Aimee Lou Wood, while the Audience Award for Best Narrative Documentary went to Dani’s Twins which follows the pregnancy and early parenting life of Dani Izzie, a Virginia resident who became one of the first quadriplegics to give birth to twins in 2020.
The success of this year’s VAFF went far beyond numbers, said Virginia Film Festival Director and Vice Provost for the Arts at the University of Virginia, Jody Kielbasa. “From the moment we opened the Festival with a sold-out screening of Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery at The Paramount Theater on Wednesday night, there was a palpable sense of celebration from our audiences and throughout our community,” he said. “People were clearly delighted to be part of a shared cinematic experience on a large scale, and that carried through the entire five days.”
A recurring theme voiced by audiences throughout the weekend was the depth, breadth, and quality of the festival program, curated by VAFF Senior Programmer Ilya Tovbis, in his first year in the position. “Time and time again, people shared how much they enjoyed the program and how exceptional they thought it was,” Kielbasa said. “We could not agree more and are thrilled to have Ilya as part of our team.”
“The community’s enthusiasm for the 2022 VAFF program, and deep engagement with our visiting artists was overwhelming, and everything we could have hoped for,” Tovbis said. “Full theaters, panels, and post-screening conversations served as a testament to Charlottesville’s embrace of the Festival and our mission.”
Tovbis also reported consistent positive feedback from filmmakers and guests – including the wide range of interests among its audiences. “Throughout the 5 days of the Festival,” he said, “visiting filmmakers and industry members routinely praised the opportunities the VAFF afforded them and the caliber of the festival, while coming away genuinely impressed with our community’s support of the art of cinema. Packed theaters for programs as varied as Devotion, Empire of Light, Refuge, Orlando, and Bad Axe (among many others) revealed the breadth of interest of the VAFF audiences, and the Saturday panel conversations similarly drew full halls of patrons keen to get an insider’s look into the film industry.”
In addition to the kudos coming his way based on the films and events in the program, Kielbasa said he has received a steady stream of positive feedback regarding the overall VAFF experience from participants and attendees alike, saying “Our Managing Director Jenny Mays and our talented and tireless staff, interns, and volunteers once again outdid themselves in putting on a festival that rival any in its on-the-ground experience, professionalism and presentation.”
In celebration of this special anniversary, the 2022 Virginia Film Festival inaugurated series of awards, including the Breakthrough Star Award, presented to actor Jonathan Majors, who was on hand to discuss his latest film, Devotion. Majors received a boisterous standing ovation from 1,100 audiences when he took the stage to receive the award prior to the screening, and another after the credits rolled when he took the stage for a thoughtful and highly entertaining conversation with Hollywood Reporter Awards Editor Tyler Coates. Earlier in the afternoon, Majors spent time with UVA professor Kevin Everson’s class fielding questions on the film industry.
The VAFF honored one of its founders and most dedicated supporters with the presentation of the Gerald L. Baliles Founders Award, named for the late Virginia Governor and presented to filmmaker Jamie Sisley. Sisley, an Emmy Award-winning Virginia native, UVA graduate, and Charlottesville resident who shared his latest film Stay Awake, took the stage alongside actor Wyatt Oleff. They were joined virtually by Chrissy Metz (This is Us), who starred in the powerful story of a mother battling opioid addiction and the toll it takes on her family.
A multigenerational crowd flocked to The Paramount Theater on Saturday morning for a special preview screening of My Father’s Dragon, an animated fable based on the beloved children’s book by Ruth Stiles Gannett. Academy Award-nominated screenwriter Meg LeFauve (Pixar’s Inside Out and The Good Dinosaur) was presented with the Screenwriting Achievement Award prior to the screening and joined Oscar-nominated director Nora Twomey, producer and UVA alumnae Julie Lynn and the film’s supervising sound editor Zach Seivers for a conversation moderated by the 2022 VAFF Critic-in-Residence Carlos Aguilar for a discussion of the film and to field impressive questions from young audience members.
The VAFF presented its Craft Award to Academy Award-winning production designer Eugenio Caballero prior to a screening of his latest film, Bardo, False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths, from director Alejandro Iñarritu (Birdman). Caballero’s remarkable career has included production design credits on some of the most visually stunning films in modern film history, including Roma, Pan’s Labyrinth, and Romeo and Juliet.
The VAFF was proud to honor Oscar-winning screenwriter and acclaimed activist Dustin Lance Black, who wrote the films Milk and J. Edgar and wrote, produced, and directed the recent Hulu limited series Under the Banner of Heaven with its Changemaker Award. Black was selected for the award both for his work onscreen and for his tireless activism on behalf of the LGBTQIA+ community across the country.
Sam Pollard, one of the foremost documentarians on the Black experience in America, was honored with the Festival’s first Chronicler Award prior to a screening of his latest film Lowndes County and the Road to Black Power. Pollard, known for films including Citizen Ashe and MLK/FBI (both of which screened at the VAFF), was also a longtime editor and co-producer on Spike Lee films including Bamboozled, 4 Little Girls, and Mo’ Better Blues.
The Virginia Film Festival also presented tributes to two-time Tony Award-winner Judith Ivey, who was on hand to discuss Sarah Polley’s powerful film Women Talking, and Raúl Castillo, who participated in a post-screening conversation following The Inspection, in which he takes a memorable turn as a drill sergeant in writer/director Elegance Bratton’s tale of a young gay man who finds unexpected strength and support when he joins the Marines.
Once again this year, Virginia Film Festival audience members played a key role in the proceedings by casting ballots for their favorite films.
The winners of the 2022 VAFF Audience Awards, supported by Ting, are:
Narrative Feature: Living
Documentary Feature: Dani’s Twins
Narrative Short: Night Ride
Documentary Short: Stranger at the Gate
Also announced were the winners of the 2022 Programmers’ Awards:
Narrative Feature: Karaoke
Documentary Feature: Refuge
Narrative Short: Home of the Brave
Documentary Short: Tuning René Marie
The Virginia Film Festival is a program of the University of Virginia and the Office of the Provost and Vice Provost for the Arts.
The 2022 Virginia Film Festival is presented by The Joseph and Robert Cornell Memorial Foundation. The 2022 Virginia Film Festival is also generously supported by the following Premiere Sponsors: AV Company, Bank of America, Charlottesville Albemarle Convention and Visitors Bureau, Truist, Office of the Provost and the Vice Provost for the Arts, UVA Health, Violet Crown Cinema, Virginia Film Office, and VPM. The Virginia Film Festival is also supported in part by the National Endowment for the Arts.
The 2022 VAFF Press Room can be accessed at virginiafilmfestival.org/pressroom.
For more information on the Virginia Film Festival, visit virginiafilmfestival.org.