VIRGINIA FILM FESTIVAL | Dates to be Announced in Feb 2024

37th Annual | VIRGINIA FILM FESTIVAL | Dates to be Announced in Feb 2024

News & Press

35th VAFF to Feature ‘The Levys of Monticello’, Netflix’s ‘My Father’s Dragon’, and critic in residence Carlos Aguilar

by JennyM on August 30, 2022

VAFF to Partner with Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello to Present The Levys Of Monticello and will Feature Upcoming Netflix Family Film My Father’s Dragon as Part of 2022 VAFF

Festival Officials Also Announce Launch of “Critic in Residence” Program Welcoming Noted Film Critic Carlos Aguilar

Full VAFF Program Announcement Scheduled for October 11

CHARLOTTESVILLE, VAAUGUST 30, 2022 – The Virginia Film Festival officials offered audiences a small preview of what they can expect from the 2022 VAFF at a special Stakeholders Reception held this evening at The Bradbury on Charlottesville’s Downtown Mall.

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 35th Annual Virginia Film Festival will take place from November 2-6 in Charlottesville.

VAFF Director and UVA Vice Provost for the Arts Jody Kielbasa and VAFF Senior Programmer Ilya Tovbis announced that the Festival will partner with Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello to present the documentary The Levys of Monticello and will also be showing the highly anticipated NETFLIX animated family film My Father’s Dragon, which is produced by UVA alum and VAFF Advisory Board member Julie Lynn. In addition, the Festival announced that it will welcome acclaimed film critic Carlos Aguilar as its inaugural “Critic in Residence.”

Kielbasa, now in his 14th year as VAFF director, shared his excitement about the milestone 35th anniversary, and amidst the changing industry landscape brought on by streaming opportunities, voiced the organization’s commitment to the core values and tenets that have made the VAFF one of the country’s premier regional festivals. “While streaming has provided a level of convenience that seemed impossible just a few years ago, there remains no substitute for the communal experience watching a film and sharing your impressions with your fellow audience members. As anyone who has been to the Festival knows, there is an electricity created by our audience engagement that simply cannot be replicated anywhere else. We cannot wait to bring that back to Charlottesville this year.”

When Thomas Jefferson died in 1826, he left behind a mountain of personal debt, which forced his heirs to sell his beloved Monticello home and all its possessions. From Menemsha Films and director Steven Pressman, The Levys of Monticello is a documentary film that tells the little-known story of the Levy family, which owned and carefully preserved Monticello for nearly a century – far longer than Jefferson or his descendants. The remarkable story of the Levy family also intersects with the rise of antisemitism that runs throughout the course of American history.

“The Levys of Monticello is an incredibly timely, poignant, and educational film,” said VAFF Senior Programmer Ilya Tovbis. “The legacy of Thomas’ Jefferson’s historic home has received a lot of serious and worthy media treatment. Until now, however, the story of the Levys—a Jewish family who owned and restored this American treasure over a period much longer than Jefferson inhabited it—has not had the spotlight it deserves. I am very pleased we are partnering with Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello to present this insightful and evocative documentary to our community. It manages that rare feat of celebrating Jefferson’s heritage, while simultaneously tackling head on complicated questions of antisemitism, racism, and the enslaved laborers’ role in building and maintaining Monticello.”

From five-time Academy Award®-nominated animation studio Cartoon Saloon (The Secret of Kells, Song of the Sea, Wolfwalkers) and Academy Award-nominated director Nora Twomey (The Breadwinner), My Father’s Dragon is an exquisite film inspired by the Newbery-honored children’s book from author Ruth Stiles Gannett. Struggling to cope after a move to the city with his mother, Elmer (Jacob Tremblay) runs away in search of Wild Island and a young dragon called Boris (Gaten Matarazzo) who waits to be rescued. Elmer’s adventures introduce him to ferocious beasts, a mysterious island, and the friendship of a lifetime.

“We are always excited to share the magic of the movies with a new generation,” Kielbasa said, “and to welcome back UVA’s own and VAFF Advisory Board Member Julie Lynn to share the latest work in her extraordinary career.”

To help promote the screening to local youth and families, the VAFF announced that it will be partnering with the Jefferson Madison Regional Library and the Central Library’s Children’s Department to host an October book group and discussion around the book. Further details on the event will be announced later this Fall.

“It is an honor to inaugurate our Critic-in-Residence program with Carlos Aguilar,” Tovbis said. “Carlos’ wealth of film knowledge spans the history of the medium, and his interests hit upon nearly every genre, cinematic movement, and form of film storytelling. It has been a pleasure—not to mention a humbling and educational experience—to curate major portions of the 2022 VAFF program alongside Carlos. I cannot wait for Charlottesville audiences to discover first-hand his genius and knack for curating films and artist conversations.”

Carlos Aguilar, originally from Mexico City, was chosen as one of 6 young film critics to partake in the first Roger Ebert Fellowship organized by, the Sundance Institute, and Indiewire in 2014. Aguilar’s work has appeared in prestigious publications such as The Los Angeles Times, Variety, The New York Times, The Wrap, Indiewire, Vulture,, MovieMaker Magazine, Remezcla, Filmmaker Magazine, among others. He is a member of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association (LAFCA). 

The full program of films and guests for the 2022 VAFF will be announced on Tuesday, October 11, and tickets will go on sale to the public on Tuesday, October 18.

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, Harvest Moon Catering, Truist, Office of the Provost and the Vice Provost for the Arts, Violet Crown Cinema, Virginia Film Office, and VPM.

The Virginia Film Festival is also supported in part by the National Endowment for the Arts.

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