Who We Are
The Virginia Film Festival, now celebrating its 35th Anniversary, is a program of the University of Virginia and is widely recognized as one of the leading regional film festivals in America and is known for its commitment to taking audience beyond the screen to explore some of the most important issues of our time. Known as one of the premier cultural events in the Mid-Atlantic, the annual five-day festival annually delivers more than 100 films from around the world, combining special previews of some of the hottest titles of the festival season with an array of fascinating documentaries, exciting new voices on the independent film scene, the best of the international film scene and more. In a fast-changing cinema landscape where the means of delivery have reshaped the way many experience the art of filmmaking today, the VAFF is deeply committed to presenting and celebrating the unique brand of magic that happens when audiences gather in person to create a community in which to experience a film. Central to this commitment is the yearly lineup of compelling conversations around its films that bring some of today’s leading film artists and cultural figures with subject area experts from the University and beyond to explore some of the most important issues of our time. Under the leadership of its Director and the UVA Vice Provost for the Arts Jody Kielbasa, the festival continues to deepen its connections with and commitment to the community that helps shape and support its efforts year after year.
Past VAFF guests: Spike Lee, Shirley McLaine, Werner Herzog, Meg Ryan, Jeremy O. Harris, Danny McBride, Ashley Judd, Ethan Hawke, Wanuri Kahiu, and Richard Roundtree
Recent VAFF Films: The Power of the Dog, C’mon C’mon, Spencer, The Harder They Fall, The French Dispatch, Nomadland, One Night in Miami
The Virginia Film Festival’s mission is:
- To educate and engage audiences of all races, gender identities, physical abilities, LGBTQIA+ status, ages, and socio-economic backgrounds in an open dialogue on the art of film through a five-day annual festival and year-round screenings and events.
- To foster inclusive conversations between audiences, artists, students, and academics around films and how they relate to the world in which we live.
- To support films and filmmakers of the Commonwealth of Virginia.
Photo: Spike Lee, 2017 Virginia Film Festival
Our Program & Our Impact
Cultivating Community Dialogue
The Virginia Film Festival is known throughout the industry not just for its films but for the dynamic and interactive conversations that follow them. Thanks to our unique and deep ties to the University of Virginia and our home in Charlottesville, we are able to bring together world-renowned academic and cultural experts to engage with our audiences and help all involved develop a deeper understanding and appreciation for the most important issues of our time. The Festival’s longstanding partnerships with renowned institutions like The Miller Center or Public Affairs, the UVA Center for Politics, and The Library of Congress only strengthen its reach and impact, and help to deliver memorable audience experiences year in and year out.
Celebrating Diverse Voices
We give a platform to the rich diversity of our community through our sidebar series of films and guests, supported by our diverse team of guest programmers. Our inclusive sidebar series include American Perspectives, LGBTQIA+ Focus, Jewish & Israeli Voices, Middle Eastern & South Asian, Korean films, Black Excellence, and most recently a series highlighting Indigenous Americans in Film.
Supporting Virginia Filmmaking
We work closely with the Virginia Film Office to shine a spotlight on the ever-increasing profile of the Commonwealth of Virginia as a home for major film and television projects. Over the past several years alone, we have been proud to host high-profile pre-release screenings of Virginia-based films and series including Harriet, with actor Vanessa Bell Calloway and producer Daniela Taplin Lundberg; Loving, with director Jeff Nichols and producer Colin Firth; and the world premiere of Big Stone Gap with writer/director Adriana Trigiani alongside actors Ashley Judd, Patrick Wilson, Jenna Elfman, and Jasmine Guy.
Educating and Engaging Local Youth
Our educational programs aim to directly engage elementary, middle, and high school students, local educators, members of the UVA student body, as well as our local community in educational and engaging experiences around the art of film. Annual outreach programs include: our free Family Day during the Festival weekend; our Young Filmmakers Academy for local elementary school students; sensory-friendly film screenings; our Festival Scholars Program for UVA undergraduate students; and special screenings and discussions for local middle and high school students.
Photo: ‘Women and Work’ panel featuring Claire Kaplan (UVA), Marty Elcan (Ladies Most Deject), Shelly Chopra Dhar (How I Felt When I Saw that Girl), and Amy R. Letourneau (PBS), 2019 Virginia Film Festival
Each year the Festival brings in a fascinating selection of guests, from internationally acclaimed directors and actors to professors and leading cultural experts who lead discussions that stimulate, educate, and engage. Recent guests include Spike Lee, Shirley MacLaine, Werner Herzog, Ethan Hawke, Allen Hughes, Colin Firth, Meg Ryan, Christoph Waltz, Ben Mankiewicz, Ashley Judd, Oliver Stone, Sandra Bullock, Tippi Hedren, Matthew Broderick, Stanley Nelson, January Jones, Cherry Jones, Will Forte, Mia Wasikowska, and Jorma Taccone.
Photo: Ashley Judd, Patrick Wilson, and Jenna Elfman at the ‘Big Stone Gap’ premiere, 2014 Virginia Film Festival
VAFF by the Numbers
- 27,000+ Total Attendances
- 200+ Total Films
- 150+ Special Guests
- 120+ Screenings & Events
- 27 Sold Out Films
- 16 Countries Represented
- 20 year-round screenings and events with 3,800+ attendances
- 4,800 students, teachers, and community members participate in O&E programs annually
- 22 Schools Participate
- 1,500 Family Day Attendances
Our sponsors have the opportunity to directly and meaningfully connect with the VAFF’s highly engaged, educated, and curious patron base.
- 34% – 65+
- 21% – 55-64
- 18% – 35-54
- 26% – 18-34
- 75% Residents of Charlottesville/Albemarle
- 20% From other Virginia cities/counties
- 5% Travel From Out of State
- 85% Post-Secondary Degree
- 52% Household income $100,000+
- 60% Have a connection to UVA
Beyond the Films
During the Festival, celebrations and special events provide a fun opportunity to mingle with other film lovers and filmmakers. The Opening Night Gala on the first night of the Festival is a great way to enjoy the company in a comfortably elegant atmosphere that brings classic Hollywood to life. Throughout the Festival, the Filmmakers and Sponsors Lounge provides an exclusive place for donors, sponsors, actors, and filmmakers to meet, interact, and refuel between screenings. It is also the venue for a panel discussion hosted by the Virginia Film Office. The Late Night Wrap Party following Saturday’s Centerpiece Film is a high-energy event that provides the perfect exclamation point for the weekend, complete with tasty late-night snacks, music, dancing, and a chance to celebrate the weekend with VAFF guests and fans.