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

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

News & Press

Virginia Film Festival Announces Appointment of Ilya Tovbis as Senior Programmer

by Melissa Zhu on April 19, 2022

Virginia Film Festival Announces Appointment of Ilya Tovbis as Senior Programmer

Tovbis Comes to VAFF After a Decade as Artistic and Managing Director of JxJ: The Washington Jewish Film and Music Festival; Acclaimed Industry Veteran’s Experience Also Includes Mill Valley Film Festival, The Picture House, and More

Tovbis to Work Alongside VAFF Director Jody Kielbasa to Continue
to Enhance and Expand Festival’s Programming

CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA – April 19, 2022 – The Virginia Film Festival has announced the hiring of longtime industry veteran Ilya Tovbis as its new Senior Programmer. Tovbis joins the VAFF after ten years leading JxJ: The Washington Jewish Film and Music Festival—one of the oldest, largest, and most prestigious international Jewish festivals, annually hosting 30,000 patrons and over 200 events. Tovbis boasts a long and diverse track record of programming at leading festivals around the country and will work alongside Festival Director Jody Kielbasa to continue to enhance and expand the VAFF’s programming and to create year-round opportunities to engage with audiences.

Ilya Tovbis became the Washington Jewish Film Festival (WJFF) Director in 2012 and took on managing the Washington Jewish Music Festival (WJMF) in 2016; he is the founding director of JxJ, which merged the two festivals under one new brand. His extensive programming experience extends throughout the broader film world, having previously worked with the Mill Valley Film Festival, The Picture House, the Carole Zabar Center for Film, the San Francisco IndieFest, and the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival. Prior to taking on the leadership of WJFF, Ilya was the Director of Programming at The Picture House, a historic arthouse cinema located in Southern Westchester. The theater annually attracted over 25,000 people to a varied selection of programming with a focus on international, documentary, and independent film.

Tovbis is no stranger to the Virginia Film Festival, where he has served as a guest programmer since 2019, curating a sidebar of Jewish and Israeli films, and later programming international films as well. It was through this experience that his talents first caught Kielbasa’s eye. “I could see through the work he did with us that Ilya is a very talented programmer with a deep knowledge of and strong passion for film,” he said. “In getting to know him the past couple of years, I found that this knowledge and passion extend across the whole spectrum of filmmaking, and we could not be more excited to welcome him to our team. I look forward to working closely with him in our efforts to continually raise the bar for our Festival and deliver the rich mix of programming our audiences deserve.”

Tovbis’s experiences on the ground in Charlottesville have only added to his excitement to hit the ground running in his new position. “Getting the chance to attend the festival for a number of years allowed me to see firsthand just how vibrant and relevant the Virginia Film Festival is to its audiences,” he said, “both through the dynamism of the films themselves and the remarkable conversations that followed them. The same attributes that make the VAFF so vital and engaging to local audiences, he said, have helped the Festival make its mark throughout the industry. “It is so impressive to look at the number of VAFF films that go on to earn Academy Award nominations each year. And then you add the relevant and incisive conversations around some of the most important issues in our world today, such as mental health, social justice, racial justice, and so much more. It is no secret why so many across the film industry have taken note of the extraordinary programming coming out of this festival, and I am honored to have the opportunity to work with Jody and his outstanding team to continue to build on the stellar reputation they have built here.”

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 will take place from November 2-6 at venues in downtown Charlottesville and on the Grounds of the University of Virginia.

To learn more about the VAFF, visit virginiafilmfestival.org.