A program of

Special Guests

The Virginia Film Festival is proud to host over 100 visiting guest artists each year for enlightening discussions and lively Q&A sessions with our audiences. See below for just highlights of our 2018 distinguished special guests.

Christoph Waltz

Academy Award-winning actor Christoph Waltz will be joined on The Paramount Theater stage by Academy Award-winning producer and VAFF Advisory Board Chair Mark Johnson for a moderated conversation, including clips of some of the extraordinary actor’s most memorable scenes. Johnson and Waltz worked together on Alexander Payne’s film Downsizing, in which Waltz starred, and which opened the 2017 Virginia Film Festival. Austrian-German actor Christoph Waltz is best known for his work with filmmaker Quentin Tarantino. After working steadily on stage and on screen in Europe for 30 years, Waltz burst on the Hollywood scene in 2009 when he played the ruthless, brutal, but at times charming Austrian SS Col. Hans Landa in Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds. The role earned Waltz the Academy Award and Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor in 2009, and 27 major awards overall. Waltz earned his second Best Supporting Actor Golden Globe and Academy Awards in 2012 for his role as bounty hunter Dr. King Schultz in Tarantino’s Django Unchained. Other acclaimed roles include plagiarist Walter Keane in Tim Burton’s Big Eyes; and 007 nemesis Ernst Stavro Blofeld in 2015’s Spectre. Waltz also played gangster Benjamin Chudnofsky in 2011’s Green Hornet, as well as other high profile roles including Paul W.S. Anderson’s remake of The Three Musketeers and in Francis Lawrence’s Water for Elephants.

See A Tribute to Christoph Waltz.

Peter Bogdanovich

Peter Bogdanovich returns to the VAFF for the second time to present The Other Side of the Wind, the recently-completed work by his late friend and colleague Orson Welles. After spending most of his teens studying acting with the legendary Stella Adler, Bogdanovich began working as director Roger Corman’s assistant. Within a year, Corman financed Bogdanovich’s first film, Targets. In 1971, Bogdanovich commanded the attention of both critics and the public with The Last Picture Show, starring Jeff Bridges and Cybill Shepherd. The film received a total of eight Academy Award nominations. Bogdanovich had a second success in 1972 with the 1930s-style screwball comedy What’s Up, Doc?, starring Barbra Streisand and Ryan O’Neal. One year later, he created a vision of Depression-era America with Paper Moon, a tale about an unlikely pair of con artists, which received four Academy Award nominations and nabbed a Supporting Actress Oscar for nine-year-old Tatum O’Neal, the youngest performer ever to win an Academy Award. Bogdanovich is also known for the HBO series The Sopranos, in which he appeared in the recurring role of the shrink’s shrink.

See The Other Side of the Wind and  The Great Buster

Allen Hughes

Allen Hughes started his career in the business by making films at home with his twin brother Albert, before directing music videos for hip-hop artists including Tupac Shakur. The Hughes brothers made their major industry breakthrough with the 1993 film Menace II Society, which they premiered at the Cannes Film Festival when they were only 20 years old. The film, which was the first major motion picture to come directly out of Hip Hop culture, was hailed as one of the best films of the year by several major critics. The brothers would go on to produce Dead Presidents, the story of how a young man’s life is upended when he is sent to fight in Vietnam in the 1970s; their documentary American Pimp, which examined the men behind the world’s oldest profession; and their apocalyptic neo-Western action film The Book of Eli, featured Denzel Washington in the leading role. Allen’s solo feature debut came with Broken City, a political corruption drama starring Mark Wahlberg, Russell Crowe, and Catherine Zeta-Jones. At the VAFF, Hughes will present and discuss his popular HBO docu-series The Defiant Ones, which profiles the unlikely, and often contentious, music mogul partnership between Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine. Hughes will also be on hand for a special screening of Menace II Society, in addition to hosting a discussion of the Orson Welles classic F for Fake.

See The Defiant Ones, F for Fake,and Menace II Society

Martin Luther King III

As the oldest son of the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Mrs. Coretta Scott King, Martin Luther King III has seized the torch lit by his parents and is continuing their quest for equality and justice for all people. A human rights advocate, community activist, and political leader, Mr. King has been actively involved in policy initiatives to maintain the fair and equitable treatment of all citizens, at home and abroad. Whether speaking to an audience in Mozambique or Mississippi, Israel or Indiana, his vision of the future has touched thousands. Martin was nurtured among individuals deeply committed to the struggle for human rights and a nonviolent society. He has utilized those values in his personal and public life. Motivating audiences around the world with his message of hope and responsibility for nearly twenty years, Mr. King’s dedication to creating and implementing strategic nonviolent action to rid the world of social, political, and economic injustice has propelled him to the forefront as one of the nation’s most ardent advocates for the poor, the oppressed, and the disillusioned.

See Charlottesville

Alexis Bloom

Born in Johannesburg, South Africa, Alexis produced widely for the National Geographic Channel, and for BBC World in her early career. She has worked in America since 2001, and has produced extensively for PBS Frontline on both investigative pieces and international stories. Alexis was a producer on the Emmy Award-winning PBS show Rx For Survival (for long-form non-fiction) and was also a producer and director on the NOVA series This Emotional Life. In 2014, Alexis received the Producer’s Guild of America Award for We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks, a feature documentary for Universal Pictures that Alex Gibney directed. Alexis was nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Directing for Nonfiction Programming in 2017, and also for Exceptional Merit in Documentary Filmmaking, for Bright Lights: Starring Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds, a documentary film she made for HBO. Alexis is now directing the feature documentary Divide and Conquer: The Story of Roger Ailes for A&E IndieFilms.

See Divide and Conquer: The Story of Roger Ailes

Joshua Burge

Relaxer is Joshua Burge’s third collaboration with Joel Potrykus, following Ape (2012) and Buzzard (2014), the latter of which made its world premiere at SXSW. Joshua has since appeared in The Revenant opposite Leonardo DiCaprio, 20th Century Women opposite Greta Gerwig, and the upcoming Burden opposite Garrett Hedlund, which won the Audience Award at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. He is based in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

See Relaxer

Antoine de Baecque

Antoine de Baecque is a historian, novelist, screenwriter, journalist, and public intellectual. The author of 28 books and countless articles that traverse three centuries and several continents, De Baecque is a major figure on the French cultural scene. He served as editor-in-chief of the influential film journal Cahiers du cinéma and director of the culture section of the French daily newspaper Libération. Accessible to scholars and students alike, his work intersects with intellectual and cultural history, film theory, and performance studies and treats subjects as diverse as film, the French Revolution, the history of walking, the Avignon theater festival, and the history of friendship. He has also edited critical anthologies of essays on cinema by Alain Badiou, Henri Bergson, and Walter Benjamin. He wrote the screenplay for a feature film, Deux de la vague / Two in the Wave on the friendship between Truffaut and Godard. De Baecque is currently a faculty member in the department of history and theory of the arts at the École normale supérieure in Paris.

See Bob Le Flambeur

Mark Herzog

In addition to being the founder and CEO of Herzog & Company(HCO), Mark Herzog is a director and executive producer for many of HCO’s projects. This past year, Herzog executive produced The 2000s, the continuation of the Emmy-nominated “decades” series (The Sixties, The Seventies, The Eighties, The Nineties), and 1968, a four-part documentary series about that fateful year, both in partnership with Tom Hanks and Gary Goetzman and their company Playtone for CNN. Graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with Bachelor of Arts degrees in communications and theater, Herzog and his wife, Jane, raised their two children, Henry and Wallis, in Pasadena, where they live today.

See 1968: The Year that Changed America

Michelle Jackson

As the creator, writer, and director of the film Another Slave Narrative, Michelle is committed to retelling original interviews included in the Slave Narrative Collection of 1936-1938. Why? One reason: because their stories matter. There are at least 2,300 interviews. It might take 10 years to retell each interview, but like Michelle says, “As a descendant of those once enslaved, retelling their stories is the least I can do.” Michelle Jackson first discovered her passion for storytelling while studying at Harvard Divinity School, where she began to compete in poetry slam competitions. Shortly after, she discovered a love for filmmaking at Vassar College. Michelle is a writer, director, film editor, and photographer. A Southern California native and a graduate of Harvard University and UCLA, she has studied the intersections of religion, race, sexuality, and gender. Jackson teaches screenwriting at the Midnight Mission, a local homeless shelter, and lives in downtown Los Angeles where she actively enjoys being a part of the “car-less in LA.”

See Another Slave Narrative

Derrick Borte

Writer/director Derrick Borte began his career as a painter. After receiving his Bachelors of Fine Arts from Old Dominion University, he earned a Masters of Arts in film and media studies at Parsons/The New School in New York, and joined the production staff at Sony Music Studios, where his fine arts background evolved with his indoctrination to film and video. Derrick wrote, produced, and directed The Joneses, which garnered a Gala presentation at the 2010 Toronto International Film Festival and of which a Chinese version is currently in production. Recently, he directed and wrote American Dreamer, and directed London Town, which premiered at the BFI London Film Festival, Rome Film Festival and LA Film Festival in 2016, and was released theatrically by IFC Films.

See American Dreamer

Robbie Jones

Born in Oxnard, California, Jones attended UC Berkeley where he played on the basketball team. After college, Jones played for the American Basketball Association before pursuing acting. He is best known for his role in One Tree Hill as Quentin Fields. Jones went on to star in Hellcats, the 90210 reboot, and Bosch. He made his feature film debut in the film, Transit opposite Jim Caviezel. He also recently starred in Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor directed by Tyler Perry.

Greg Naughton

Greg Naughton is an American actor, writer, and director, as well as a singer-songwriter and founding member of folk-rock band The Sweet Remains. The Independents is inspired by his real-life experiences with the band. He also co-wrote Elizabeth Lucas’ Clear Blue Tuesday (2009). In addition to numerous acting credits in TV and film, Naughton has an extensive theater background, having founded New York’s Blue Light Theater Company, where he served as artistic director through seven seasons. Greg resides in New York with his wife, actress Kelli O’Hara.

See The Independents

Stephen Winter

Stephen Winter is an award-winning filmmaker, writer and artist whose new series Adventures in New America, an afrofuturistic polyglot sci-fi radio political satire premiered Fall 2018 on the Night Vale Network. The New York Times compared it to Jordan Peele and Boots Riley’s, “The Best New Social Thriller is a Podcast.” His 2015 feature film Jason and Shirley was called “one of the year’s finest” by Richard Brody (The New Yorker). Stephen has worked on films with Lee Daniels, John Cameron Mitchell, David France and Xan Cassavetes. His debut Chocolate Babies premiered 1996 at Berlin and is currently in process of being rediscovered.

See Jason and Shirley

Neil Gelinas

Neil Gelinas is an executive producer, director, cameraman and editor for the National Geographic Society. He spent more than six years making his first feature documentary, Into the Okavango, and is passionate about using film as a tool for change. Gelinas has also produced films for National Geographic Pristine Seas, a project that has helped protect more than 5 million square kilometers of ocean through science, exploration and media. His work has been screened for presidents of nations and environmental film festivals, and has aired on National Geographic and Nat Geo WILD.

Joe Chappelle

After starting his career as a commercial director, Joe Chappelle wrote and directed his first independent feature, the award-winning Thieves Quartet, in 1994. For the last 15 years, he has worked primarily in television. Currently, he is executive producer/director on the upcoming EPIX drama series Godfather of Harlem, starring Forest Whitaker. His past credits include the ubiquitously acclaimed The WireCSI: MiamiFringe, and Chicago Fire. His latest feature film, An Acceptable Loss, will be released theatrically by IFC in December 2018.

See An Acceptable Loss

Colleen Griffen

Colleen Griffen wrote, directed, and produced the mockumentary web series boyband, which was acquired by Fullscreen and Audience Network in May of 2016. She also wrote and produced her feature directorial debut, The Cold and the Quiet, in 2013, which won both Best Narrative and Best Direction at the Women’s Independent Film Festival in Los Angeles. In addition, Colleen has produced three features—Already Dead (2007) for Sony Pictures, Thieves Quartet (1994) for Joe Chappelle, and the upcoming female-driven political thriller An Acceptable Loss.

See An Acceptable Loss

Marion Mauran

Marion is a Rhode Islander, a UVA graduate, and a New York-based filmmaker. Her first documentary feature, Run While You Can, premiered at the 2017 Rhode Island International Film Festival and received the Green Planet Award. In 2013, she helped produce Sam Fleischner’s Tribeca Special Jury award winner Stand Clear of the Closing Doors, one of the New York Times’ “Best Movies of 2014.” In addition to documentary and feature film work, she has directed, produced, shot, and edited content for artists, musicians, and non-profits including the Michael J. Fox Foundation, the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, and the Israeli-Palestinian musical project Heartbeat, through her independent production company, St. Christopher Studio.

See Run While You Can

Ben Mankiewicz

Ben Mankiewicz is the primetime host of Turner Classic Movies. When he made his TCM debut in September 2003, he became only the second host hired in the network’s history. During his career at TCM, he has introduced thousands of movies on the air and conducted long-form interviews with roughly 200 of the industry’s top talents, including Warren Beatty, Martin Scorsese, Mel Brooks, Billy Bob Thornton, Peter Bogdanovich, Carl Reiner, Tom Ford, and most recently, Robert Redford. Ben is also a regular co-host for the online political show he co-founded with Cenk Uygur in 2002, The Young Turks. Since 2015, Ben has hosted numerous nights of the International Documentary Association’s Conversation Series, a career retrospective Q&A featuring the leading documentary filmmakers working today, including Errol Morris, Werner Herzog, Alex Gibney, Wim Wenders, and Rory Kennedy. Ben lives in Santa Monica with his beautiful wife, their beautiful daughter, one perfect dog, one other dog, and one puppy, who is evil.

See The Other Side of the Wind,

Harry Chotiner

Born and raised in Los Angeles to an upper-middle class Jewish family, Harry grew up with all sorts of explicit and inchoate connections to Hollywood and thus has always been connected with the world of film. After college, he went to Rabbinical school for one year before dropping out to get a PhD in history. Harry went on to be the editor of Socialist Review magazine, reader for Francis Coppola at Zoetrope Studios, head of the story department at CBS Theatrical Films, vice president of creative affairs at 20th Century Fox, and executive vice president in the film division at Interscope before leaving the movie business to teach history in high school and adult education film classes at New York University. Most importantly, he is married to a wonderful human rights lawyer and has three adorable kids and three delicious grandkids.

Samhita Sunya

Samhita Sunya is an Assistant Professor of Cinema in the Department of Middle Eastern & South Asian Languages & Cultures at the University of Virginia. Her current monograph project, supported by a Mellon Humanities Fellowship and residence at Yale University’s MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies, builds on research conducted at the National Film Archive of India as well as the American University of Beirut, exploring “South-South” histories of cinema over the decades of the Cold War. Her teaching, research, and curatorial interests span world film history, Middle Eastern and South Asian cinemas, sound studies, and intersections of audiovisual media and literature.

Joe Fab

Joe Fab is an Emmy-nominated producer, director, and writer with over four decades of experience in film and video production, media, and communications. He is a member of the Producers Guild of America, the International Documentary Association, and Women in Film and Video (DC), and is well known for co-directing HBO’s Paper Clips and for producing the premiere presentation of Amazing Peace—a poem by Dr. Maya Angelou—performed by the author. Fab’s skill and sensitivity in storytelling have earned broad recognition, including the prestigious Christopher Award for achievements in media that “affirm the highest values of the human spirit.” He is now in production on a feature documentary entitled When My Time Comes, on the subject of medical aid in dying, which he is making with Peabody Award-winning broadcaster Diane Rehm and VAFF board member Diane Naughton.

Mitch Levine

Last year, Mitch served as creative director of UVA’s epic Bicentennial Launch Celebration. He is a consultant to filmmakers and film festivals around the world, is the founder of The Film Festival Group, and was the executive director of the Palm Springs Film Festival. Mitch is a film and stage director and a directing member of BAFTA and the renowned Actors Studio. He directed the multi-award-winning Holocaust drama Shadows (2000) and the provocative In Confidence (Cannes, 2015). He was artistic supervisor of the Phillip Glass/Robert Wilson opera Einstein on the Beach and collaborated with Peter Gabriel and Moses Pendleton on the multimedia dance work Passion. Mitch was the host of AFI’s Great Filmmakers series and moderates many tributes and conversation series events, including VAFF’s Salute to Shirley MacLaine. He is currently directing the political comedy God Help Us!, starring Ed Asner, and a multimedia setting of Verdi’s Requiem, chronicling the genocides and massacres of the last two centuries. Mitch was educated at Hobart College, the Juilliard School, and the American Film Institute and served as a Special Representative to the United Nations.