News Column

The Free Lance-Star, Fredericksburg, Va., Rob Hedelt column

October 8, 2013


Oct. 08--THE Virginia Film Festival has already announced one big draw for its Nov. 7-10 run in Charlottesville: a 50th-anniversary showing of Alfred Hitchcock's "The Birds."

The presence of star Tippi Hedren may have movie buffs flocking to the festival. She made her debut in the classic thriller and her strained relationship with the iconic director has been a focus of two recent biographical films on Hitchcock.

Today, the festival--which is presented by the University of Virginia's College and Graduate School of Arts & Sciences--will unveil a full program that also includes:

A showing of "Nebraska," an Oscar-touted film from Alexander Payne ("The Descendents") starring Bruce Dern and Will Forte. The latter is scheduled to be on hand to discuss the film.

Early peeks at two other high-profile films: "August: Osage County," starring Meryl Streep, Dermot Mulroney and Julia Roberts; and "Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom," with Idris Elba and Naomie Harris.

Revamped and multi-faceted Family Day festivities Saturday, Nov. 9.

The day includes a 60th-anniversary showing of "Peter Pan"; the documentary "William and the Windmill," about a Malawian youth whose life is transformed when he builds a power-generating windmill from junk parts; and the Young Filmmakers Academy screenings of short films made by elementary and middle school students in the Charlottesville area.

Classic and foreign films and other unique offerings that range from "The Seven Voyages of Sinbad" with special effects by Ray Harryhausen to a documentary on the Collective of Lady Arm Wrestlers ("CLAW") to "Pride and Joy," a documentary about the Southern food culture.

The full schedule will be available online today at the film festival website: Tickets for the four days of movies and more will go on sale Friday.

To find out about this year's offerings, I sat down last week with Jody Kielbasa, festival director and U.Va. Vice Provost for the Arts, co-programmer Wesley Harris and festival publicist John Kelly.

When we talked Thursday, there were still a few films in play, so last-minute additions are possible. But there's already excitement about a festival that includes notable big-name films, far-ranging documentaries, anticipated foreign films and scheduled events that dovetail with different parts of the university.

Aside from the Friday night showing of "The Birds," with the much-anticipated comments to follow from Hedren, the organizers are very excited about "Nebraska" and its rising star, Will Forte.

"What you have here is a comedic actor at that stage in his career when he's taking on dramatic parts," said Kielbasa, who is entering his fifth year as director of the ever-expanding festival.

He and Harris said the movie, shot in black and white, is a compelling look at a father (Dern) and son (Forte) who set off on a long drive to collect what the dad thinks is a million-dollar prize.

"There's no hint here of any of those crazy characters he used to play on 'Saturday Night Live,'" Kielbasa said.

Instead, the actor delivers a strong dramatic performance that Kielbasa says may well evoke those of Bill Murray and Tom Hanks.

Forte will not only attend Thursday's opening night screening but also address U.Va. classes and take part in other aspects of the festival, Kelly noted.

This year's festival, like those before it, has something for every sort of film fan, from foreign films like the much anticipated French film "Blue is the Warmest Color" to a political documentary "Our Nixon."

Check out all the offerings at the festival's website. And don't dawdle if you want to buy a ticket and make the pretty autumn drive to Charlottesville.

Last year, all the best attractions sold out.

Rob Hedelt: 540/374-5415


See the schedule of films and events offered at the Virginia Film Festival online at Tickets go on sale Friday at noon. Purchase by calling 434/924-3376 Monday through Friday from noon to 5 p.m.


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