News Column

Virginia Film Festival set to launch

November 7, 2013


Nov. 07--Live from Charlottesville, "Saturday Night Live" alumnus Will Forte is among the special guests set to welcome attendees of the Virginia Film Festival tonight.

Forte stars in "Nebraska" with Bruce Dern, who plays Woody Grant in the film. The story chronicles Woody's journey from his home in Montana to Nebraska to claim a major sweepstakes prize.

An SNL cast member for nearly a decade, Forte is scheduled to discuss the film with producer Ron Yerxa following the screening, which begins at 7 p.m. at The Paramount Theater.

Jody Kielbasa, the film festival's director, said the four-day event is on track for another record-breaking year. This is the festival's 26th year.

"We're in good shape as we approach the festival," Kielbasa said. About 48 hours in advance, there were 17 sell outs, he said. However, even if a screening is sold out, organizers said unclaimed tickets for those shows may still be available at the door.

Last year, the festival drew about 27,000 visitors, up from about 24,000 the previous year. Ticket sales in 2012 generated $108,043 at the box office and 42 screenings sold out.

In addition to the Paramount, the Regal on the Downtown Mall and the Culbreth and Newcomb Hall theaters at the University of Virginia are this year's film festival venues.

The Vinegar Hill Theater, a former venue located just off the Downtown Mall, closed this summer after a nearly 40-year run.

"We've picked up another theater in Regal, but of course losing Vinegar Hill is unfortunate," Kielbasa said. The Regal, he added, "is doing a good job" at filling the role of a neighborhood movie art house.

"Claw," which is set to screen at 9 p.m. Saturday at the Paramount, is the festival's centerpiece film. The film is a look at the Collective of Lady Arm Wrestlers, a group that formed in Charlottesville. Filmmakers Brian Wimer and Billy Hunt will be present for a post-screening discussion.

Local residents might also catch some familiar faces in "Faux Paws." Directed by Stanardsville resident Doug Bari, the comedic film chronicles the escape of two gay werewolves from a reservation and their trek to freedom in Maine.

"The film was made here in Charlottesville, it was written here in Charlottesville, it was developed with a writers group I work with in Charlottesville," Bari said. "I cast all people from the local area [and] the technicians are all local."

Bari said he's confident the film's quirky humor will carry the movie's message about intolerance.

"I've got to tell you that the 15 1/2 days that we spent filming, ... I probably had one of the five best times of my life," said Bari.

Kielbasa, who was appointed UVa's vice provost for the arts in January and serves concurrently as the film festival's director, said the strongest visitor presence comes from throughout the region and beyond.

"I'd say a little over 25 percent of people are coming from outside this region," he said. "We work with the Charlottesville Albemarle Convention and Visitors Bureau. ... We take ads out throughout the commonwealth, and a large part of our mission and goal is to reinforce Charlottesville as a destination."

Kurt Burkhart, executive director of the local visitors bureau, echoed that sentiment.

"The Virginia Film Festival has become one of Charlottesville's truly signature events and, for more than two decades, has built a solid reputation that definitely attracts movie fans from outside our area," said Burkhart.

A full schedule of festival events and ticket information is available at


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