This past weekend, the Charlottesville community welcomed the 29th annual Virginia Film Festival and the many well-known actors and filmmakers who came to celebrate the festival.
This year’s Virginia Film Festival opened with a screening Thursday night of the film Loving, with introductory remarks made by Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe and actor Colin Firth, who produced the film. Loving portrays the story of Richard and Mildred Loving, who were the subjects of the landmark court case Loving v. Virginia (1967) that invalidated laws prohibiting interracial marriage in the United States.
The three-day run of the festival presented over 120 films to movie-goers and featured a line-up of special guests that included actor and producer Colin Firth, filmmaker Werner Herzog, Richmond-born actress Shirley MacLaine, actor and comedian Danny McBride, and actress and director Liv Ullmann.
Each of the special guests to the festival presented a new work or formed part of a moderated discussion designed to enhance the experience of attendees to the festival. During his appearance at the VFF, Herzog screened his new documentary Into the Inferno, which explores some of the world’s most dangerous volcanoes, and appeared for a moderated discussion of his work. MacLaine, the subject of the festival’s “A Salute to Shirley MacLaine” event, appeared for a moderated discussion organized in tribute to her legendary film career.
Those who attended Friday’s screening of Liv & Ingmar had the opportunity to see Ullmann introduce the film, which tells the story of her relationship with filmmaker Ingmar Bergman, while McBride presented two episodes of the HBO television series Vice Principals, for which he is the star, writer, co-creator, and executive producer.
According to Jenny Gardiner, the volunteer coordinator for the film festival for the past six years, the many film screenings and discussions featuring special guests could not run smoothly without the tireless work of volunteers who come from within the UVa community and beyond.
“I really appreciate how essential community volunteers are to the operational success of this great festival,” said Gardiner. “Our volunteers really are the ‘face’ of the festival because they’re the ones interacting directly with patrons.”
The Virginia Film Festival is an obvious attraction for UVa students, both in the capacity of volunteers and as attendees. For Carrie West, a third-year Media Studies major at UVa, the festival is incredibly special to be a part of, even as just an audience member.
“It was not until this year that I fully realized just how special the Virginia Film Festival is for the state of Virginia, and especially the city of Charlottesville,” said West. “The community, both locals and UVa students, comes together with out-of-town filmmakers and people from surrounding areas to celebrate an art form, and to me, pure happiness is in the air throughout the entire festival.”
As a Virginian and an aspiring filmmaker herself, West considers the film festival to be a reassuring experience.
“Seeing famous Virginia-born actors and producers leave Hollywood to come back to their home state to discuss and show their work makes me proud to be from Virginia and gives me hope that, one day, I can potentially be in their shoes.”
For more information about the films that were shown at the festival this year, please visit the Virginia Film Festival’s website at virginiafilmfestival.org