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Film festival requires choices

October 7, 2012 12:10 am


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--The director of the Virginia Film Festival says it's a good thing that this year's schedule of more than 120 movies and events Nov. 1-4 will force ticket buyers to make some tough choices.

Jody Kielbasa said that with a four-day event that delivers a wide array of films, special events and major premieres--from David Chase's "Not Fade Away" to the Quentin Tarantino Presents feature "The Man With the Iron Fists"--there's no way filmgoers can see it all.

"The fact there are times when two or even three great choices exist in our schedule is a good thing," he said. "With this many great films being shown, it's inevitable."

Kielbasa said he's proud of the festival's diversity: from documentaries such as the much-anticipated look at the life of Ethel Kennedy ("Ethel"), to a rich slate of foreign films, to a "Presidency in Film" series that includes a screening of "Hyde Park on Hudson," about Franklin D. Roosevelt and his cousin Margaret Stuckley.

The event director noted that any good festival will include a selection of "spotlight screenings" of big movies about to hit the nation's theaters.

With a few announcements still to come, this year's list includes:

Chase's film, which reunites "The Sopranos" creator with star James Gandolfini.

"The Stand Up Guys," starring Al Pacino and Christopher Walken as aging con men.

"A Late Quartet," about a world-renowned string quartet, starring Philip Seymour Hoffman, Christopher Walken and Catherine Keener.

"The Details," a dark suburban comedy starring Tobey Maguire, Elizabeth Banks and Laura Linney.

This is the 25th anniversary of the festival, which is presented from the University of Virginia's College and Graduate School of Arts & Sciences. Kielbasa said he's especially proud of three aspects of the festival.

The first is the way it creates opportunities to examine political and social issues with special meaning to Charlottesvile and Virginia. One of those moments will come when "Ethel" is presented in Cabell Hall at U.Va.

There, some 60 years before, a third-year law student named Robert Kennedy pushed for Nobel laureate and diplomat Ralph Bunche to come and address the law school community.

At that time, U.Va. had no black students and public halls like those at U.Va. were strictly segregated. It took a special plea to college President Colgate Darden to arrange a dispensation that met Bunche's demand that blacks could attend his address.

"So there will be special significance when this documentary on Bobby Kennedy's wife, Ethel, made by daughter Rory Kennedy, is shown here in Cabell Hall, where it will be introduced by their son, Max," he said.

The director is especially excited to have a new "Presidency in Film" series as part of the festival, a partnership between The Miller Center and former Gov. Gerald Baliles.

The event that kicks it off--in this 40th-year anniversary of the Watergate break-in--is a showing of the film "All the President's Men," which documents how two Washington Post reporters broke that story.

Those reporters, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, will be on hand to talk about the movie.

"Whenever we can bring a part of our country's history to light here at the festival, by bringing in the people who actually made and participated in that history, we see it as a gift to the community," said Kielbasa.

The third festival segment Kielbasa said makes Virginia's Film Festival unique is its "Library of Congress" series, done in partnership with that federal entity, to screen classic films from its vaults.

This year's showings range from the documentary "Sherman's March" to the 1926 classic film "Sparrows," starring Mary Pickford, to the 1962 political thriller "The Manchurian Candidate."

Festival attendance has set new records the past few years, topping 24,000 tickets last year. Kielbasa said it would be neat to hit 25,000 in this 25th year.

With a lineup dotted with big films and a few more to be announced soon, it's a good bet they'll hit that mark.

Rob Hedelt: 540/374-5415


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