As smaller, regional film festivals go, the Virginia Film Festival in Charlottesville is consistently in the top tier. Its early November scheduling allow the programmers to judiciously select a few high profile awards contender that have already premiered at more prestigious film festivals but have not yet been distributed.
This year’s slate included The Imitation Game, The Sound and the Fury, The Humbling, Foxcatcher, and Mr. Turner.
Charlottesville’s status as a university town also means that filmmakers can find a diverse audience for quality fare that my never reach the multiplex. Stanley Nelson’s Freedom Summer, for instance, is the sort of film one might expect to see on PBS’s American Experience. But where else are you going to get to discuss the film with Julian Bond?
This year’s festival also seemed to draw more than its fair share of attendees to present and discuss various films. Barry Levinson was on hand to answer questions about The Humbling and The Natural. Katie Couric led discussion about the obesity-themed Fed Up, and Hal Holbrook presented his one-man show, Mark Twain Tonight! in support of Scott Teems’s documentary, Holbrook/Twain: An American Odyssey. Authors were on hand to promote new films based on novels, including Wish You Well and Low Down.
Prefer an opportunity to see classic fare on the big screen? The festival offered retrospectives of Dr. Strangelove, Dead Poets Society, The Wizard of Oz, and early Chaplin shorts.
With such a full slate over four days, it is admittedly hard to pick personal favorites. But for me, a pair of documentaries really stood out.
Jeff Krulik’s Led Zeppelin Played Here attempts to discover the truth about a persistent ...