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Virginia Film Festival Announces 2020 Program

Drive-in Movies At Dairy Market And Morven Farm To Include 2020 Festival Favorites

The 33rd Annual Virginia Film Festival announced today a program of more than 50 films, conversations, and special events that will include a series of virtual conversations and a series of Drive-In Movies presented in two safe and socially-distanced settings.

The program will include some of the most celebrated first-run features, documentaries, short films, and more on the 2020 film festival circuit as well as a stellar guest lineup headlined by Annette Bening; Leslie Odom, Jr.; Ethan Hawke; former Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe; noted NPR host Diane Rehm; Obama White House photographer, author, and social media star Pete Souza; Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul creator Vince Gilligan; and many more.

The Virginia Film Festival is a program of the University of Virginia and the Office of the Provost and Vice Provost for the Arts.

"We are very proud to announce our 2020 program in what obviously is an unprecedented year for the industry and for our world," said Jody Kielbasa, director of the Virginia Film Festival and Vice Provost for the Arts at the University of Virginia. "We are mindful of and thankful for our unique position in the local and national arts communities that allows us to continue to do what we do in a virtual format and a limited in-person capacity, and have worked hard to create a program that represents our core values and lives up to our strong reputation as a festival that engages our community in ways that go beyond

the films we screen. This year we are particularly proud of the guest lineup we have assembled, who represent so many aspects of the film world and the truly unique times in which we live."

The full 2020 VAFF program will be posted online at 10:00 AM on Thursday, October 8. Virtual All-Access Passes are on sale now, and tickets to Drive-In Movies and Special Presentation Events will go on sale online at noon on October 8 at


This year, the VAFF has rededicated itself to its commitment to promoting equity and inclusion in its programming. "It is imperative to me," Kielbasa said, "and to our entire staff at the Virginia Film Festival, that we represent and share the stories that reflect the entire spectrum of film artists who are doing so much to shine a light on the world we live in. I am especially proud to say that over 50% of the filmmakers included in our program and the artists, experts, and community members participating in our virtual discussions, are either women, or represent Black, Indigenous, and People of Color communities."


The VAFF will partner with Dairy Market in Charlottesville, which will bring a brand new culinary and hospitality experience to our region with its opening later this fall, and with the University of Virginia's stunning Morven Farm in southeastern Albemarle county to bring audiences together for safe and socially-distanced drive-in movies. Each venue will host one drive-in screening each night of the Festival. Films at Morven Farm will begin at 7:30 PM and films at Dairy Market will start at 8:00 PM.

Opening Night Film: One Night in Miami... - The 2020 Virginia Film Festival will open with the upcoming Amazon release One Night in Miami..., the powerful directorial debut of Academy Award-winning actor Regina King. Based on Kemp Powers' stage play of the same name, One Night in Miami centers around a

fictional meeting in February of 1964 between Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali, Sam Cooke, and Jim Brown. Underdog Cassius Clay, soon to be known as Muhammad Ali, has just defeated heavyweight champion Sonny Liston at the Miami Convention Hall and rallies his close friends together to memorialize the win.

Over the course of the night, the four share the struggles they've endured as high-profile and influential Black men, and the roles they think they can and should play in the Civil Rights Movement. The Opening Night Film is presented by Bank of America and supported by UVA Office for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.

Centerpiece Film: Ammonite - This highly-anticipated release from NEON features Kate Winslet as the noted 19th Century British paleontologist Mary Anning living in literal and emotional isolation on the rocky and forbidding English coast. When a visitor leaves his troubled wife (Saoirse Ronan) behind to work with Anning, the two form an awkward and uneasy alliance that blossoms into a powerful and unvarnished love story that changes both lives forever. Directed by Francis Lee (God's Own Country), Ammonite is generating significant awards season buzz, with Winslet's performance hailed as among the best of her illustrious career.

Closing Night Film: Nomadland - The Virginia Film Festival is proud to present Searchlight's Nomadland as its Closing Night Film. Perhaps the most acclaimed and discussed film on the 2020 film festival circuit, Nomadland is director Chloé Zhao's intimate and thoughtful portrayal of life as a modern-day nomad. Following the economic collapse of a company town in rural Nevada, Fern, played by two-time Academy Award winner Frances McDormand, takes off in a van and begins exploring life outside of conventional society in the vast landscape of the American West. Featuring first-time actors living the nomadic lifestyle who Zhao and McDormand encountered on the road, this film showcases individuals on the peripheries of our society who are redefining what the "American Dream" really looks like. The Closing Night Film is presented by Wells Fargo Bank N.A.

The VAFF Drive-In Movie series will also include Gunda, a beautiful documentary from Russian director Viktor Kosakovskiy that makes what Indiewire calls a "visionary case for veganism" by welcoming audiences into the world of farm animals who tell their own story without single human voice or note of music; MLK/FBI, an IFC documentary based on newly-declassified documents regarding the United States government's relentless campaign of surveillance and harassment of Martin Luther King, Jr; S#!%house, a fun, funny and honest coming-of-age story that won the Grand Jury Prize for Narrative Features at SXSW this year, this micro-budget film was written, by directed by, and stars Cooper Raiff as a college freshman dealing with the struggles of leaving home; and Shiva Baby, Emma Seligman's sharp-witted debut about a directionless 22-year-old Jewish bisexual woman whose return home to participate in a shiva unleashes a torrent of secrets and awkwardness.

The VAFF's Drive-In Movies at Morven Farm are presented by the Office of the Provost and Vice Provost for the Arts and supported by Morven and Charlottesville Albemarle Convention & Tourism Bureau. The VAFF's Drive-In Movies at Dairy Market are presented by Dairy Market and supported by the AV Company and the Charlottesville Albemarle Convention & Visitors Bureau.


The VAFF will also offer three virtual Special Presentation Events as part of its 2020 program. Access to each event will be offered for free, and online registration will begin on Thursday, October 8 at noon.

a-? A Conversation with Leslie Odom, Jr. - The multi-talented actor Leslie Odom, Jr. joins the VAFF for a conversation about his role as the legendary Sam Cooke in our Opening Night Film One Night in Miami, about the remarkable career launched by his Tony Award-winning performance in Hamilton, and more. The event marks a return to the UVA community for the star, who performed in the 2017 Bicentennial Launch Celebration and headlined the UVA Speaker Series for the Arts in 2019. Supported by UVA Office for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.

a-? A Tribute to Thomas Newman - 15-time Academy Award nominated film composer Thomas Newman will discuss his outstanding career with Benjamin Rous, director of the Charlottesville Symphony at the University of Virginia. Newman's credits include The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile, American Beauty, Finding Nemo, the James Bond films Skyfall and Spectre, and last year's Golden Globe-winning film for Best Picture, 1917. This tribute, which will include clips from these movies and more, will also feature Newman's frequent collaborator, director John

Lee Hancock (The Blind Side, The Alamo, and Saving Mr. Banks). Supported by Charlottesville Radio Group.

a-? Light House Studio Shorts - Once again this year, the VAFF is proud to showcase the work of the students at Light House Studio in Charlottesville with a selection of short films.


The VAFF's Virtual Program will include over 50 features, curated shorts packages, discussions, and panels. All events included in the Virtual Program will be accessible to Virtual All-Access passholders, and individual tickets will go on sale Wednesday, October 21.

Special Guest Conversations

a-? A Conversation with Annette Bening - Four-time Academy Award nominee Annette Bening will participate in a conversation with author and Turner Classic Movies host Ben Mankiewicz about some of her many unforgettable performances. Presented by UVA Gamma Knife Center.

a-? A Conversation on Showtime's The Good Lord Bird - Actor, writer, director and four-time Academy Award nominee Ethan Hawke will be joined by award-winning author James McBride for a conversation around The Good Lord Bird, the new Showtime series based on McBride's book, in which Hawke portrays abolitionist John Brown. The conversation will also include Joshua Caleb Johnson, who co-stars in the series, executive producer and showrunner Mark Richard, and costume designer Amy Andrews Harrell. Presented by Virginia Film Office, and supported by New Dominion Bookshop, The UVA Bookstore, and Virginia Festival of the Book.

a-? A Conversation with Pete Souza and Chris Lu - Former Obama and Reagan White House photographer Pete Souza will discuss the new documentary The Way I See It, in which he shares iconic and behind-the-scenes photos, and remembrances from his time seeing, living and shooting history in the making, in a special conversation with former Deputy Secretary of Labor Chris Lu. Supported by C-VILLE Weekly and The Miller Center.

a-? A Conversation with Linda Hamilton - Groundbreaking actress Linda Hamilton gave us one of Hollywood's most iconic action hero female characters as Sarah Connor in The Terminator Franchise. Following a long self-imposed hiatus from the big screen, Hamllton reprised the

character last year at 62 years of age in Terminator: Dark Fate in all her badass glory. She will talk about the films and her career in a special conversation with University of Virginia President Jim Ryan.

a-? A Conversation with Vince Gilligan and Mark Johnson - Vince Gilligan, the creator of Emmy Award-winning series Breaking Bad and its current sequel Better Call Saul, will come together with his producing partner on the two series Mark Johnson to discuss their record-breaking collaboration. It's a collaboration that began at the inaugural Virginia Film Festival in 1989, where Johnson presented Gilligan with the Governor's Screenwriting Award for his script for

Home Fries, which went on to star Drew Barrymore. The conversation will be moderated by UVA English professor William Little, who teaches an annual course on Breaking Bad. Supported by Virginia Film Office.

a-? A Conversation with Nicole Kassell - VAFF Program Manager will moderate a conversation with award-winning filmmaker and Charlottesville native Nicole Kassell, who recently won an Emmy Award for Best Limited Series for HBO's Watchmen. The series, which captured 11 Emmys overall,, is inspired by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons' DC graphic novel and takes viewers into the 1921 Tulsa massacre, known as the single worst incident of racial violence in U.S. history. "Watchmen is the rare television show to grow more relevant with time," Ferrebee said, " with its depiction of ordinary people and vigilantes in masks, its ties to Tulsa, and its depiction of race and law enforcement in America."

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