Festival Welcomed More Than 160 Guests Including Acclaimed Actor, Writer, Producer, and Director Ethan Hawke; Celebrated Stage and Screen Actor Annette Bening; Tony and Grammy Award-Winning Performer Leslie Odom, Jr.; Terminator Franchise Star Linda Hamilton, Longtime NPR Host Diane Rehm; Celebrated Author James McBride; and Award-Winning Film Composer Thomas Newman
Nomadland Earns Audience Award for Best Narrative Feature; They Ain’t Ready for Me Wins Best Documentary Feature
More Than 11,000 Streams Recorded and Over 680 Vehicles Attended Ten Drive-In Screenings Held at Dairy Market in Charlottesville and Morven Farm in Albemarle County
CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA – October 29, 2020 – The Virginia Film Festival wrapped its 33rd year on Sunday with a sold-out drive-in screening of director Chloé Zhao’s highly-anticipated new film, and newly-crowned Virginia Film Festival Audience Award-winner, Nomadland (Searchlight). The director also accepted the Virginia Film Festival’s inaugural American Perspectives Award for Outstanding Achievement in Cinema in a message broadcast prior to the film.
The Virginia Film Festival is a program of the University of Virginia and the Office of the Provost and Vice Provost for the Arts.
“From the time it became clear to us that circumstances would force us to look at alternative formats for this year’s Virginia Film Festival,” VAFF Director and Vice Provost for the Arts at the University of Virginia Jody Kielbasa said, “we as an organization were dedicated to presenting a festival that represented what we have come to stand for as a brand in terms of the quality of our films and the depth and breadth of our conversations we present. We are very proud to have accomplished this through our outstanding Virtual Program, and to create a way for our community to come together in a safe and distanced drive-in environment where they could experience some of this year’s most talked-about films. None of this could have happened without the support of that community, the support of our sponsors, our advisory board, and most of all, of our remarkable staff, who came together to ensure we could share the kind of festival experience our audiences have come to expect, even in these challenging times.”
This year’s Festival, presented in a hybrid virtual and drive-in model, delivered more than 170 films and events from October 21-25. This year’s films were highlighted by drive-in screenings of festival season standouts, including the Opening Night Film One Night in Miami, marking the directorial debut of Regina King; the Centerpiece Film Ammonite, starring Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan; and the Closing Night Film Nomadland, featuring yet another unforgettable performance from Academy Award-winner Frances McDormand. The Festival presented ten drive-in screenings in all, which drew more than 680 vehicles to Dairy Market in Charlottesville and Morven Farm in Albemarle County.
The VAFF’s Virtual Program, hosted on the Eventive platform, offered access to over 60 narrative and documentary features, 67 short films, 43 tributes and conversations with industry and cultural leaders, a dedicated school screening event attended by local and regional students, and more. More than 11,000 streams were recorded for the Virtual Program in total.
As always, the Virginia Film Festival lived up to its reputation for hosting fascinating special guests and discussions. The stellar 2020 guest lineup featured 164 guests in all, including actor, writer, producer, and director Ethan Hawke, who participated in a conversation about the Showtime and Blumhouse TV series The Good Lord Bird along with James McBride, the author of the book on which the series is based. Academy Award-nominated actor Annette Bening was joined by Turner Classic Movies host Ben Mankiewicz for a look at her remarkable career; One Night in Miami star Leslie Odom, Jr. talked about the film and his career; Actor Linda Hamilton, known for her iconic role as Sarah Connor in the Terminator franchise, was joined for a chat by University of Virginia President Jim Ryan and Terminator: Dark Fate producer and UVA alum Julie Lynn. Leading film composer and multiple Oscar nominee Thomas Newman talked with Charlottesville Symphony Music Director Ben Rous about Newman’s work on such films as 1917, American Beauty, In the Bedroom, The Green Mile and more.
Nearly all of the discussion and conversations featured in the 2020 VAFF Virtual Program are now available to view on the Virginia Film Festival’s YouTube Channel, www.youtube.com/user/VirginiaFilmFestival.
This year’s VAFF, said the Festival’s Program Manager Chandler Ferrebee, represented a continuation of the organization’s commitment to provide a platform for, and be inclusive of, BIPOC voices, artists of color, and diverse points of view. “Ensuring that our films, events, and guest artists fully and inclusively reflect our community is a top priority for the Virginia Film
Festival,” she said. “Sixty percent of this year’s films were directed by women and/or BIPOC, and 54% of the guests who participated in discussions and introductions also fit this description.”
The Festival continued another important tradition by presenting its annual School Screening, this year offering a virtual screening and discussion of the recently-released documentary Boys State, presented in collaboration with the University of Virginia Center for Politics. The program, offered for free to Charlottesville and Albemarle students, included introductions by U.S. Senator Tim Scott, UVA Center for Politics Youth Leadership Initiative Director Meg Heubeck; a discussion on the Boys State Program with former Governor Terry McAuliffe and
UVA Center for Politics Founder and Director Larry Sabato; and a conversation with the film’s
directors Jesse Moss and Amanda McBaine, and with one of its subjects, Steven Garza.
VAFF audiences also played a key role this year by casting ballots for their favorite films.
Officials announced today that the winners of this year’s VAFF Audience Awards are:
Best Narrative Feature – Nomadland
Best Documentary Feature – They Ain’t Ready for Me
Best Narrative Short – We Got This
Best Documentary Short – The First.
The 2020 VAFF Programmers Awards are:
Best Narrative Feature – Dinner in America
Best Documentary Feature – Hamtramck, USA
Best Narrative Short – Moneybag Head
Best Documentary Short – Call Center Blues
For the first time this year, the Virginia Film Festival partnered with Reel South, to present the Reel South SHORT Award. The award honors outstanding achievement in Southern documentary short-form at film festivals across the South. Reel South is a cooperative documentary series between the South’s PBS member stations, including Virginia’s VPM. This year’s Reel South SHORT Award winner at the Virginia Film Festival was Lipstick and Leather, directed by Amy Oden, which explores the “alt-drag” community in Washington, D.C. and how these performers are spreading their influence across the east coast.
2020 Virginia Film Festival is presented by The Joseph and Robert Cornell Memorial Foundation. The 2020 Virginia Film Festival is generously supported by the following Sustaining Sponsors:
Bank of America, UVA Office of the Provost and Vice Provost for the Arts, Virginia Film Office, and VPM.
Photos from the 33rd Annual Virginia Film Festival and more news on the 2020 VAFF can be
found in the Festival’s Press Room.
For more information on the Virginia Film Festival, visit www.virginiafilmfestival.org.