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 Opening Night film - Alexander Payne’s NEBRASKAOpening Night film – Alexander Payne’s NEBRASKA

The 2013 Virginia Film Festival, presented by The University of Virginia, will take place in Charlottesville, Virginia from November 7-10; and will kick off with an Opening Night screening of Alexander Payne’s NEBRASKA. The screening will feature special guest Will Forte, the longtime Saturday Night Live standout who makes his dramatic debut in the film, in which he stars opposite Bruce Dern. Forte will be joined by award-winning producer Ron Yerxa (Cold Mountain, Little Miss Sunshine). “This is a really wonderful film that has been getting major buzz on the festival circuit,” Kielbasa said. “And it gives our audience a chance to see Will Forte as they have certainly never seen him before. He gives a powerful and understated performance, and shows a dramatic range that I think will surprise a lot of people.”

The very next night, the Festival will present one of the most famous horror films of all time with a screening of Alfred Hitchcock’s THE BIRDS, featuring a discussion with the film’s star Tippi Hedren. “We couldn’t be happier to have Tippi Hedren joining us for what should be a really special evening that promises to offer some fascinating insight not only into the film itself, but into her legendary, complex relationship with Alfred Hitchcock as well.”

This year, the Festival will add a dash of local flavor to its Centerpiece screening on Saturday evening when it presents the documentary CLAW. The film, from Charlottesville filmmakers Brian Wimer and Billy Hunt, explores the dynamic and colorful world of the Collective of Ladies Arm Wrestling. Launched in Charlottesville, CLAW is now spreading coast to coast, with sister branches in Austin, Brooklyn, New Orleans, and even Sao Paulo, Brazil. CLAW features a cast of outsized characters ranging from pregnant brides to virgin Madonnas and the occasional giant banana – all arm wrestling in the name of charity. It’s a piece of modern vaudeville that skirts the edges of entertainment, delving into social critique of contemporary women’s empowerment.

The Festival will close Sunday night with the psychological thriller BLUE RUIN, which premiered at the Directors’ Fortnight at Cannes. Written and directed by Virginia native Jeremy Saulnier, the movie tells the story of a beach bum who finds his quiet life upended by dreadful news and sets off for his childhood home to carry out an act of revenge. Proving an inept assassin, he winds up in a brutal fight to protect his estranged family.

The Festival will also continue its tradition of presenting a series of Spotlight Screenings featuring a collection of some of the most talked-about films on this year’s festival circuit. This year’s Spotlight Screenings will include:

The Armstrong Lie – What began as commissioned work by Academy Award-winning documentarian Alex Gibney to follow Lance Armstrong during his 2009 Tour de France comeback took a major turn when doping accusations multiplied, and Armstrong’s public admissions completed a spectacular fall from grace.

August: Osage County – Starring Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts, the highly anticipated dark comedy was adapted from the 2008 Tony and Pulitzer-Award-winning play of the same name. It tells the story of the strong-willed women of the Weston family, who are brought back to the house they grew up in by a family crisis and  forced to face not only their complicated past, but the dysfunctional woman who raised them.

Blue is the Warmest Color – This winner of the coveted Palme d’Or at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival, this film chronicles the story of two women and their tumultuous, cross-generational love affair.

Charlie Countryman – Director Fredrik Bond comes to the Festival to present his acclaimed debut feature starring Shia LaBeouf  and Evan Rachael Wood in a gorgeously shot, thrilling story of high stakes international  romance and adventure.

Child of God – The James Franco-directed adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s novel stars Scott Haze, recently tapped by Variety as one of its “10 Actors to Watch for 2013.” Haze, a graduate of The Miller School, located in Albemarle County, will appear for a post-screening discussion.

The Face of Love – Produced by VFF Advisory Board Member and U.Va. graduate Julie Lynn, the film stars Annette Bening as a widow who meets and falls in love with a man who seems to be an exact double of her husband (Ed Harris), who had died five years earlier. The screening will feature a discussion with director Arie Posen, actress Jess Weixler, and Lynn.

I Used to Be Darker – Rising star director Matt Porterfield’s powerful drama is an intimate look into the lives of an unraveling family, and stars noted Charlottesville musician Ned Oldham, who will appear with the film to discuss his dramatic debut.

The Invisible Woman – Ralph Fiennes directs and stars in this story of Charles Dickens and the young woman who would become his longtime mistress.

MacGruber – Director Jorma Taccone (Saturday Night Live, Girls, The Lonely Island) joins its star Will Forte for a screening and discussion of their 2010 action-comedy.

Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom – Director Justin Chadwick follows the South African leader (played by Idris Elba) on his journey from his humble upbringing through his 27-year imprisonment and improbable and inspirational rise to power in his native land.

Philomena – Dame Judi Dench, in a role already generating significant Oscar buzz, plays an Irish woman on a quest to reconnect with the out-of-wedlock son she had been forced to give up decades earlier. The Stephen Frears film also stars Steve Coogan.

A Single Shot – Charlottesville-based screenwriter Matthew F. Jones joins director David Rosenthal for a discussion of this thriller about  how a tragic hunting accident finds a man (played by Sam Rockwell) in a his own life-or-death game of cat and mouse with hardened backwater criminals.

Documentary Films

The VFF has long been known for its vibrant slate of documentaries, and according to programmer Wesley Harris, this year will be no exception. “I am particularly excited about this year’s lineup of documentaries, which features some truly extraordinary filmmaking while offering fascinating perspectives on topics that range from some of life’s deepest struggles to some of its most wonderful and ridiculous subcultures – and pretty much everything in between.”

Highlights include:

Bible Quiz, a look at a young woman’s quest to win not only the National Bible Quiz Championship, but the elusive heart of her team’s captain.

Brave Miss World, the inspiring story of Linor Abargil, a sexual assault victim who went on to win the Miss World crown, and who uses her platform to advocate for victims around the world. Directed by Cecilia Peck.

Caucus, AJ Schnack’s look at the eight contenders in the political donnybrook that was the 2008 Republican Iowa caucuses.

In the Family, filmmaker Joanna Rudnick’s film about her “breast cancer gene” diagnosis she received while still in her late twenties, and the decisions she faced in its wake.

Medora, about a scrappy high school basketball team mirrors a tiny Indiana town’s struggle for survival in the midst of the economic downturn.

Political Bodies, a two-sided look into the battle for and against reproductive rights in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Remote Area Medical, chronicling three days in April 2012 when leaders in “no cost health care clinics” treated more than 2000 patients on the infield of Bristol, Tennessee’s massive NASCAR speedway.

Running From Crazy, focusing on actress Mariel Hemingway and her family’s well-documented struggles with mental illness and suicide.

Vannin’ – a loving and lighthearted look at the van culture that reached its high-water mark in the 1970’s and has since become the stuff of shag carpet and bubble roof dreams.

A Will for the Woods, a deeply personal look at the “green burial” movement that won the Audience Award at the 2013 Full Frame Documentary Film Festival.

Spotlight on Virginia Filmmakers

The VFF will once again this year showcase the work of a number of talented Virginia filmmakers. “It feels like every year, we receive not only more films from Virginia filmmakers, but more impressive ones as well,” Harris said. “This year in particular we have received some truly outstanding films and are proud to work with our partners at the Virginia Film Office to provide a platform for these filmmakers to share their work with our audiences, and also with other industry professionals.

This year’s Virginia films will include:

Autopilots, a documentary profiling the work of a visionary underdog team of scrappy and brilliant robotics pioneers as they take on a field of highly polished and well-funded competitors in one of the world’s most renowned unmanned vehicle challenges.

Boston Bound, about a Charlottesville group of marathoners at last year’s Boston Marathon.

Faux Paws, a gay werewolf road movie from Doug Bari and Brian Wimer (featuring the memorable tag line, “Werewolvin’ ain’t what it used to be”).

If We Shout Loud Enough, a documentary from Charlottesville filmmaker Gabe DeLoach about the Baltimore band Double Dagger and the city’s thriving underground music scene.

Last Ferry Home, a documentary about Ocracoke Island from from young Charlottesville filmmaker Zac Grigg, winner of last year’s Audience Award at the VFF for his short film Willie.

Seasons With Brian and Julia, an intimate look at the lives of a rural Virginia farming family that focuses on what goes into responsible and sustainable subsistence farming.

A program of short films by award-winning experimental filmmaker Kevin Everson.

A collection of films by students at Charlottesville’s Light House Studio.

The Library of Congress Series

Now entering its third year, this special series of films, curated in conjunction with the Library of Congress Packard Campus for Audio Visual Conservation in Culpeper, will once again celebrate the National Film Registry. This year’s films will include The 7th Voyage of Sinbad, honoring the late special effects legend Ray Harryhausen, who pioneered the use of stop-motion animation; All That Heaven Allows, the 1955 classic melodrama featuring Rock Hudson; and The Court Jester, which celebrates the 100th anniversary of Danny Kaye’s birth.

Around the World

The Virginia Film Festival continues its longstanding tradition of presenting some of the most prominent films on the international scene with a strong lineup, including:

Bicycling With Molière (France) – A delicious, smart and cruel comedy about a popular TV personality’s attempt to coax a self-exiled comedian out of retirement to mount a revival of Molière’sThe Misanthrope.

The Deflowering of Eva Van End (Netherlands) – The arrival of a “perfect” exchange student turns a dysfunctional family on its head.

Il Futuro (Chile and Italy) – An orphaned brother and sister are left to make their own way in this shape shifting tale of love and deception.

In The Name Of (Poland) – A devout country priest struggles with his sexuality.

Le Joli Mai (France) – Unseen for decades, this restoration of the legendary 1963 Chris Marker documentary premiered to raves at this year’s Cannes Film Festival.

The Machine Which Makes Everything Disappear (Georgia) – A filmmaker’s casting call for young actors in his native Georgia creates a tapestry of love, war and longing in this fascinating look at a modern society and the echoes of its Soviet past.

The Missing Picture (Cambodia) – Director Rithy Panh uses clay figures, archival footage, and his narration to recreate the atrocities Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge committed between 1975 and 1979.

Museum Hours (Austria) – When a Vienna museum guard befriends an enigmatic visitor, the two launch an exploration of their city, their lives and the ways in which art reflects the shape of the world in this film from director Jem Cohen.

The Past (France/Iran) – An Iranian man returns to France to finalize a divorce from his French wife, played by Bèrènece Bejo (The Artist)

Ring of Water (Italy) – History repeats itself in this story of two Italian boxers trying to survive life outside the ring.

Satellite Boy (Australia) – When the old abandoned outdoor cinema he and his grandfather call home is threatened with demolition, a ten-year-old travels to the city to try and save it.

Stranger at the Lake (France) – A lake known as a popular gay cruising spot becomes a crime scene in this haunting and moody erotic thriller.

A Touch of Sin (China) – Director Jia Zhang-ke presents four “ripped from the headlines” vignettes that show what his country’s great economic expansion is doing to the rest of its people.

Uvanga (Canada) – A woman and her 14-year-old son travel to the Canadian Arctic to reconnect with his father’s family there, and find their homecoming tempered with disturbing memories.The Zigzag Kid (Netherlands) – A witty and spirited action adventure about a 13-year-old boy who longs to be like his respected police captain father, only to be tempted by trouble at every turn.

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