Virginia Film Festival brings gay-rights activist and playwright Larry Kramer, wealth of LGBTQ films to Central Virginia
In its 28th year, the Virginia Film Festival has become a beacon for the cinema arts in Central Virginia. This year will be no exception, as the annual festival continues its mission to open dialogues with help from the arts, bringing famed LGBTQ activist and playwright Larry Kramer to Charlottesville this weekend.
“Traditionally, when we say civil rights, people think of racial discrimination over the years,” said Festival Director Jody Kielbasa. “But obviously, it is about the LGBTQ community as well.”
Kielbasa spoke with GayRVA about the importance of his festival embracing the civil rights struggle across the color and sexuality spectrum.
“There’s more traditional films dealing with racial discrimination, but films exploring same-sex marriage and equal opportunities for the gay community are important as well,” he said. “I think it’s important when the topic of same-sex marriage has been so prevalent over the last five years … and important to keep in the public focus how easy it is to think we can put an issue to bed. We need to keep it on the forefront so people’s rights are protected.”
Among the films being shown this year is the HBO documentary Larry Kramer in Love and Anger, which follows the famed gay activists’ fight for HIV/AIDS awareness in the 80s.
“I really credit him, during the mid 80s, with reaching America about the AIDS crisis,” said Kielbasa. “He’s made a difference in activism and is hugely important in our world… the odds were really against him.”
Larry Kramer in Love and Anger will be screened Sunday in UVA’s Newcomb Hall Theater. (pick up tickets here)
Later that day, at 5:30 PM in UVA’s Old Cabell Hall, Kramer himself will host a talk about his playwright history and his fight against HIV/AIDS. (pick up your tickets for that here!)
Being able to bring famed hollywood stars and history makers is one of the stand out features of the VA Film Fest according to Kielbasa.
“What distinguishes us from the 1500+ festivals is the fact that we bring in history markers and social change agents,” he said, noting UVA’s connections help the festival bring in scholars and other people of note to help talk about the films being screened.
Beyond Kramer’s appearance, Director Oliver Stone and Actress Meg Ryan will also be speaking at the VFF, supporting their own projects including a film Ryan shot here in Central VA, Ithaca.
Ithaca was called “heartbreaking,” by the Daily Progress, check out details on the film in the video below:
While Ithaca was filmed in Virginia, it is far from the only Virginia film featured at the festival this year. Part of the annual event’s mission is to spotlight Virginia films and filmmakers, and Kielbasa said this year will be no different.
This year even features some LGBTQ-themed films shot in the Commonwealth, including Christine at the Crossroads.
Shot in the Virginia Beach area by husband and wife team of Ernie and Heather Smith, Christine tells the story of a young married woman who comes to terms with her sexuality.
“It’s a semi true story about my eldest daughter,” said Ernie Smith in an interview with GayRVA. Ernie said his daughter came out after she had married and had a child and while her coming out “was never shocking” to the Smiths, it did come down to one tense holiday event when they asked their daughter about who she really loved and how long she’d known she was gay.
“Her answer was kindergarten,” he said. “I was crushed, because even with very liberal parents & family, she still felt the need to closet herself all those years. That is where the seed of the movie started. The best films come from a place of truth.”
This is the Smith’s first entry into the VFF, but the Smiths hope the movie, filmed with almost no budget, will help reach other people struggling with their sexual identities.
“I hope it opens their eyes, even slightly, to the pain & struggle LGBT people endure by not being able to to live and love without fear or guilt,” said Ernie. “We’ve had people come up to us after screenings to say that they are Christine.”
With over 100 of films covering just as many topics – from the light hearted to the serious and everything in between – the Virginia Film Festival is sure to fill your weekend with unique and (sometimes) never before seen cinema. The average ticket price is around $12, so check the VFF website here and head on out to Charlottesville and embrace your inner film geek.
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