Toward the end of September, the 2nd Annual VCU Arabic Film Festival takes place at the Grace Street Theater, Sept. 23-24. This free festival offers selections of films from over seven countries in the Middle East and North Africa. As you might expect, many of the stories are drawn from current events, including the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and life in Baghdad during the war. For more information, visit www.arabicfilmfestival.com.
At October's end look for the venerable Virginia Film Festival in Charlottesville. The theme of the festival, Oct. 27-30, is "In/Justice." It carries over into films such as "To Kill a Mockingbird" and Stanley Kubrick's great WWI drama, "Paths of Glory." The festival is also bringing back the popular Adrenaline Film Project. In its second year, it sends 36 area students and filmmakers on a three-day filmmaking project.
Festivals are not the only film-related events happening this fall. Lately Hollywood has been branching out, making baby industry cities along the Eastern Seaboard and into the South, from Richmond to New Orleans. Virginia Film Tours is now up and running, perhaps in response to recent in-state productions such as "The New World" near Williamsburg, "War of the Worlds" (portions shot in Rockbridge County) and the upcoming HBO production "John Adams." For $39 you get a three-hour motor-coach tour of local shot locations used in television and theatrical release films as well as restaurants and shops where stars visit while in town. As a bonus, the tour screens relevant portions of the films as it makes its stops. The tours run April through mid-November and are available for private booking. Go to www.virginiafilmtours.com for more information.
Virginia is also abuzz with a number of movie premieres, two from Richmond and one from Williamsburg. "The New World," starring Colin Farrell as Captain John Smith, is the story of Virginia's Colonial beginnings. It has a Nov. 9 release date. Terrence Malick directed this project, his fourth film since appearing on the scene in 1973 with "Badlands," starring a young Martin Sheen in the role of a serial killer.
Serial killing also features prominently in the debut feature film of Virginia native Jeff Wadlow. The project was in production under the working title "Living the Lie" when Wadlow, who is the nephew of Katie Couric, was filming scenes on the University of Richmond campus in fall 2003. About a high-school lying game gone bad, the suspense thriller stars Lindy Booth and Jon Bon Jovi. Wadlow got the green light for his movie by winning the Chrysler Corp.'s first Million Dollar Film Festival with his script. Since then "Living the Lie" has been rechristened "Cry Wolf."
Since Wadlow began filming, "Cry Wolf" nabbed as executive producer Doug Liman of "Swingers" and "The Bourne Identity" franchise and was picked up by Rogue Pictures, a division of Focus Features. The company is releasing the film nationwide Sept. 16. Rogue is Focus' outlet for mysteries, thrillers, horror movies and other violent fare. Its first release was "Shaun of the Dead," followed by, among others, "Seed of Chucky," Jet Li's "Unleashed" and most recently a remake of John Carpenter's "Assault on Precinct 13."
Local filmmaker Kevin Hershberger is about to release his unmistakably independent Civil War film "No Retreat From Destiny: The Battle That Rescued Washington." You can tell from the title this one was not produced in the Hollywood machine. "No Retreat" will premiere locally Sept. 10 at 1 p.m. at the Byrd Theatre, with supporting appearances by Civil War re-enactors. Tickets to the premiere are $5. Made for around $100,000, the film relied of thousands of those re-enactors to depict the Confederacy's last-ditch attempt to take Washington, and it was shot in the summer of 2004. All the volunteers, community assistance and feedback Hershberger received for his docudrama show that the filmmaking business is now connecting us all. Look for just about everyone to be screening their own film soon at a theater near you. Wayne Melton
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