The 32nd Annual Virginia Film Festival will take place October 23-27, 2019 at venues throughout the UVA Grounds, in downtown Charlottesville, and at select venues throughout the city. We caught up with John Kelly, head of communications for the festival, to get the lowdown on what we can expect this year.

Give us the big picture on the lineup for 2019.

The VAFF, whih as you know is recognized as one of nation’s leading regional film festivals, opens this year with Just Mercy, the story of social justice icon Bryan Stevenson and his ongoing and high-profile efforts to provide justice to wrongly-accused death row inmates. We’re proud to share Harriet, the story of American hero Harriet Tubman, filmed entirely in the Commonwealth of Virginia, as its Centerpiece Film on Saturday evening. And this year’s Closing Night Film on Sunday evening will be The Two Popes, starring Anthony Hopkins as Pope Benedict and Jonathan Pryce as Cardinal Bergoglio on the eve of an historic transition that rocked the Catholic Church. 

Any other standout films?

This year’s lineup will once again feature a selection of some of the hottest titles on this year’s festival circuit, including Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story; the Scott Burns whistleblower thriller The Report; Waves, the powerful family drama from Trey Edward Shults; Edward Norton’s Motherless Brooklyn; the much-discussed anti-hate satire Jo Jo Rabbit; the new Bruce Springsteen concert documentary Western Stars; and more.  The Festival will also feature an array of top titles from throughout the international film world, including Portrait of a Lady on Fire, from France; Pedro Almodóvar’s highly-anticipated latest film, Pain and Glory, from Spain; Parasite, from Korea; and from Germany, legendary filmmaker Terrence Malick’s A Hidden Life.

Who’s going to be attending this year? Any notable guests?

Special guests always take center stage at the VAFF, and this year is no exception. The lineup includes actor, writer, producer, and director Ethan Hawke, who will appear following a screening of the Sidney Lumet film Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead; Ann Dowd, the Emmy Award-winning actor known for her role as Aunt Lydia in Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale; renowned Kenyan filmmaker Wanuri Kahiu; internationally-bestselling author John Grisham, who will celebrate the 25th Anniversary of The Client; actor Dennis Christopher ; and more.

How about off-screen events? What kind of panels and talks can we look forward to?

Of course, the Virginia Film Festival is about much more than what happens onscreen. Over 150 filmmakers from around the world to participate in panels with subject area experts to add context to the films, and the important and relevant topics they explore. Our Opening Night Gala on Wednesday, October 23 at The Jefferson Theater is a great way to toast the weekend to come and to interact with Festival filmmakers, guests, and fellow film lovers, as is the Late Night Wrap Party on Saturday, October 26 at Three Notch’d Craft Kitchen and Brewery.

As always, there is plenty to enjoy for all ages at the VAFF thanks to the return of our free Family Day Festivities on Saturday, October 26 on the Betsy and John Casteen Arts Grounds, which will feature an interactive arts fair, a range of performances and activities, and a special 50th anniversary screening of Sesame Street, complete with an appearance from Walkaround Elmo!

For more information on the VAFF schedule and to get your tickets today, visit www.virginiafilmfestival.org.