Filmmaker Spike Lee is set for a special guest appearance at this year’s Virginia Film Festival, where he will, per the festival, “present a pair of films as part of a larger program around the living legacy of slavery, presented in collaboration with James Madison’s Montpelier.” As part of the appearance, Lee will screen his Oscar-nominated documentary “4 Little Girls,” about one of America’s most despicable hate crimes — the 1963 bombing of the 16th Street Church in Birmingham, Alabama — along with the short film “I Can’t Breathe,” a short that “”combines footage of the chokehold death of Eric Garner at the hands of the New York City Police Department with footage of the similar death of the Radio Raheem character in Lee’s iconic 1989 film ‘Do The Right Thing.'”
The setting of the festival — in the recently embattled city of Charlottesville, Virginia — is especially timely, given the nature of the event and the topics Lee’s film speak to. Moreover, Lee’s appearance at the festival has been a long time coming, and will make a very special return to its setting in UVA — on April 17, 1993, Lee spoke at the university in a wide-ranging talk that covered both his own career and the significant challenges faced by all African American filmmakers at the time.
The collaboration with James Madison’s Montpelier will reportedly “explore both how the legacies of slavery continue to affect the lives of African Americans and how they are dealt with and depicted in cinema and media… In an effort to illuminate the struggles and emphasize the humanity of the enslaved community, Montpelier has engaged descendants of enslaved individuals to present a clear and honest picture of slavery at the time of our nation’s founding, and to explore the personal lives and connections of those who were enslaved there and in the surrounding area.”
“We have for many years been interested in bringing Spike Lee to the Virginia Film Festival as he remains one of the most talented, innovative, and socially conscious filmmakers in our world today,” said Jody Kielbasa, director of the VFF and Vice Provost for the Arts at the University of Virginia, in an official statement. “We first reached out to Mr. Lee in the spring to include him in our upcoming collaboration with Montpelier, and of course, the recent events in Charlottesville have made his participation more compelling, relevant, and vital.”
The full program of films and guests for the 2017 VFF will be announced on Tuesday, September 26, and tickets will go on sale to the public on Friday, September 29. The Virginia Film Festival is a program of the University of Virginia and the Office of the Provost and Vice Provost for the Arts.
The 30th Annual Virginia Film Festival will take place from November 9 – 12 in Charlottesville and will include more than 130 films and 150 industry guests from around the world.
Check out the rest of our bi-weekly Film Festival Roundup on the next page, including lineup announcements for Hamptons, Vancouver, and the Points North Forum.