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Virginia Film Festival gets in touch with our animal nature
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Animal Attractions
This year's festival brochure features a photo from Sam Easterson, who lets wild animals create their own videos.

Virginia Film Festival gets in touch with our animal nature

Staff Report

From bats to vampires, from harmless birds to mysterious attackers, the 13th annual Virginia Film Festival, set for Oct. 26 through 29, will explore "Animal Attractions" -- how animals have been portrayed on the screen as reflections, antagonists, victims and superiors of humans.

The "Animal Attractions" program gives special emphasis to images of human-animal hybrids, such as bat creatures, werewolves, cat people, cannibals and cartoon critters. "The linking of human and animal has been a profound theme of cinema since its beginnings," said festival director Richard Herskowitz.

This year's schedule includes a menagerie of presentations, including classic horror movies like "Nosferatu" and "The Creature from the Black Lagoon," to Roger Ebert's shot-by-shot workshop on Alfred Hitchcock's "The Birds."

"Shadow of the Vampire"
The film festival's opening night premiere will be "Shadow of the Vampire," starring Willem Dafoe and John Malkovich, that purports to reveal the chilling story behind the 1922 silent classic, "Nosferatu."

Among the festival's many panels and workshops will be a CD-ROM demonstration by artist Leah Gilliam and a presentation of video sampling techniques practiced on viewers' home videos of their pets by avant-garde appropriators Animal Charm. The screenwriters panel will include U.Va. alumnus Sam Hamm (who wrote the scripts for "Batman," "Batman Returns" and "Never Cry Wolf" and Dorothy Tristan, co-writer of "A Piece of Eden."

Academy Award-winner Stan Winston, a 1968 U.Va. alumnus who is the foremost practitioner of creature and make-up effects and the recipient of last year's Virginia Film Award, will return for a session on "New Technologies and Animated Animals" to demonstrate some of the special effects used in creating his well-known creatures like the Budweiser frogs and lizards.

"Cat People"
What happens when the cat persona of a woman supposedly descended from Serbian witches shows her claws? Find out by watching the 1942 thriller, "Cat People."

"Shadow of the Vampire," starring Willem Dafoe and John Malkovich, premieres on opening night Oct. 26. "Shadow," directed by E. Elias Merhige, dramatizes the haunted production history of the silent classic, "Nosferatu," directed in 1922 by F. W. Murnau. Slated for a Dec. 29 release, "Shadow" is based on the idea that the director was so determined to make the most authentic movie ever that he employed a real vampire, Max Schreck (Dafoe) in the starring role.

The screening of "Shadow of the Vampire" will be preceded by a special screening of Murnau's original "Nosferatu," accompanied by the Silent Orchestra.

The festival will culminate on Oct. 28 with the presentation of this year's Virginia Film Award to Academy Award-winning actor Anthony Hopkins, who has portrayed two unforgettable men-turned-cannibals. Following a screening of Julie Taymor's "Titus" (1999), Hopkins will join critic Roger Ebert for a discussion of his acting career. Based on Shakespeare's tale of betrayal and vengeance, "Titus" stars Hopkins as the general with a brutal taste for revenge. Also to be screened is "The Silence of the Lambs," in which Hopkins gives his Oscar-winning performance as the flesh-eating serial killer Hannibal Lecter.

"The Creature from the Black Lagoon"
"The Creature from the Black Lagoon," the 1954 cult classic about the clawing monster from a lost age who surfaces in the Amazon, will be shown in 3-D.

Other highlights of this year's program include William Wegman, known throughout the world for his endearing deadpan photographs and films of Weimaraner dogs dressed as humans, who will give a lecture and display his work at the Bayly Art Museum. Other guests who will present their films and visual art are performance artist and sculptor Carolee Schneemann and Sam Easterson, an artist who lets wild animals create their own videos. Director John Hancock ("Bang the Drum Slowly," "Weeds") will introduce his latest feature, "A Piece of Eden" Oct. 27. The film's lead actress, Rebecca Harrell (who is also the star of Hancock's children's classic "Prancer," which will be shown Oct. 29), will accompany him.

"Black Stallion"
The breathtaking "Black Stallion" tells the story visually of a boy and a horse shipwrecked on an island.

The festival is also featuring anthropomorphized creatures in its extensive retrospective of "Cartoon Critters," and will include a cartoon on nearly every program, ranging from "Gertie the Dinosaur" to Pixar's "For the Birds." "Cartoon Critters² will include special feature presentations of the new documentaries, "Chuck Jones: Extremes and In-Betweens," and "The Hand Behind the Mouse: The Ub Iwerks Story."

The complete program is available at www.vafilm.com. Tickets are available online, and some screenings may already be sold out. Call 1-800-UVA-FEST for information.



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