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13th Annual Virginia Film Festival to Feature "Animal Attractions"

Sept. 18, 2000 -- The 13th annual Virginia Film Festival, scheduled for Thursday, Oct. 26 through Sunday, Oct. 29, will explore the theme of "Animal Attractions," featuring media representations of animals as the reflections, antagonists, victims and superiors of humankind, announced Artistic Director Richard Herskowitz today.

Based at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, the Festival designs its program to resemble a huge, comprehensive course on a cultural theme a course so popular it draws a large audience of current and former students back to campus. Its many guests, including actors, directors, and scholars, engage a broad audience of film enthusiasts in engaging and stimulating discussions.

The opening night premiere on Thursday, Oct. 26, will be E. Elias Merhige's "Shadow of the Vampire," starring Willem Dafoe and John Malkovich. "Shadow" dramatizes the haunted production history of the silent classic, "Nosferatu," directed in 1922 by F. W. Murnau. Slated for a Dec. 29 release from Lion's Gate, "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. This Washington, D.C.-based band of electronic and acoustic musicians will be releasing their original score for the film on DVD in January.

The Festival will culminate on Oct. 28 with the presentation of this year's Virginia Film Award to Academy Award-winning actor Anthony Hopkins ("Silence of the Lambs"), 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 screening will be "The Silence of the Lambs," in which Hopkins gives his Oscar-winning performance as the flesh-eating serial killer Hannibal Lecter.

The Animal Attractions program is giving 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 in the serial photography of Eadweard Muybridge. Muybridge scandalized his audience when he published his images of naked people and horses in motion under the combined title: 'Animal Locomotion,' " Herskowitz notes.

Other highlights of this year's program, which are available at, include:

The videos and films of artist William Wegman, known throughout the world for his endearing deadpan photographs and films of dogs dressed as humans, will be presented by the artist, who will give a lecture and display his work at the Bayly Art Museum. Other artists to be represented through their films and visual art include performance artist and sculptor Carolee Schneemann, and Sam Easterson, an artist who lets wild animals create their own videos.

Film critic Roger Ebert returns for his biennial film workshop with a three-day shot-by-shot exploration of "The Birds," Alfred Hitchcock's 1963 classic tale of nature run amok.

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 Critters" 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."

Director John Hancock ("Bang the Drum Slowly," "Weeds") will present his latest feature, "A Piece of Eden." The film's lead actress, Rebecca Harrell (who is also the star of Hancock's children's classic "Prancer," which will be screening at the Festival), will accompany him.

Other regional film premieres to be presented by their directors include: "A Natural History of the Chicken," by the iconoclastic Australian nature film director Mark Lewis, along with his classic "Cane Toads"; Mongolian director Dorjkhandyn Tumunkh will present "State of Dogs"; and Austin-based filmmaker Kelly Greene will introduce "Attack of the Bat Monsters," a hilarious behind-the-scenes look at the making of a low-budget fifties horror film.

The Virginia Film Festival's line-up of classics on animal themes is impressive, ranging from "The Creature from the Black Lagoon in 3D" to Cocteau's "La Belle et la Bete" and "The Planet of the Apes." Also on the program is a newly restored print of "Cat People" from the Library of Congress, and "The Lost World" (1925), restored by David Shepard with a newly recorded score by the Alloy Orchestra.

Among the Festival's many panels and workshops will be a CD-ROM demonstration by artist Leah Gilliam, video sampling techniques practiced on viewers' home videos of their pets by avant-garde appropriators Animal Charm, a screenwriters panel with Sam Hamm ("Never Cry Wolf," Batman" and "Batman Returns") and Dorothy Tristan (co-writer of "A Piece of Eden"), and a session on "New Technologies and Animated Animals" with Academy Award-winner Stan Winston, the foremost practitioner of creature and makeup effects and the recipient of last year's Virginia Film Award.

The complete program is available at beginning September 15. Tickets are available online. Call 1-800-UVA-FEST for more information.

CONTACT: Anne Hooff at Payne, Ross & Associates: 804-977-7607 (phone), 804-977-7610 (fax), or email Cara White, 843/881-1480 e-mail:

FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: please contact the Office of University Relations at (804) 924-7116. Television reporters should contact the TV News Office at (804) 924-7550.
SOURCE: U.Va. News Services


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