Political Discussions at the 2018 Virginia Film Festival

This past weekend I attended about a dozen screenings at the 31st Virginia Film Festival in Charlottesville. One highlight, for me, was having the opportunity to talk to Turner Classic Movies host Ben Mankiewicz about Night of the Living Dead and The Bride of Frankenstein, and seeing him interview director Peter Bogdanovich about The Other Side of the Wind, a new film from Orson Welles (who died 33 years ago). My interview with Mankiewicz will lead off the next episode of The Score.

There were also a few films screened that touched on politics and policy, either directly or indirectly.

First out of the gate on Thursday afternoon was 1968: The Year That Changed America, which I wrote about Saturday for The Score, alongside an interview with the documentary series’ producer, Mark Herzog.

Chris Hurst Virginia 12th WDBJOn Saturday morning, Virginia 12th, a last-minute addition to the film festival program had its big-screen premiere.

According to the Virginia Film Festival web site, Virginia 12th is “the story of Chris Hurst, who became the youngest local news anchor in America at the age of 22 when he manned the news desk at Roanoke, Virginia’s WDBJ-7. Hurst was suddenly and tragically thrust into the limelight in 2015 when his fiancée and fellow reporter Alison Parker and their colleague, Adam Ward, were murdered during a live broadcast of the morning news. The film follows Hurst after he quits journalism and enters the world of politics by running for state delegate in Virginia’s deeply-divided 12th House District.”

From my perspective, the movie should be required viewing for anyone thinking about mounting a challenge in a “safe” seat, whether R or D. In great detail, it follows how the campaign registered new voters and engaged others. (It pointed out how Hurst went into Giles County, which voted something like 24% for Hillary in 2016, because he couldn’t risk missing any potential voters.)

The campaign manager points out early in the film (I paraphrase) that, if every eligible voter of college age in the district registered and voted, Democrats would win every election in a landslide.

In the end, turnout was not that high in that cohort, but the Hurst campaign registered enough new voters to win by about 3 or 4 points.

It’s all about getting your people out (and having an attractive, articulate, and passionate candidate). Spending a million dollars helps, too.

In this video, the film’s director, Tim Johnson and Virginia Delegate Chris Hurst (D-HD12) discussed “Virginia 12th” in a panel moderated by Athan Stephanopoulos of NowThis, which helped produce the film, at the 2018 Virginia Film Festival in Charlottesville.

My interview with Tim Johnson will be featured on a future episode of The Score. You can see a trailer of Virginia 12th here and the full movie here.

While not explicitly political, politics hangs over the interview subjects in Know Your Neighbor, a new documentary by local Charlottesville film makers Aaron Farrington and Abel Okugawa. The subjects are all recent arrivals in the United States — refugees and immigrants from Congo, Iran, Iraq, Syria, and elsewhere — who talk about their sometimes harrowing experiences in fleeing their native lands for safe haven, eventually in the United States. The International Rescue Committee (IRC) has resettled some 4,000 recent refugees in the Charlottesville area. In response, teacher Kari Miller (also a producer of the film) started an organization called International Neighbors, in an effort to help the new Virginians acclimate to a new environment.

Director Farrington, assistant director Abel Okugawa, and documentary film subjects Ola ManSour (from Syria), and Rahim Hamid (from Iran) participated in a post-screening discussion (moderated by producer Miller, at the Jefferson School African American Heritage Center on Sunday evening.

According to the festival film guide:

“Highlighting the essence of nine locals who proudly call Charlottesville their home, ‘Know Your Neighbor’ offers insight into the lives of refugees who escaped from war. From SIVs (special immigrant visa holders) who fought alongside U.S. forces in conflict, immigrants who chose to begin life anew in America, and an undocumented immigrant whose days are filled with trepidation, these neighbors discuss their lives in a manner that inherently forges connection and curiosity. While celebrating the multifaceted fabric of Charlottesville’s community, the ways in which we are more alike than dissimilar is revealed.”

Here’s the panel video:

This week’s episode of The Score will include several interviews with producers, directors, film critics, and others from the 2018 Virginia Film Festival. Comments always welcome.