30th annual Virginia Film Festival announces Spike Lee as special guest

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Director Spike Lee attends 2017 American Black Film Festival ‘Girls Trip’ Red Carpet Screening at Olympia Theater At Gusman Hall on June 14, 2017 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Paras Griffin/Getty Images for Universal)

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – Academy Award and Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Shelton “Spike” Lee will be a guest at the 2017 Virginia Film Festival, the festival’s officials announced Tuesday.

Now in its 30th year, the VFF will take place from November 9-12 in Charlottesville, affiliate WTKR reports.

Lee will present a pair of films as part of a larger program around the living legacy of slavery. The program is a collaboration with James Madison’s Montpelier.

One of the films included in the presentation is his 1997 Academy Award-nominated documentary “4 Little Girls,” about the 1963 bombing of the 16th Street Church in Birmingham, Alabama, that left four young African American girls dead. The incident is widely cited as one of the catalysts for the Civil Rights Movement.

The program will also screen “I Can’t Breathe,” a short video piece that combines footage of the 2015 death of Eric Garner at the hands of the New York City Police Department with footage of the character Radio Raheem in Lee’s 1989 film “Do the Right Thing.”

“Do the Right Thing” earned Lee an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Screenplay. Lee was born in Atlanta in 1957 and was raised in Brooklyn. He graduated from Morehouse College and received his MFA in Film Production from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts.

“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.

“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,” Kielbasa said.

This will be Lee’s first visit to UVA since 1993, when he spoke to a packed house at the UVA Amphitheater about his career and the significant challenges faced by him and his fellow African American filmmakers.

The collaboration with James Madison’s Montpelier will 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. Montpelier recently opened an exhibition, “The Mere Distinction of Colour,” which highlights the reality of the institution of slavery in the U.S. by sharing stories of Montpelier’s slaves and their descendants.

In addition to the event with Spike Lee, the VFF will present a series featuring a number of additional screenings and conversations with high profile filmmakers, scholars and historians.

The full program of films and guests for the 20177 VFF will be announced on September 26. Tickets will go on sale to the public on September 29.

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