A scene from "Ithaca," filmed in the Richmond area by director Meg Ryan (image courtesy Virginia Film Festival).
Two projects filmed in and around Richmond, Meg Ryan's Ithaca and the new PBS series Mercy Street, set in a Civil War-era hospital, are part of the line-up announced today by the Virginia Film Festival, scheduled for Nov. 5 to 8 in Charlottesville.
Ryan's film, whose cast includes Sam Shepard, Tom Hanks and her own son, Jack Quaid, among others, is based on the William Saroyan Pulitzer-winning 1943 novel The Human Comedy.
Partly filmed at Richmond's Laburnum House, Mercy Street's setting is a former hotel in Union-occupied Alexandria converted into a Civil War hospital. Several cast members are set to attend a discussion, among them Hannah James, a Charlottesville-area native who plays Confederate belle Emma Green; Cherry Jones (24), who plays Dorothea Dix (the superintendent of Union Army nurses); Executive Producer Lisa Quijano Wolfinger; and renowned University of Virginia Civil War expert Gary Gallagher.
Also to be screened at the festival is Richmond-based filmmaker Rick Alverson's Entertainment (which comes to the Byrd Theatre on Nov. 8, presented by the Bijou Film Center), starring Gregg Turkington as a washed-up comedian touring venues in the California desert while on a quest to reunite with his daughter. Alverson, a 2013 Pollak Prize honoree is slated to appear at both screenings. My colleague Harry Kollatz Jr. writes that, "Alverson’s previous films, The Builder, New Jerusalem and The Comedy, feature pro/antagonists who are isolated, attempting to find rungs to grasp hold of, whose psyches are blasted to bits and they are either unsuccessfully self-piecing themselves back together or seeking for assistance in so doing, whether they even know it or not. The Comedy, about entitled New Yorkers avoiding adulthood, was a form of horror movie. Alverson’s films aren’t about pleasant or customary subjects. His work takes the society of the spectacle and shakes it like a snow globe." Here's a look at Entertainment:
Another Virginia film to be shown is Coming Through the Rye, shot in Orange County and directed by James Sadwith. The story follows a student who runs away from boarding school in 1969 to find Catcher in the Rye author J.D. Salinger (played by Chris Cooper).
Joel Salatin, farmer, author and sustainable agriculture activist, will be on hand for a conversation with filmmakers about Polyfaces, a documentary about the community his family built around their Shenandoah Valley farm.
Other guests at the festival include director Oliver Stone, who will discuss his Oscar-winning film Born on the Fourth of July, with educator, author and Vietnam War expert Robert Toplin. Critic and film historian Leonard Maltin will take part in a conversation with animator Bill Plympton after a screening of his film Cheatin' , and he'll talk with Maggie Greenwald, director of the Academy award-nominated Songcatcher. Playwright and LGBT activist Larry Kramer (The Normal Heart) will discuss the HBO documentary Larry Kramer in Love and Anger, and talk about his life and career.
Find out more about the festival at virginiafilmfestival.org.