VFF films with Virginia ties
The Ruination of Lovell Coleman
Director Ross McDermott met Lovell Coleman in Charlottesville 10 years ago when he saw the then octogenarian putting a new roof on his house by himself. Coleman, now on the cusp of 94, has been playing the fiddle since at least age 14, when he joined a popular band called The Virginia Vagabonds in 1937. McDermott says, “He comes from a self-made generation where even owning an instrument was a privilege.” The documentary’s title comes from something Coleman’s father said when his son would stay out all night playing with the band: “That fiddle’s going to be the ruination of Lovell.” Lovell responds in the film, “I’m so glad I was able to be ruined.”
Another musical component in the film, McDermott says, is that for the last 15 years Coleman has been playing his fiddle at nursing homes, often for people younger than himself. “He’s just so youthful, so a lot of what the film touches on is the importance of healthy aging,” McDermott says. “But also the impact that music can have, especially for senior citizens and those with dementia.” McDermott, who worked for the Charlottesville Mural Project for six years before becoming a filmmaker, says, “This guy is so unique. Besides the life he’s lived, he’s just a good human. I try to make things that are of a positive nature, showing the good of humans. …I think we need to be reminded of people who have lived simple lives but also good lives.”—Raennah Lorne
The Twinning Reaction
Local filmmaker Lori Shinseki has spent the last six years making a film about the aftereffects of a psychological study that purposefully separated multiple sets of twins in the 1960s and tracked their development as they were adopted, then reared in separate homes.
The secret study took place in New York and it’s difficult to know, Shinseki says, whether all of the twins were orphaned or their mothers were young and unwed, and perhaps manipulated into giving up their children. One reason there are so many questions is that the files are locked at Columbia University until 2021 and at Yale University until 2066. The lead researchers were psychiatrists Viola Bernard, then director of Columbia University’s Division of Community and Social Psychiatry, and Peter Neubauer, a child psychiatrist. The adoptive parents were never told they were adopting a separated twin, believing they were participating in an adoption study, not a twin study. The documentary tells “the story through [the twins’] eyes,” says Shinseki. “Because they were never given a voice. This film is an opportunity for them to speak and be heard in a way that they never were before.” ABC’s “20/20” intends to air a segment on the film by the end of this year.—Raennah Lorne
Afrikana Film Festival Showcase
Enjoli Moon, founder and director of Richmond’s Afrikana Independent Film Festival, says she founded the event to “create a platform that shows cinematic works of people of color with a special focus on the global black experience.”
This AIFF will showcase five short films from their second annual festival in September. The Tale of Four, directed by Gabourey Sidibe of Precious fame, tells the story of four women in one day, inspired by Nina Simone’s “Four Women.” #donttouchmyhairRVA, directed by Chaz Barracks, explores “what it means to establish your autonomy as a black person who identifies as a woman in this world,” Curiosity, directed by Brittney Sankofa, is an experimental film about a woman and her journey with love. The Colored Hospital, directed by Terrance Daye, “gives us a look into the spectrum of emotions of black male experience,” Moon says. And Quiet Girl, directed by Evita Castine, is an experimental “peek into the mind” of one black woman. “Each of [the films] tells their own distinct story,” Moon says, “but there is a connective tissue that makes them relevant to each other and relevant to the people who watch it, whether they’re people of color or otherwise.”—Raennah Lorne
In the aftermath of the weekend of August 12 in Charlottesville, dozens of filmmakers, photographers and journalists collaborated on Charlottesville: Our Streets. “Our mission was to stay objective,” says director Brian Wimer. “As documentarians we listened…what we heard became the narrative—one which was in many ways unexpected. Someone with the clergy told us about singing in the street and seeing one of the militia members mouth the words, ‘thank you.’ When we interviewed the militia, one of its members told us the exact same story, unsolicited. That kind of personalized corroboration of the nuances and paradoxes revealed many of the unspoken truths of the day.”
The filmmakers interviewed people on the streets of Charlottesville during the Unite the Right rally. “Not everyone agrees in the film,” says Wimer. “Nor will everyone in the audience. But I hope people can watch the film with an open mind and use it to spur dialogue across the aisle on multiple issues…”—Raennah Lorne
Light House Studio
Light House Studio provides youth filmmaking workshops year-round, and during the film festival, the nonprofit is screening a program of students’ shorts.
The documentary Hijab, was made by Charlottesville High School students during an after-school program, Keep It Reel. Deanna Gould, executive director of LHS, describes it as “powerful.”
Gould says that most of the works were written, cast, produced and filmed during a one-to-two-week period. The participants have some assistance from mentors who are knowledgeable in filmmaking, but largely they work independently.
Another film by students, Black Girlhood: Access & Assets, screens on Friday at Newcomb Hall. This film was selected to showcase before the evening’s feature film, Tell Them We Are Rising.
Two films from the Adrenaline Project, a 72-hour film festival in Charlottesville that took place prior to VFF, will screen on Sunday. A musical called Out of Stock, which picked up an Audience Award, and Surf & Turf, a romantic comedy that picked up a Juror’s Award.—Anita Overcash