VAFF, Virginia Festival of the Book, and Emilio Estevez: Fostering Community Partnerships through The Public
Renowned actor, director, and writer Emilio Estevez is no stranger to libraries. He first rocketed to stardom thanks in part to his role as Andrew Clark, the “jock,” in the 1985 John Hughes classic The Breakfast Club, in which he and fellow stars including Anthony Michael Hall, Molly Ringwald, and Ally Sheedy were thrown together in a school library to endure what would become an eye-opening detention period. Recently, Estevez has returned to the stacks for his latest project, a film which he wrote, directed, and starred in that tells the story of a group of Cincinnati homeless men who, in the midst of a brutal cold snap that filled all the shelters in the city, decide to take over the public library to find warmth and shelter. Estevez appears alongside a cast that includes Alec Baldwin, Taylor Schilling, and Jeffrey Wright. Virginia Film Festival Director and UVA Vice Provost for the Arts Jody Kielbasa first saw the film at the Santa Barbara Film Festival in January of 2018, and instantly thought it would be popular with Charlottesville audiences. Estevez agreed, and while he was not able to make a 2018 VAFF appearance work, the two stayed in touch and finally settled on a spring 2019 date at The Paramount Theater. "The film touched on many subjects that are so relevant to people here in Charlottesville," Kielbasa said, "and I also knew that people would love to come out and hear from Emilio as well." Kielbasa and VAFF Managing Director Jenny Mays also saw great opportunities for a variety of community partnerships around the event.
"Whether during the Film Festival itself," Mays said, "or in the events that we present throughout the year, we are dedicated to partnering with community organizations whenever we can, in an effort to highlight the extraordinary work being done here that helps make Charlottesville the remarkable place it is. In this case, we reached out to the Virginia Festival of the Book and asked if they would be co-presenting partners of this screening, which then became a highlight of their 25th anniversary Festival." Festival of the Book director Jane Kulow gave a memorable and moving pre-screening talk about the importance of libraries. "We also reached out to staff at the Jefferson-Madison Regional Library," Mays said, "who were instrumental in helping us promote the event to local libraries and connect with Charlottesville's homeless advocacy groups." A post-screening panel discussion featured Estevez alongside JMRL director David Plunkett, Cyndi Richardson from On Our Own, and Herb Dickerson from The Haven, and was moderated by Washington Post film critic and author Ann Hornaday. “We were also delighted to welcome staff and clients from several of our local homeless service organizations as event attendees. These partnerships and the spirit of collaboration that surrounded them took what was already a special evening and made it that much more special,” Mays said. Kielbasa said the event left an impression on its special guest as well. “Emilio, who had been traveling for months promoting the film, was incredibly impressed with the size of our sold-out Paramount audience, and with their level of engagement with the film in the post-screening Q&A. It was a great illustration of the unique ways in which we are able to work with filmmakers as well as with organizations throughout our community to tell important stories and share meaningful dialogue around issues that are front in center here, and throughout the world.”