UVA Arts, University of Virginia

Vol 07 Winter 17 Library
Spike Lee and Maurice Wallace by John Robinson

Virginia Film Festival and James Madison's Montpelier Explore Race in America

Learm more about the VFF

Spike Lee
(Photo: Marc Baptiste)

The Virginia Film Festival (VFF) has a long history of working in partnership with organizations from within and outside the University to explore and respond to some of the most important issues in our world today. This year, the VFF added to that important legacy by joining forces with James Madison’s Montpelier to present Race in America, a seven-film series highlighted by the first-ever VFF appearance by legendary filmmaker, author, and educator Spike Lee. Lee appeared before a sold-out Paramount Theater crowd on Saturday, November 11 to present his Academy Award-nominated documentary 4 Little Girls, about one of America’s most despicable hate crimes – the 1963 bombing of the 16th Street Church in Birmingham, Alabama that left four African American girls: Denise McNair, Addie Mae Collins, Carole Robinson, and Cynthia Wesley, dead, and served as a catalyst for the American Civil Rights Movement. The program also included I Can’t Breathe, a video with interviews with Ramsey Orta, the man who filmed Eric Garner’s choking at the hands of the New York City Police Department and combines that footage of the chokehold death with footage of the similar death of the Radio Raheem character in Lee’s iconic 1989 film Do The Right Thing – highlighting a most tragic example of how the filmmaker’s art has been reflected in life. Other highlights of the Race in America series included Academy Award-winning filmmaker Ezra Edelman discussing his remarkable five-part documentary O.J.: Made in America; and Tell Them We Are Rising: The Story of Black Colleges and Universities, a documentary by award-winning filmmakers Stanley Nelson and Marco Williams about the history, legacy, and modern-day realities of Historically Black Colleges and Universities. “We are proud to work with our friends at Montpelier to continue to encourage dialogue around this critically important issue, and to support their remarkable exhibition, The Mere Distinction of Colour,” said Virginia Film Festival Director and University of Virginia Vice Provost for the Arts Jody Kielbasa, “which highlights the reality of the institution of slavery in the U.S. by sharing stories of Montpelier’s slaves and their descendants.” 

Read the next story