Friends of Film Festival Hopes to Become another Sundance

Posted: March 27, 2006 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Tara Laskowski

Playbill for
Playbill for “Crazy Like a Fox”

A George Mason film festival taking place in Warrenton, Va., may seem strange at first, but for College of Visual and Performing Arts Dean Bill Reeder, Communication Professor Cindy Lont and other members of the George Mason Friends of Film organization, it makes perfect sense.

“The purpose is to bring two communities together in celebration of film,” says Lont, who is also director of the Student Video Center at Mason.

Friends of Film will host the Piedmont Filmmakers Festival April 7-9 at the Highland School Center for the Arts in Warrenton. With films focusing on the rich culture and history of the region, the festival celebrates local filmmakers – both student and professional.

“The Virginia Piedmont region is home to many exciting filmmakers,” says Bonnie Matheson, president of the Friends of Film. “The festival will bring them together in a dialogue and celebration of film and the Piedmont.”

By hosting events such as the film festival, Friends of Film hopes to foster and support filmmaking in Northern Virginia. With talented, creative individuals such as independent filmmaker Richard Squires, playwright Paul D’Andrea and director Ronald Maxwell sitting on the board, Friends of Film is directing their attention to upping the prestige of local filmmaking.

The organization has already developed a filmmaking workshop series at Mason, giving individuals and organizations the opportunity to tell their story using the medium of film and digital video. A degree in film and video studies has also been approved by the Mason Board of Visitors and is under consideration by the State Council on Higher Education for Virginia. If approved, students will begin enrolling in the program in spring 2007.

“There are many people here, making films of all kinds,” says Reeder. “This organization is a way for these talented people to get together to develop a network of professionals.”

The Piedmont Film Festival will feature three days of documentaries, feature films, student films and an orchestra performance.

Friday will feature filmmaker Richard Squires hosting a pre-opening of his film “Crazy Like a Fox,” the story of Nat Banks, an eighth-generation Virginian farmer who loses his family farm to a pair of land speculators from Washington, D.C.

Family-friendly films will be screened Saturday morning. Local director Tom Davenport will discuss and screen two films about the south, set in different time periods. In the afternoon, several short documentaries will cover topics such as ballad singing in Madison County; Virginia’s American Indian tribal history; teenagers working as pages for the Virginia House of Delegates; and the recreation of the Wright Brothers’ historic flight.

On Saturday evening, director Ron Maxwell will present his 1978 award-winning film, “Verna: USO Girl.”

The festival will wrap up on Sunday with more screenings, including several student pieces. Mason students Sean Watkins and Juliana Hoskinson, several students from the Filmmaking Certificate program and a student from Warrenton will showcase their films from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m.

In the evening, the celebration will conclude with a performance of the symphonic suite of the score to Ron Maxwell’s “Gods and Generals” by the Piedmont Regional Orchestra. The show will also include scenes from the film, as well as Civil War era poetry. Rick Davis, along with soprano Jennifer Stock, will sing songs by American icon Stephen Foster.

Tickets for individual screenings or group passes can be purchased online at

“We hope it will one day be as impressive as the Sundance Film Festival,” says Matheson. “And much easier to get to.”

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