About three months ago, I got an e-mail from one of my heroes, Leonard Maltin - he was invited to the Virginia Film Festival and they gave him the chance to invite some filmmakers to participate in some screenings and workshops, so he asked me to come along. How could I say no to Mr. Maltin?
So, last week I flew to Charlottesville, Virginia - in a tiny plane with Oliver Stone just a few seats in front of me.
After checking in, I was joined by my producer, James Hancock (a graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University, one of the festival's sponsors) to take a guided tour of Monticello, the fable home built by Thomas Jefferson. My old friend Mary Burress was our guide, so we got a private tour of the dome room (I hope that doesn't get Mary in trouble).
We then took a tour of the Monticello Museum, where we got to see a lot of Jefferson's genius - his writings, his collections and his inventions.
But back to the festival - my screening of "Cheatin'" was a big success, and I was totally excited about being interviewed on stage by Leonard. After all, he's interviewed everyone who's anyone in show biz!
That night, I went to see some films. I had some free time, so I randomly stopped in to a Norwegian film called "The Wave" by Roar Uthaug. This is a fictional story about a common danger in Norway, where there are a lot of sheer rock cliffs overlooking the fjords, and these cliffs often break off, causing massive landslides that then cause tsunamis that race the entire length of the fjords, causing massive death and destruction.
"The Wave" has no big stars and the budget seemed relatively low by U.S. standards - yet I've never seen a film so powerful and terrifying. After a 20-minute set-up, waiting for the inevitable avalanche, I was gripping the armrest so tight, I thought my fingernails might tear off.
The terror was relentless. This is how a disaster film should be made. The small crowd in the theater gave it a huge ovation. "The Wave" is eligible for the Best Foreign Film Oscar, and I pray it gets nominated, because it should be seen by everybody.
As for the Virginia Film Festival, it's Southern hospitality at its finest. I was never taken care of or fed so well before. And Charlottesville is a beautiful historic college town - Mr. Jefferson even designed the original campus. I give the festival an "A".