In Warrenton, a Film Festival's Debut

In "Crazy Like a Fox," one of the films to be featured at the Piedmont Filmmakers Festival, Roger Rees plays a farmer who loses his family's land. (By Richard Squires)
By Scott Butterworth
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, April 6, 2006

Let's play a little name-association game.

I say: film festival. You say: Cannes, Sundance, Toronto . . . Warrenton?

Yes, Fauquier County will roll out the red carpet this weekend for what organizers hope will become an annual Piedmont Filmmakers Festival.

The festival is the brainchild of volunteers and George Mason University officials who are working to establish a film-studies program at the school. One of the keys to that end, they say, is getting Northern Virginians excited about the stories they can tell through film.

"There's a lot of people and a lot of talent in this region," said managing director Erin Gaffney. "But people think of filmmakers as only people in New York and Los Angeles."

The festival is designed to correct that misconception. The mission, organizers said, is to spotlight local directors, and so the inaugural lineup features residents of Culpeper, Delaplane, The Plains and other communities.

It is also heavy with documentaries, which do not require the hefty budgets of other film genres.

Perhaps recognizing they were lacking a certain glitz, organizers turned to a more experienced director with regional ties: Ronald F. Maxwell.

The director of "Gettysburg" and "Gods and Generals" also sits on the board of Friends of Film, the nonprofit organization that is working with George Mason to present the festival. Maxwell said Tuesday that he wasn't surprised to be asked to take part.

"For the evenings of festivals, you kind of expect they'll be features, and when you talk about people from this area who have made features, now you're getting to a smaller list," said Maxwell, who lives in Flint Hill in Rappahannock County.

He said he was approached about screening either of his Civil War dramas, "but I did not respond to that idea, because my feeling is most people have already seen those films, especially around here."

Instead, Maxwell is bringing one of his first movies, 1978's "Verna: USO Girl." It was made for television but starred two future Oscar winners -- Sissy Spacek (before "Coal Miner's Daughter") and William Hurt (a few years before "Kiss of the Spider Woman") -- and Sally Kellerman, who had been nominated for an Oscar for "M*A*S*H."

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