Southern Film Festival to feature guest actors

Nick Bonadies
Spectrum Editor

VCU students finding themselves awake this Saturday morning have a chance to see a film banned for indecency in 1933 – and even today, unavailable on DVD.

“The Story of Temple Drake,” based on William Faulkner’s “Sanctuary,” was labeled as an example in pre-Hays Code Hollywood for why movies needed decency standards, cited for its frank (though, by our standards, non-explicit) depiction of sexual desire, rape and multiple non-marital relationships.

The film is just one part of the diverse lineup scheduled for this Friday and Saturday’s second annual VCU Southern Film Festival, returning to the Grace Street Theater to showcase films both taking place in and inspired by the American South.

While last year’s festival explored the issue of civil rights in the South, this year the festival focuses on cinematic adaptations of Southern literature.

VCU Assistant Professor of History, Emilie Raymond came up with the idea for the festival after she moved from Missouri to Richmond.

“I appreciate the rich history the city offers, but a lot of the public and tourist activities focus on the 18th and 19th century history,” she said. “The film festival offers a way to explore the South in the 20th century.”

According to VCU Associate Professor of History, John Kneebone, who is also one of the organizers of the event, the film festival is a way to examine history critically, not just passively watch how the South’s past played out.

“We have mistakenly set the South at odds with the rest of American history, when in fact, Southern history is not unlike American history,” Kneebone said. “Much of what we think of as the issues Southerners struggle with – race, class, the complications of history – all of those happened elsewhere.”

“In This Our Life,” for example, was based on Ellen Glasgow’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel based in a fictionalized Richmond, Virginia. A New York Times review soon after its release cited the film as one of the first Hollywood portrayals of an African-American as an intelligent character in a non-menial role.

Other screenings will include classics such as Alice Walker’s “The Color Purple,” notably nominated for 11 Oscars but awarded none; Tennessee Williams’ “A Streetcar Named Desire,” which won four Oscars and was nominated for eight more; and an adaptation of Flannery O’Connor’s “Wiseblood,” about a preacher who founds his own church.

The 1969 adaptation of Harper Lee’s “To Kill A Mockingbird” rounds out the festival on Saturday evening, set to coincide with the novel’s 15th anniversary. This is the film in which Gregory Peck’s portrayal of Atticus Finch won an Academy Award, and which Lee herself declared to be “one of the best translations of a book to film ever made.”

Mary Badham, the actress who played Scout in the film, will appear at Saturday’s screening to discuss her experiences on the set, as well as to field questions from the audience. Charles Shields, author of The New York Times bestseller “Mockingbird: An Intimate Portrait of Harper Lee,” will also appear to discuss the film’s translation from page to screen. Shields will also read from and sign his book at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 24 at Fountain Bookstore on E. Cary Street, and on Saturday, Feb. 26 from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. at VCU Barnes & Noble.

Several VCU professors will act as moderators, introducing each film and leading discussions afterward. They include Jane Lucas, who specializes in Southern literature; Richard Fine, a William Faulkner expert; Historian Ted Tunnell; and Norrece T. Jones, Jr., an expert in the field of African-American history and African-Americans in film.

Last year’s festival was themed “Screening Civil Rights” and included such films as “Black Like Me,” based on the true story of a white journalist who chemically darkened his skin to experience life from the perspective of a black man in the 1950s deep South and Spike Lee’s 1997 documentary “4 Little Girls,” on the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham, Ala. in 1963.

The second annual VCU Southern Film Festival takes place this Friday, Feb. 25 and Saturday, Feb. 26 at the Grace Street Theatre, 934 W. Grace St.  All screenings are free and open to the public.  For more information, visit the Southern Film Festival’s website at or their Facebook page.


Thursday, Feb. 24

6 p.m.: Charles Shields book signing at Fountain Bookstore

Friday, Feb. 25

4 p.m.: “Wise Blood” (1979)

7 p.m.: “In This Our Life” (1942)

Saturday, Feb. 26

10 a.m.: “The Story of Temple Drake” (1933)

1 p.m.: “The Color Purple” (1985)

4 p.m.: “A Streetcar Named Desire” (1951)

4:30 p.m.: Charles Shields signing at VCU Barnes & Noble

7 p.m.: “To Kill a Mockingbird” (1962)

4 p.m.: “A Streetcar Named Desire” (1951)

7 p.m.: “To Kill a Mockingbird” (1962)

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