Created in the late 1980s, the Virginia Festival of American Film (renamed The Virginia Film Festival) was endorsed by the state’s Department of Economic Development and adopted by the University of Virginia. The intent was twofold: to stimulate economic development by encouraging film production in Virginia and increasing tourism, and to meld the creative interests and crafts of the American film industry with the intellectual resources of a nationally ranked university. In 1996, the University decided to make the Virginia Film Festival a more integral part of its academic program under the umbrella of the College and Graduate School of Arts & Sciences. The focus was expanded to encompass a broader range of international films. The Festival also expanded its year-round programs, including a very active Film Society that presents films and guest speakers at the downtown Vinegar Hill Theatre.
In 2009 director Jody Kielbasa assumed control of the Virginia Film Festival. His tenure has ushered in a new era of the Virginia Film Festival, with an increased focus on best serving the people of Charlottesville and the greater Central Virginia region. Today’s Virginia Film Festival aims to bring the best in national and international cinema to its audiences, and provide enriching and entertaining activities for children, families, college students, and every other segment of the community.