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Purcellville’s annual Cabin Fever Film Fest returns for a third year

Through film screenings and filmmaker-led talks, the weekend-long festival celebrates local stories and creatives. Plus, one Alexandria-based filmmaker shares insight into her recently released short film.

cabin fever film festival logo
Image courtesy of Liz Jarvis

For the third year in a row, artists and cinephiles of Purcellville will gather together for a weekend celebration of film at the Cabin Fever Film Fest, taking place Friday, Jan. 24 and Saturday, Jan. 25. Co-sponsored by the Purcellville Arts Council and the Franklin Park Arts Center, the event will showcase local and regional films, all with unique ties to the Loudoun County area. 

“When I first thought about bringing something like this to the area, I wanted it to be truly hyper-local, surrounding the talent in our town,” says chair of the Town of Purcellville Arts Council Liz Jarvis, who worked in the film business in Los Angeles for many years. “When I brought up the idea, we realized it would be best to have it when nothing else was really happening, when everyone had cabin fever. And that was it.”

This year’s festival features 11 films, each of which have some connection to the Northern Virginia region, and are primarily documentaries. On the second day of the festival, several high school filmmakers will also have the opportunity to share their creations with audience members, which is an essential aspect of the annual event.

“As a result of our first festival, one of the high school student filmmakers started a film club in Loudoun County and she has now morphed into this incredible filmmaker and it’s amazing to see her growth,” says Jarvis. “That’s kind of what it is all about.”

Today, Jarvis works primarily with the manager of the Franklin Park Arts Center, Elizabeth Bracey, to put on the event, as it takes place within the center each year. For Bracey, the question-and-answer sessions with each filmmaker are what make this local affair stand out.

“I think audiences appreciate the films even more when they begin to understand the time it takes to create the magic they watch on screen,” Bracey explains. “A short film of three minutes could be something that was months in the making. These artists have certainly earned my respect and admiration.”

The opening reception on Friday, Jan. 24 will consist of question-and-answer sessions and the screening of three films, including A Brush with History, a short documentary put together by director and Alexandria resident Nora Kubach and her team. The short tells the tale of Alexandria’s Torpedo Factory Art Center and how its 100-year-old history has led to its present state of being.

Before she makes her way to Purcellville for the third annual event, we chatted with Kubach about why she wanted to tell this story and what she’s looking forward to most about the festival. Find highlights from our conversation below. 

woman in green shirt smiling
Nora Kubach’s documentary ‘A Brush with History’ will be featured at this year’s Cabin Fever Film Fest. (Photo courtesy of Nora Kubach)

When did you first get involved with this film?
It happened about a year and a half ago when we were looking for the next great story we could tell. We became friends with Brett Johnson, the director of the Torpedo Factory, and he started telling us about the history of the place, which is 100 years old and used to serve the country. A lot of people know about the arts center but they don’t really know how it was founded. Community members came in and basically rebuilt this entire place, transforming it into a free art space for the public. We did this pro bono; we just wanted to tell the story. 

Talk to us about the filming process. Did you run into any challenges throughout?
Pretty early on we decided it was going to be a short film, and we knew we had to tell a lot of history in a short amount of time. I worked with the Torpedo Factory to decide our key players in the film. We did a lot in pre-production in terms of nailing down who we wanted to speak with. We talked to the original founder of the arts center, a Naval historian, the current director and also two specific artists. With one of them, her grandpa actually worked in the factory making torpedos, and now she is in there making jewelry, which is amazing. And the other woman was a kid when the art factory first came to be and she saw firsthand the transition. Now her work is there too. 

What are you most looking forward to about the Cabin Fever Film Fest?
I’m excited just to attend because I have never been. They approached us because they loved the story. I’ve been told that a lot of student filmmakers come out and I am just so excited to meet other filmmakers and see the great stories.

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