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Film festival adds food and moves to South Charleston

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The West Virginia International Film Festival is moving to South Charleston.

Along with its new location, international cuisine will also be added to the event — making it the first West Virginia International Food and Film Festival.

Instead of the West Virginia State University Capitol Center Theater, the films will be shown in the LaBelle Theater on D Street.

Bob Anderson, the executive director for the town’s Convention and Visitors Bureau, said he has been trying for nearly five years to bring the film festival to South Charleston and his persistence has finally paid off.

“We and the City of South Charleston are thrilled to have the International Film Festival here,” Anderson said. “We know that a lot of people will attend these movies, which will give us a chance to show off our beautiful theater.”

The theater has undergone several renovations in the past year, including the installation of new seats, carpet and a projector screen as well as the addition of a high-definition movie projector.

The festival is now in its 31st year. Former West Virginia Gov. Bob Wise recognized the film festival in 2001 for its impact on the culture and the economy and dubbed it the Official State Film Festival of the State of West Virginia.

The president of the film festival, Emmett Pepper, said while the Capitol Center Theater is a beautiful location, it was too large and no longer cost-effective to keep the festival there.

The film festival takes place twice a year and features films from all over the world as well as the U.S. It also shows films that were either made in West Virginia or are about West Virginia.

Pepper first started attending the film festival when he was in high school and describes the experience as “eye-opening.”

“Films are a great way to see another culture through theaters in a cohesive and unified vision,” he said. “It can bring you into this world that even if you went to visit the place featured in the film you won’t get the same experience. And to me that is the power of film. You’re in an area and you’re brought into someone’s life in a way that you could never be otherwise.”

The International Food and Film Festival will take place Sept. 12 to 21. That Saturday, D Street will be closed from Third Avenue to Fourth Avenue to make way for the street fair and gala event.

During the event, booths from local international restaurants will be set up along the street for guests to sample.

Anderson said it will be like a night at the Emmys, complete with a red carpet and small Emmy trophy replicas to hand out to the guests.

The idea to add international food to the festival came to Pepper when he saw a friend describe South Charleston as “Little International West Virginia.”

“For me, it’s important to make this area a place where I want to live,” Pepper said. “I want to see more international food and so we want to make sure that the places that are already here continue to stay in business. We hope that the people who are interested in international food are also interested in international films.”

The films for the festival have not yet been selected. Admission for each film will be $8. There will also be a $30 film package for six tickets.

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Contact writer Josephine Mendez at or 304-348-7917. Follow her at

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