October 11, 2018 at 5:39 pm EDT | by Brian T. Carney
This year’s Middleburg Film Festival features heavy LGBT content
Ben is Back review, gay news, Washington Blade, Middleburg Film Festival

Julia Roberts and Lucas Hedges in ‘Ben is Back.’ (Photo by Mark Schafer; courtesy Roadside Attractions)

For movie fans, the Middleburg Film Festival is a perfect way to spend a fall weekend: a sneak peek at this year’s Oscar contenders, a chat with Hollywood filmmakers, a tasting at a fine Virginia winery and beautiful fall foliage and lush scenery in Virginia’s horse country.

Running from Oct. 18-21, the sixth annual festival includes 29 narrative and documentary films from the United States and around the globe, along with a variety of special events and intimate conversations with Hollywood filmmakers.

This year, LGBT films are front and center at the festival. The Friday Spotlight movie is the highly anticipated “Boy Erased,” a moving family drama helmed by Joel Edgerton based on the memoir by Garrard Conley. Lucas Hedges stars as Jared Eamons, the son of a Baptist minister in a small Southern town. When his parents discover he is gay, he is given a horrible ultimatum: attend a conversion therapy program or be permanently exiled from his family.

Nicole Kidman and Russell Crowe play Jared’s parents and Edgerton plays the leader of the gay conversion therapy program. The cast also includes openly gay Canadian filmmaker Xavier Dolan and out pop singer Troye Sivan.

Fans of Lucas Hedges (“Manchester by the Sea” and “Lady Bird”) can also see him in “Ben Is Back.” Hedges plays a recovering addict who comes home for a holiday visit. Julia Roberts plays his fiercely protective mother.

Other queer highlights of the festival include “The Favourite” and “Can You Ever Forgive Me?”

“The Favourite” is the third English language film from the wildly inventive and delightfully unpredictable Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos. “The Lobster” (2015), which secured Lanthimos an Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay, starred Colin Farrell and Rachel Weisz as star-crossed lovers in a dystopian society where everyone (gay and straight) must be in relationships. “The Killing of a Sacred Deer” (2017) starred Farrell and Nicole Kidman in a modern take on an ancient Greek tragedy.

In his latest movie, Lanthimos turns to the court of Britain’s Queen Anne (1702-1714). The sumptuous but irreverent period drama centers on the sexual and political tensions in the court as Lady Sarah (Rachel Weisz) and ambitious servant Abigail (Emma Stone) battle for the attention and the affections of the frail Queen (Olivia Colman).

Set in New York City in 1991, “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” is based on the memoirs of Lee Israel. A celebrity biographer whose books have gone out of fashion, the lesbian author (a dramatic turn by Melissa McCarthy) finds an unusual way to pay the rent. Working with her gay accomplice Jack Hock (Richard E. Grant), she begins to forge celebrity letters.

The supporting cast includes Anna Deavere Smith as Israel’s ex-girlfriend, Stephen Spinella and Ben Falcone as two of the buyers duped by Israel and Hock, Dolly Wells as Lee’s love interest and Jane Curtin as her frustrated agent.

The festival’s opening night movie is “Roma” by Academy Award-winning writer and director Alfonso Cuarón (the homoerotic “Y Tu Mama Tambien,” “Gravity,” “Children of Men” and “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban”). The movie’s star, first-time actor Yalitza Aparicio, will be honored with the festival’s “Rising Star Award.”

In the centerpiece movie, “The Front Runner,” director Jason Reitman recreates the 1988 Presidential campaign of Gary Hart (Hugh Jackman) which ended after three weeks when Hart’s affair with Donna Rice was revealed. LGBT audiences can get a measure of the candidate when they watch his response to his daughter’s coming out.

The festival’s closing feature and this year’s “December Surprise” (a late release that is expected to be a strong Oscar contender) is “Green Book” starring Viggo Mortenson and Mahershala Ali.

In addition to Q&A sessions with stars and directors after several movies, the festival includes a series of “Conversations” with Hollywood insiders including directors Edgerton and Reitman.

The festival also features tributes to actress Maggie Gyllenhaal and songwriter Diane Warren. Gyllenhaal will be celebrated on Friday afternoon with a special screening of her latest movie “The Kindergarten Teacher.” Warren will be honored during a concert on Saturday afternoon.

Middleburg is located just an hour outside of Washington. Directions, information of ticketing and suggestions for wining and dining can be found at middleburgfilm.org

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