Middleburg Film Festival
Various locations, Middleburg, Va.
Next weekend, Hollywood will be spreading a little glitter on the Virginia countryside. Located an hour west of Washington, the Middleburg Film Festival (Oct. 20-23) offers Metro D.C. film fans the chance to get a sneak peek at this year’s leading Oscar contenders while sipping local wines and rubbing elbows with Hollywood insiders.
Festival Executive Director Susan Koch says, “We are thrilled to share some of the year’s best films with festival attendees. The 2016 program includes a mix of Oscar contenders, critically acclaimed foreign language films and compelling documentaries.”
Now on its fourth year, the Middleburg Film Festival is the brainchild of Sheila C. Johnson, who was a co-founder of BET and is a co-owner of the Washington Capitals, the Washington Mystics and the Washington Wizards. Johnson also owns Salamander Hospitality and runs the Salamander Resort and Spa in Middleburg. She was a producer for Lee Daniels’ “The Butler” and for “The Other City,” a powerful documentary about the AIDS crisis in Washington.
The festival combines two of her passions: the movies and Virginia’s beautiful horse and wine country.
“Middleburg has been my home for nearly 20 years,” Johnson says. “I’m honored to give people from all over the world one more reason to visit this very special region. This festival showcases independent films selected for their exceptional craft and creativity. These visionary films push boundaries, challenge convention and often try things no one else has dared to dream.”
She adds, “As an avid filmgoer and film producer, I’ve seen over and over the power of films. Movies have a rare and magical ability to inspire, to educate, to engage and entertain. They lift us up out of our everyday lives, help us see others’ points of view, and build new bridges of empathy and understanding.”
The festival opens next Thursday, Oct. 20, with “Lion” by Australian director Garth Davis. As a child, Saroo gets lost on a train in India and must survive on the streets until he is adopted by an Australian couple (Nicole Kidman and David Wenham). As an adult, Saroo (played by Dev Patel) returns to India to find his birth family and return to his first home.
The Friday Spotlight Feature is “Moonlight,” the powerful coming-of-age and coming-out story of a young black man. Directed by Barry Jenkins, the movie is based on the play by out theater artist Tarell Alvin McCraney (“Choir Boy” and “The Brother/Sister Plays”), a MacArthur Fellow and member of the Steppenwolf Theatre Ensemble.
Other screenings on Friday include “Julieta” by gay Spanish auteur Pedro Almodóvar (based on short stories by Alice Munro); Ewan McGregor’s directorial debut in “American Pastoral”; and Kenneth Lonergan’s “Manchester by The Sea” with Casey Affleck and Michelle Williams.
The Saturday Night Spotlight shines on one of the leading favorites going into this year’s awards season: “La La Land.” The musical stars Ryan Gosling as a struggling jazz pianist and Emma Stone as an aspiring actress in a city famous for either making dreams come true or for crushing young love and tender hopes. The film features dazzling cinematography and sizzling dance numbers. Stone and director Damien Chazelle (“Whiplash” and “10 Cloverfield Lane”) will be on hand for a Q&A after the screening.
Saturday’s other screenings include the highly anticipated “Jackie” starring Natalie Portman. The movie follows the former first lady through the aftermath of her husband’s assassination as she cares for her children, tends to her husband’s legacy and struggles with her own grief and trauma.
The final day of the festival starts a Sunday Morning Spotlight on “Loving,” the story of Mildred and Richard Loving whose landmark battle against laws banning interracial marriages helped pave the way for marriage equality. Former Attorney General of the United States Eric Holder will participate in a discussion following the film.
In addition to more than two-dozen new movies and fine food and drink from local restaurants and wineries, the Middleburg Film Festival also includes the chance to chat with some Hollywood insiders. This year’s guests include Cheryl Boone Isaacs, president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, award-winning production designer Jeannine Oppewall and political commentator David Gergen who will speak on “Politics, Presidents and the Movies.”