Film buffs: one of the most exciting times of year is upon us.
The eighth annual Middleburg Film Festival, a premier event to spotlight new cinema, runs Oct. 15 to 18 with a tweaked format. The festival is mostly virtual this year, with the exception of a handful of outdoor screenings taking place in the evenings at Salamander Resort & Spa, whose lower parking lot is being converted into a drive-in theater holding around 50 cars and its Grand Lawn will host socially-distanced screenings.
Over the past few months, Middleburg Film Festival executive director Susan Koch has heard from many attendees who still looked forward to the event, even though it might need to be adapted because of the pandemic. “The festival is as much about ‘community’ as it is about celebrating films and filmmakers, [as] films have a way of bringing people together and fostering dialogue which is especially important during these divisive times,” says Koch. “And at a time when travel is limited for most people, films are able to transport us all over the world.”
Kicking off the festivities will be Nomadland, Chloé Zhao’s celebrated film released by Searchlight Pictures starring Frances McDormand, in her first role since winning the Academy Award for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. The winner of the Venice Golden Lion Award and the TIFF People’s Choice Award, the movie follows Fern’s (McDormand’s) journey as she embarks on a road trip in her van as a modern-day nomad following the economic collapse of a rural company town in Nevada. Zhao relied on real nomads to serve as mentors and comrades for Fern’s experiences in the American West.
The Centerpiece slot is Lee Isaac Chung’s family drama Minari, an A24 and Plan B film that won the Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival, which follows a Korean-American family who moves to an Arkansas farm in search of the American Dream.
Concrete Cowboy, a father-son drama that covers the attempts of North Philadelphia’s Black cowboy community to retain the area’s last urban horse stable, is the Friday Spotlight film. It tells the story of Cole, played by Caleb McLaughlin from Stranger Things, a troubled teen sent to live with his estranged father, played by Idris Elba, who is a horseman more comfortable with animals than people.
Finally, Regina King’s feature directorial debut One Night in Miami was chosen as the Saturday Spotlight film, an account of the 1964 boxing upset of Sonny Liston by Cassius Clay, witnessed by three of his friends: Malcolm X (Kingsley Ben-Adir), Sam Cooke (Leslie Odom Jr.) and Jim Brown (Aldis Hodge).
“We’re very pleased that we’re able to offer a mix this year of both virtual and outdoor, socially distanced evening screenings, [and] we’ve also been very gratified by all the support we’ve received from the filmmaking community and our sponsors,” Koch says. “Thanks to their support, our virtual and in-person attendees will have a chance to see Oscar contenders, fascinating documentaries and independent gems that you might not otherwise get a chance to see. She goes on to add that everyone’s health and wellbeing is organizers’ number one priority, hence why there are no indoor in-person events or screenings.
Tickets and passes are available here.
Photo courtesy of Salamander Resort & Spa
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