Middleburg Film Festival offers early chance to see future Oscar contenders in Virginia

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews the Middleburg Film Fest (Part 1)

It’s become one of the biggest predictors of Oscar nominees for nearly a decade now.

The ninth annual Middleburg Film Festival returns to Middleburg, Virginia from Oct. 14-17.

This year’s festival returns to an in-person format after last year’s hybrid experience.

The lineup kicks off with “King Richard,” directed by Reinaldo Marcus Green (“Monsters and Men”). It stars Will Smith as Richard Williams, father of Venus and Serena Williams.

Friday’s spotlight film is “Red Rocket,” written and directed by Sean Baker (“The Florida Project”). The dark comedy stars Simon Rex in a magnetic performance as Mikey Saber, a hustler who returns to his small Texas hometown after a failed adult film career in L.A.

Friday’s international spotlight film is “The Hand of God,” directed by Oscar winner Paolo Sorrentino (“The Great Beauty”). The autobiographical film follows a young man coming of age in 1980s Naples where family, soccer, cinema, love and loss dominate his thoughts.

Saturday’s centerpiece is Kenneth Branagh’s “Belfast,” which just won the People’s Choice Award at the Toronto International Film Festival. The crowd-pleasing, coming-of-age story follows a boy’s childhood during the tumultuous 1960s in Ireland.

The festival closes on Sunday with “The Power of the Dog,” directed by Jane Campion (“The Piano”). Based on the 1967 novel by Thomas Savage, the film stars Benedict Cumberbatch as a charismatic rancher who inspires and terrifies those around him.


This year’s documentary spotlight is “Flee,” directed by Jonas Poher Rasmussen. It chronicles Amin Nawabi, who confronts a painful secret kept for 20 years by recounting his childhood journey of fleeing Afghanistan with the help of smugglers to settle in Denmark.

In addition to the films, the festival will presents its annual filmmaker awards to Kenneth Branagh (“Belfast”), Paolo Sorrentino (“The Hand of God”), Ann Dowd (“Mass”), Dakota Johnson (“The Lost Daughter”), the ensemble cast of “Red Rocket,” cinematographer Ari Wegner (“The Power of the Dog”) and composer Charles Fox (“9 to 5”).

The festival will also feature a special panel discussion with women film composers and songwriters, including Kathryn Bostic, Amie Doherty, Lesley Barber and Diane Warren, as well as a conversation with hair-and-makeup artist Donald Mowat (“Dune”).

The Middleburg Film Festival will require attendees to be fully vaccinated and present proof of a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours. Masks are required indoors.

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews the Middleburg Film Fest (Part 2)

Jason Fraley

Hailed by The Washington Post for “his savantlike ability to name every Best Picture winner in history," Jason Fraley began at WTOP as Morning Drive Writer in 2008, film critic in 2011 and Entertainment Editor in 2014, providing daily arts coverage on-air and online.

This content was republished with permission from CNN.

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