Middleburg Film Fest screens Oscar hopefuls ‘Woman King,’ ‘The Whale,’ ‘Empire of Light’

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

We’re less than a week away from the Middleburg Film Festival, which kicks off Thursday Oct. 13 through Sunday, Oct. 16 at the Salamander Resort in Middleburg, Virginia.

The festival in picturesque rural Virginia is often the first time that folks in the D.C. area can see the most buzzed about films that are bound to become Oscar contenders.

The 10th annual festival kicks off Thursday, Oct. 13 with “White Noise” by Noah Baumbach (“Marriage Story”), who will receive the Spotlight Award. The black comedy stars Adam Driver as a professor of Hitler studies and Greta Gerwig as his wife as their family faces an “airborne toxic event.” The deep cast also includes Don Cheadle and Jodie Turner-Smith.

The festival continues Friday, Oct. 14 with an encore screening of “Everything Everywhere All At Once,” which wowed audiences when it was released in movie theaters last March becoming A24’s first film to surpass the $100 million benchmark. The film stars Michelle Yeoh and Stephanie Hsu, the latter of whom will attend to receive the Rising Star Award.

Friday evening brings “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery” by Rian Johnson, who will attend to receive the Distinguished Screenwriter Award. The sequel stars Daniel Craig as Detective Benoit Blanc, who time travels to Greece for a fresh mystery involving Edward Norton, Janelle Monáe, Dave Bautista, Kathryn Hahn, Leslie Odom Jr. and Kate Hudson.

Friday culminates with “The Whale” by Darren Aronofsky (“Black Swan,” “The Wrestler,” “Requiem for a Dream”). Brendan Fraser plays a reclusive English teacher struggling with severe obesity who attempts to reconnect with his estranged teenage daughter for one last chance at redemption. Fraser and screenwriter Samuel D. Hunter will attend a Q&A.

Saturday, Oct. 15 brings “The Woman King,” starring Viola Davis in an epic tale of the Agojie, an all-female unit of warriors who protected the African Kingdom of Dahomey in the 1800s. Director Gina Prince-Bythewood (“Love & Basketball”) will receive the Agnès Varda Trailblazing Film Artist Award, while editor Terilyn A. Shropshire will present a masterclass.

Saturday also celebrates international cinema with “Triangle of Sadness,” a darkly comic exploration of class and inequality that won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival for Ruben Östlund (“Another Round”). The film stars Charlbi Dean, Harris Dickinson, Woody Harrelson and Dolly De Leon, who will receive the Breakthrough Performance Award.

Saturday continues the global theme with “All Quiet on the Western Front,” Germany’s Oscar entry for Best International Feature. Daniel Brühl stars in a remake of the 1930 Best Picture winner adapted from Erich Maria Remarque’s anti-war novel. Director Edward Berger will receive the International Spotlight Award before the film hits Netflix on Oct. 28.

Music fans will enjoy Saturday’s 10th Anniversary Concert with past recipients of the Distinguished Composer and Songwriter Award. A 40-piece orchestra joins a star-studded lineup of Diane Warren, Mark Isham, Marco Beltrami, Kris Bowers, Charles Fox and the 2022 Distinguished Composer Award recipient Michael Abels (“Get Out,” “Us,” “Nope”).

The Saturday lineup culminates with Ray Romano’s directorial debut “Somewhere in Queens,” a family dramedy and love letter to New York’s largest borough that stars Romano, Laurie Metcalf and Jennifer Esposito. Romano will attend a post-screening Q&A.

The final day, Sunday, Oct. 16, features the documentary “Louis Armstrong’s Black & Blues,” which offers an intimate look at the iconic musician through archival footage and never-before-heard home recordings. Filmmaker Sacha Jenkins will participate in a Q&A, while composer Terence Blanchard (“BlackKklansman”) will perform with The E-Collective.

The closing night screening on Sunday, Oct. 16 is Sam Mendes’ “Empire of Light,” a poignant story about human connection and the magic of cinema in an English seaside town in the early 1980s. The film stars Olivia Colman, Colin Firth and Michael Ward, who will receive the Spotlight Actor Award and participate in a Q&A after the screening.

Find more information here.

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews the Middleburg Film Festival (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.

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