The reasons to visit Middleburg, the hub of Virginia horse country about an hour from Washington, D.C., are many. Over the upcoming fall weekend of Oct. 19 to 22, there’s another: the Middleburg Film Festival.
During the annual festival, more than two dozen narrative and documentary films, including world premieres, foreign films and Academy Award contenders, are screened at venues such as the Middleburg Community Center, the National Sporting Library & Museum and the Hill School. Q&As with the filmmakers and actors follow the screenings.
The 26 films screened at last year’s festival, including “Lion,” “Moonlight” and “La La Land,” earned a total of 44 Oscar nominations. “La La Land” director Damien Chazelle and star Emma Stone attended. The keynote conversation was with Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences President Cheryl Boone Isaacs.
Among this year’s highlights are: “Breathe,” the directorial debut of actor Andy Serkis, in which an ex-British Army officer travels to Kenya with his aristocratic wife and contracts polio; “Last Flag Flying,” about three Vietnam vets reunited by a personal tragedy, directed by Richard Linklater and starring Bryan Cranston, Steve Carell and Laurence Fishburne; director Craig Gillespie’s dark comedy “I, Tonya,” about the attack on Olympic figure skater Nancy Kerrigan masterminded by her rival, Tonya Harding; “Jane,” a cinematic portrait of wildlife conservationist Jane Goodall; and “Faces Places,” Best Documentary at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival, a collaboration between legendary filmmaker Agnes Varda and a young street photographer known as JR, who roam the French countryside in a van.
Along with the various wine tastings, dinners and parties that are part of the festival, visitors often take time to enjoy the area’s historic and scenic attractions, sometimes on horseback. (Bring your bicycle, binoculars, walking shoes, hiking boots and equestrian gear.)
The National Sporting Library & Museum is currently hosting two special exhibitions: “The Horse in Ancient Greek Art” and “The Horse and the Camera: From the Judith & Jo Tartt, Jr. Photography Collection.”
The festival also features a symphony concert honoring a film composer; this year the honoree is Nicholas Britell, Best Original Score nominee at the Academy Awards and Golden Globes for “Moonlight.”
Film producer Sheila Johnson, founder and CEO of Salamander Hotels & Resorts, is the festival’s founder and board chair.
“Middleburg has been my home for more than 20 years,” says Johnson. “I’m honored to give people from all over the world one more reason to visit this very special region. And I’m delighted that the Middleburg community will have the opportunity to experience some truly extraordinary films together.”