There are no shortage of film festivals scattered about the DC area; from my personal favorites the Virginia Film Festival in Charlottesburg and Filmfest DC, to AFI Docs and the Maryland Film Festival, but we're about to get a serious new player on the scene. Local entrepreneur and power player Sheila Johnson announced a few months ago that she was kicking off the inaugural Middleburg Film Festival this fall, and she's bringing all of her Hollywood muscle to bear to get it started on the right foot. A member of the Sundance Institute and a producer on Lee Daniels' The Butler, Johnson has gone all out to make sure the opening line-up consists of special events, major celebrity starpower, and film slate full of Oscar contenders and festival favorites.
The Opening Night festivities begin on October 24th with a showing of Alexander Payne's black & white road trip drama Nebraska, which stars Bruce Dern and Will Forte. There has already been a ton of Academy Awards talk swirling around Dern's performance in the father/son film, especially after he won Best Actor at Cannes.
The Centerpiece Film is Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, which has also been earning potential awards consideration for star Idris Elba as renowned freedom fighter Nelson Mandela. The October 26th screening will be followed by a musical performance by South Africa's Yvonne Chaka Chaka, as part of the festival's emphasis on film scores.
A recent addition is John Wells' star-studded adaptation of August: Osage County, based on Tracy Letts' Pulitzer Prize-winning play. Julia Roberts, Meryl Streep, Benedict Cumberbatch,, Sam Shepard, Ewan McGregor, and more star in the ensemble about the women of the Weston clan, who are brought back home to Oklahoma under the roof of their eccentric mother after a family crisis.
Other major films to take note of: Like Father, Like Son, the latest provocative family drama from Japanese director Hirokazu Koreeda (Nobody Knows, I Wish). The story follows two families who learn that their sons were accidentally switched at birth six years earlier. Steven Spielberg recently snapped up the rights to an American remake.
Stephen Frears' TIFF People's Choice Award runner-up Philomena stars Judi Dench and Steve Coogan, and tells of a disgraced journalist who aids a woman's quest to be reunited with the child she was forced to give up in the 1950s.
Charming crowd-pleaser Le Week-End has Jim Broadbent and Lindsay Duncan as a long-married couple who visit Paris to jumpstart their marriage. Jeff Goldblum co-stars.
The full slate of 19 films can be found here. The Middleburg Film Festival runs from Oct. 24-27, and of course we will be there.