Sundance, Venice, Telluride, Toronto, Cannes and…Middleburg? The sleepy Virginia town has historically been known more for horses than Hollywood-style events, but for the past six years, Tinseltown elite have descended on the hunt country habitat in October for an unexpectedly star-studded film festival. Due to its relaxed location and distance from Hollywood strivers, the Middleburg Film Festival lacks the pretensions and long lines of other film festivals. No red carpets are seen. Guests gather instead for farm-to-table dinners prepared by award-winning chefs, enjoy “wine and conversation” with filmmakers at local vineyards, and engage in intimate fireside chats in the Salamander Resort’s cozy library. Last year, Greta Gerwig, Dee Rees and James Ivory were there. In 2016, director Damien Chazelle and actress Emma Stone came to preview “La La Land” — both ended up winning Oscars.
This year’s lineup may be the most star-studded yet. Among the big names confirmed are actors Viggo Mortensen and Maggie Gyllenhaal; director/screenwriter Jason Reitman, director Peter Farrellyand Grammy Award winning songwriter Diane Warren. The buzzworthy films being shown include “Roma” (directed by Academy Award winning director Alfonso Cuarón),“Green Book” (directed by Farrelly and starring Mortensen and Mahershala Ali), “The Front Runner” (directed by Reitman and starring Hugh Jackman) and “The Favourite” (directed by Yorgos Lanthimos and featuring Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz). Coca-Cola is the presenting sponsor, and Gary Mather and Christina Co Mather will serve as honorary chairs.
Executive Director Susan Koch, herself an award-winning documentary filmmaker, is looking forward to “another year of terrific films from all over the globe. Especially in these divisive times, films provide a powerful way to broaden our understanding of the world and one another,” she says. When she and Black Entertainment Television co-founder Sheila Johnson imagined the festival in 2013, it was to give cinephiles a look at the best films of the year and a chance to gather for thoughtful conversation.
“We hope our filmgoers will also get a chance to experience the stunning setting and warm hospitality of Middleburg, the place I’ve called home for the last 20 years,” Johnson says, pleased that her festival has become a world-class cinematic destination.
The Middleburg Film Festival runs Oct. 18-21 at various locations in Middleburg, Va. Visit middleburgfilm.org for details and to purchase tickets.