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This morning, the Middleburg Film Festival announced its full 2015 slate, and it’s full of impressive titles that include art films, thoughtful documentaries, and middling Oscar bait. The festival runs from Oct. 22nd through the 25th, and offers the best local option for those who want to see critical darlings before anyone else.
The opening night film is Spotlight, a terrific ensemble drama about the Boston Globe’s Spotlight Investigation Team who exposed the Catholic Church’s sex abuse scandal in early 2002. The film premiered last week in D.C. during the newly formed Investigative Film Festival, but that screening was invitation-only, so Middleburg will be the better opportunity to see Michael Keaton and Mark Ruffalo debate journalism ethics with halfway decent Boston accents. The film opens in local theaters on November 6th, just a few weeks after the Middleburg screening, so the festival’s bigger draws are the films that come out later this year, or don’t yet have a release date yet.
The film with the biggest buzz is Carol, director Todd Haynes‘ adaptation of Patricia Highsmith‘s novel about two women who share forbidden love in the 1950s. Carol stars Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara, and received effusive praise when it screened at the Cannes, Toronto, and New York Film Festivals. It’s practically inevitable that Blanchett and Mara will receive Academy Award nominations, and while the film opens nationwide in late November, seeing the film a month early will afford festival-goers a chance to feel urbane and cultured before anyone else.
If glamorous period dramas are not your bag, then the trek to Middleburg may be worth it for two audacious films that may not earn gold statues, but are nonetheless important to cinema. Justin Kurzel’s bloody adaptation of Macbeth looks like a visual feast, with Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard in the lead roles. The Cannes trailer is full of moody lighting and bold composition, as if Kurzel wants the look of a horror film (and the soundtrack by the seminal post-punk band Swans only adds to the gloom).
The other exciting art film is Anomalisa, Charlie Kaufman’s follow-up to Synecdoche, New York. Anomalisa uses stop-motion animation, yet several critics are quick to point out how human it all feels. It’s no surprise, really, since Kaufman has been dissecting the ugliness of human desire since Being John Malkovich. Neither Macbeth nor Anomalisa have a release date yet, so tickets for them may sell out quickly.
The presenting sponsor for the Middleburg Film Festival is The Coca-Cola Company and some festivals in D.C. could learn something from their Virginia wine country neighbor: By partnering with corporate overlords, they might have enough dough to program buzz-worthy films that audiences actually want to see, instead of tepid fare that they’re eager to forget.
The complete 2015 festival slate will be available later this week on the festival’s website, but you can see the full lineup below: 45 YEARS Director: Andrew Haigh 2015, 95 minutes Country: UK Genre: Narrative While preparing for their 45th anniversary, Kate and Geoff’s marriage is shaken with a discovery that calls into question the life they’ve built together.
ANOMALISA Directors: Charlie Kaufman, Duke Johnson 2015, 90 minutes Country: USA Genre: Narrative Director Charlie Kaufman uses stop-motion figures for his inventive tale of Michael Stone, a motivational speaker trapped inside a meaningless life. On business in Cincinnati, Stone meets a woman who has come to hear him speak. He’s instantly attracted to her voice. What transpires is something very real and tender.
ARABIAN NIGHTS: THE DESOLATE ONE Portugal’s submission to the Best Foreign Language Film category at the 88th Academy Awards Director: Miguel Gomes 2015, 131 minutes Country: Portugal Genre: Foreign Language Narrative Through three stories, this modern-day folk tale explores contemporary Portugal and how desolation has permeated through humanity.
THE ARMOR OF LIGHT Director: Abigail Disney 2015, 87 minutes Country: USA Genre: Documentary THE ARMOR OF LIGHT follows an Evangelical minister and the mother of a teenage shooting victim who ask, is it possible to be both pro-gun and pro-life?
CAROL Director: Todd Haynes 2015, 118 minutes Country: USA Genre: Narrative CAROL follows two women from very different backgrounds who find themselves in an unexpected love affair. As conventional norms of the time challenge their undeniable attraction, an honest story emerges to reveal the resilience of the heart in the face of change.
EMBRACE OF THE SERPENT
HARRY & SNOWMAN
HITCHCOCK/TRUFFAUT Director: Kent Jones 2015, 90 minutes Country: USA Genre: Documentary In 1962 Hitchcock and Truffaut locked themselves away in Hollywood for a week to excavate the secrets behind the mise-en-scène in cinema. Based on the original recordings of this meeting-this film illustrates the greatest cinema lesson of all time and plummets us into the world of the creator of PSYCHO, THE BIRDS, and VERTIGO.
INGRID BERGMAN – IN HER OWN WORDS Director: Stig Björkman 2015, 114 minutes Country: Sweden Genre: Documentary Three-time Academy Award-winner Ingrid Bergman remains one of the greatest stars of Hollywood’s Golden Age. Through never-before-seen home movies, along with Bergman’s personal notes, letters, and diaries, INGRID BERGMAN – IN HER OWN WORDS presents an intimate and moving portrait of one of the most acclaimed film actresses of all time.
I SAW THE LIGHT Director: Marc Abraham 2015, 123 minutes Country: USA Genre: Narrative I SAW THE LIGHT is the story of the legendary country western singer Hank Williams, who in his brief life created one of the greatest bodies of work in American music. The film chronicles his meteoric rise to fame and its ultimately tragic effect on his health and personal life.
ITHACA Director: Meg Ryan 2015, 88 minutes Country: USA Genre: Narrative Based on the novel The Human Comedy, a young bicycle messenger’s brother has gone off to war, leaving him to look after his family. The boy’s job includes the difficult task of delivering telegrams from the Secretary of War, informing the families in this small town of the death of their loved one on the frontlines. One of these telegraph messages will change his life forever.
LOUDER THAN BOMBS Director Joachim Trier 2015, 109 minutes Country: Norway Genre: Narrative A New York family finds renewal and affection through the untimely death of its matriarch, as an exhibition of her war photography brings into sharp focus the surviving members’ own struggles to express painful truths about love and loss.
MACBETH Director: Justin Kurzel 2015, 112 minutes Country: USA Genre: Narrative A thrilling interpretation of Shakespeare’s most famous and compelling characters, a story of all-consuming passion and ambition, set in the war torn Scottish landscape.
MIA MADRE Director: Nanni Moretti 2015, 107 minutes Country: Italy Genre: Foreign Language Narrative MIA MADRE centers on Margherita, a director shooting an Italian film with a famous American actor, who is a disruptive blowhard and buffoon. Away from the shoot, Margherita tries to hold her life together despite her mother’s illness and her daughter’s adolescence.
MISS YOU ALREADY Director: Catherine Hardwicke 2015, 112 minutes Country: USA Genre: Narrative MISS YOU ALREADY follows two best friends as they navigate life’s highs and lows. Inseparable since they were young girls, nothing prepares them for the day Milly is hit with life-altering news.
MUSTANG France’s submission to the Best Foreign Language Film category at the 88th Academy Awards Director: Deniz Gamze Ergüven 2015, 94 minutes Country: France, Turkey Genre: Foreign Language Narrative In a village in the north of Turkey, five sisters on their way home from school, are seen innocently playing with boys. The family home slowly turns into a prison and marriages begin to be arranged.
PEGGY GUGGENHEIM – ART ADDICT Director: Lisa Immordino Vreeland 2015, 97 minutes Country: USA Genre: Documentary Peggy Guggenheim was an heiress to her family fortune who became a central figure in the modern art movement. While fighting through personal tragedy, she maintained her vision to build one of the most important collections of modern art.
THE PREPPIE CONNECTION Director: Joseph Castelo 2015, 96 minutes Country: USA Genre: Narrative Based on a true story of a prep school student who smuggled $300k of uncut cocaine into the U.S. in 1984. The story centers on Toby, the working-class scholarship student, who uses his street cred and access to drugs to make friends with the popular kids, allowing him to cultivate a drug trafficking network.
RAMS Iceland’s submission to the Best Foreign Language Film category at the 88th Academy Awards Director: Grímur Hákonarson 2015, 93 minutes Country: Iceland Genre: Foreign Language Narrative In a remote valley in Iceland, two brothers live tending to their sheep. When a disease suddenly infects one brother’s sheep, the entire valley comes under threat. The brothers, who have not spoken to one another for years, will need to come together to save their special breed passed down for generations.
SON OF SAUL Hungary’s submission to the Best Foreign Language Film category at the 88th Academy Awards Director: László Nemes 2015, 107 minutes Country: Hungary Genre: Foreign Language Narrative Saul Ausländer, a Jewish prisoner, is forced to assist the Nazis in the machinery of large-scale extermination. While working in one of the crematoriums, Saul discovers the corpse of a boy he takes for his son. Saul decides to save the child’s body from the flames, find a rabbi to recite the mourner’s Kaddish and offer the boy a proper burial.
TAB HUNTER CONFIDENTIAL Director: Jeffrey Schwarz 2015, 90 minutes Country: USA Genre: Documentary The story of matinee idol Tab Hunter from teenage stable boy to closeted Hollywood star of the 1950s. We meet the real Tab Hunter as he shares with us the whole story of a happy, healthy survivor of Hollywood’s roller coaster.
TRUTH Director: James Vanderbilt 2015, 121 minutes Country: USA Genre: Narrative TRUTH chronicles the fall of veteran CBS News journalist Mary Mapes and Dan Rather. When a story’s credibility comes under fire, the ensuing scandal threatened Dan Rather’s storied career, nearly changed a US Presidential election, and almost took down all of CBS News in the process.
The Middleburg Film Festival runs from Oct. 22 to Oct. 25. Advance tickets packages and passes are available now.