The Middleburg Film Festival announced today that Noah Baumbach’s MARRIAGE STORY will open the festival on Thursday, October 17 and Martin Scorsese’s THE IRISHMAN will close the festival on Sunday, October 20. The festival also announced James Mangold’s FORD v FERRARI as the Saturday Night Centerpiece, Kasi Lemmons’ HARRIET and Trey Edward Shults’ WAVES as the Friday Spotlight films. Filmmaker Noah Baumbach, film composer Terence Blanchard and screenwriter Anthony McCarten will be honored for their exceptional contributions to films and filmmaking. I will once again be returning to cover the festival and will have some exciting news to share about that soon…
Kicking off the 2019 edition of the four-day festival, MARRIAGE STORY stars Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver in an incisive and compassionate look at a marriage breaking up and a family staying together. The ensemble cast also includes Laura Dern, Alan Alda, Ray Liotta, Julie Hagerty and Merritt Weaver.
“We’re honored to kick off this year’s festival with MARRIAGE STORY and recognize filmmaker Noah Baumbach for his deeply personal and moving film,” said MFF Executive Director Susan Koch. “We’re also delighted to welcome back and honor screenwriter Anthony McCarten, who once again has crafted a riveting story and magnificent script for his lead actors in THE TWO POPES.”
FORD v FERARRI has been selected as the festival’s Saturday Night Centerpiece film. Directed by James Mangold, the film is inspired by the remarkable true story of the visionary American car designer Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon) and the fearless British driver Ken Miles (Christian Bale), who together battled corporate interference, the laws of physics, and their own personal demons to build a revolutionary race car for Ford Motor Company and take on the dominating race cars of Enzo Ferrari at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in France in 1966.
Focus Features’ HARRIET from director Kasi Lemmons will screen Friday as one of two Spotlight films. Based on the inspirational life of an iconic American freedom fighter, HARRIET tells the extraordinary tale of Harriet Tubman’s escape from slavery and subsequent missions to free dozens of slaves through the Underground Railroad. Tony Award-winning actress Cynthia Erivo stars in the title role alongside Leslie Odom Jr., Janelle Monae, Joe Alwyn, Jennifer Nettles and Clarke Peters.
A24’s WAVES will also screen as a Friday Spotlight film. From director Trey Edward Shults, WAVES presents the lives of a suburban African-American family as they navigate life following a tragic loss. The film stars Sterling K. Brown, Renee Elise Goldsberry, Kelvin Harrison Jr., Taylor Russell and Lucas Hedges.
Martin Scorsese’s THE IRISHMAN has been selected to close the festival on Sunday, October 20. Starring Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and Joe Pesci, THE IRISHMAN is an epic saga of organized crime in post-war America told through the eyes of WWII veteran Frank Sheeran, a hustler and hitman who worked alongside some of the most notorious figures of the 20th century. Spanning decades, the film chronicles one of the greatest unsolved mysteries in American history, the disappearance of legendary union boss Jimmy Hoffa, and offers a monumental journey through the hidden corridors of organized crime.
Filmmaker Noah Baumbach will receive the Spotlight Director Award following the screening of his Opening Night film MARRIAGE STORY, a deeply personal film about the pain of divorce. Known for his dramatic comedies about the human experience, Baumbach received an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Screenplay for his 2005 film “The Squid and the Whale” which also explored the subject of divorce through the eyes of two young boys and was inspired by the director’s own experience of his parents’ separation. Baumbach’s body of work also includes “Kicking and Screaming,” “Margot at the Wedding,” “Greenberg,” “Frances Ha,” “While We’re Young,” “Mistress America,” “The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected),” and the documentary “De Palma.”
Six-time Grammy Award-winning trumpeter and composer Terence Blanchard will be recognized with the Distinguished Composer Award, which will be presented at a tribute concert featuring Blanchard’s quintet E-Collective and a 35-piece orchestra. The celebrated composer is known for making powerful musical statements concerning painful American tragedies, from his expansive work composing the scores for Spike Lee films, including “BlacKkKlansman” which earned him an Academy Award nomination, to his current film HARRIET which features a powerful score that musically chronicles the transformation of Harriet Tubman into one of America’s most iconic heroes. Blanchard also wrote the music for the operatic adaptation of Charles M. Blow’s gripping memoir Fire Shut Up In My Bones which premiered at Opera Theatre of Saint Louis this summer and will have an upcoming production staged by the Metropolitan Opera, making it the first opera by an African American composer in the institution’s 136-year history.
“Recognizing a film composer is a signature event of the Middleburg Film Festival and we’re thrilled to honor Terence Blanchard this year,” said MFF Founder and Board Chair Sheila Johnson. “Our filmgoers are in for a real treat as Terence, accompanied by his quintet and an orchestra, performs selections from some of his most memorable scores and talks about his creative process, addressing contemporary social and political issues through his powerful music.”
Academy Award Nominated Screenwriter Anthony McCarten will be honored with the Festival’s Distinguished Screenwriter Award for his work on THE TWO POPES from director Fernando Meirelles. With tour de force performances from Jonathan Pryce and Anthony Hopkins in their portrayals of Pope Francis and Pope Benedict, THE TWO POPES tells the story of the ideologically opposed pontiffs who work to find common ground in forging a new path for the Catholic Church. McCarten’s most recent film, the mega hit “Bohemian Rhapsody” went on to gross more than $900M worldwide and earned five Oscar nominations, winning Rami Malek an Oscar for his portrayal of Freddy Mercury. McCarten is also known for his Academy Award nominated screenplays for the “The Theory of Everything” and “The Darkest Hour,” which also earned their lead actors, Eddie Redmayne and Gary Oldman, Oscar wins for their roles as Stephen Hawking and Winston Churchill. McCarten has established himself as a master of telling the stories of larger than life historical and cultural figures and shining a light on the human side of his famous subjects.
Now in its seventh year as a leading destination for the fall’s most acclaimed films, the festival will run October 17 to October 20 in Northern Virginia’s historic wine country, one hour from Washington, DC. Festival ticket packages and passes are currently for sale at www.middleburgfilm.org, and individual tickets will go on sale October 1.