Middleburg, VA, October 5, 2020 – The Middleburg Film Festival announced the recipients of its annual awards today which will be recognized with a series of virtual conversations and tributes to take place over the course of the four day festival running October 15-18 including filmmakers, Chloé Zhao (“Nomadland”), George C. Wolfe (“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”), and Aaron Sorkin (“The Trial of the Chicago 7”); composer Kris Bowers (“Respect,” “The United States vs. Billie Holiday”); the cast of MINARI; and film legend Sophia Loren (“The Life Ahead”).
MFF will present the Agnès Varda Trailblazing Filmmaker Award to director Chloé Zhao whose upcoming film NOMADLAND from Searchlight Pictures is opening the Festival on October 15. Named after the late celebrated French New Wave Cinema director, the award recognizes Zhao for the unique, authentic and humanistic cinematic vision on display in her three features to date. The award is accompanied by a mentoring grant for aspiring female filmmakers. Zhao’s first feature “Songs My Brother Taught Me” premiered at Sundance in 2015 and her second feature, the critically acclaimed “The Rider,” premiered at the Cannes Film Festival’s Director’s Fortnight in 2017 where it won the Art Cinema Award. Her next feature is Marvel Studios’ “Eternals” for release by Disney in 2021.
Tony Award-winning playwright and iconic director of theater turned filmmaker George C. Wolfe will receive the Director Spotlight Award for recognition of his work on Netflix’s upcoming MA RAINEY’S BLACK BOTTOM, an adaptation of August Wilson’s award winning play of the same name, starring Chadwick Boseman and Viola Davis. The film, which will premiere on Netflix on December 18, centers on an afternoon recording session in 1920s Chicago as a band of musicians await trailblazing performer, the legendary “Mother of the Blues,” Ma Rainey (Davis). Late to the session, the fearless, fiery Ma engages in a battle of wills with her white manager and producer over control of her music. As the band waits in the studio’s claustrophobic rehearsal room, ambitious horn player Levee (Chadwick Boseman) — who has an eye for Ma’s girlfriend and is determined to stake his own claim on the music industry — spurs his fellow musicians into an eruption of stories revealing truths that will forever change the course of their lives. MA RAINEY’S BLACK BOTTOM celebrates the transformative power of the blues and the artists who refuse to let society’s prejudices dictate their worth. In theater, Wolfe is best known for his hit Broadway show “Jelly’s Last Jam” and “Angels in America” which earned him a Tony Award. His film credits include HBO’s “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” and “Lackawanna Blues” as well as “Nights in Rodanthe” and “You’re Not You.” Ticket sales from the tribute will be donated to Broadway Cares’ COVID-19 Emergency Assistance Fund which is helping members of the theater community get healthcare, emergency financial assistance and counseling due to urgent needs brought about by the pandemic.
MFF will honor Academy Award Winning Writer/Director Aaron Sorkin with the Festival’s Screenwriter Award for his work on Netflix’s THE TRIAL OF THE CHICAGO 7, which he also directed. The film, whose expansive ensemble cast is made up of Sacha Baron Cohen, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Michael Keaton, Frank Langella, Eddie Redmayne, Mark Rylance, Jeremy Strong, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, among others, tells the story of seven people on trial stemming from various charges surrounding the uprising at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago. Sorkin’s celebrated career as a writer spans film, television and theater. His works include the Broadway plays “A Few Good Men,” “The Farnsworth Invention,” and “To Kill A Mockingbird;” The TV series “Sports Night,” “The West Wing,” “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip” and “The Newsroom;” and the films “A Few Good Men,” “The American President,” “Charlie Wilson’s War,” “Moneyball” and “Steve Jobs.” Sorkin won the Academy Award for writing David Fincher’s “The Social Network” and was also Oscar nominated for writing “Moneyball” as well as his directorial debut “Molly’s Game.”
Known for his work on Best Picture Oscar winner “Green Book,” Ava DuVernay’s Netflix mini-series “When They See Us,” “Dear White People” and “Mrs. America,” Emmy Award winning composer and pianist Kris Bowers will be recognized with this year’s annual Distinguished Composer Award. Playing on the same Steinway piano used by Nat King Cole, Bowers will perform selections from his scores in a virtual tribute concert from LA’s famed Capitol Records where many legendary recording artists created their most iconic works. With two upcoming projects – “Respect,” the Aretha Franklin biopic starring Jennifer Hudson and “The United States vs. Billie Holiday” starring Andra Day as Holiday – Bowers has quickly become one of the most sought after young composers working in film and television.
The cast of Lee Isaac Chung’s critically acclaimed family drama MINARI will receive the Ensemble Cast Spotlight Award. The film’s standout cast includes Korean-American actor Steven Yeun, who led 2018’s “Burning” to immense critical acclaim, alongside Yeri Han, Alan Kim, Noel Kate Cho, Scott Haze, Yuh-Jung Youn, and Will Patton. Winner of the Sundance Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award, MINARI is a tender and sweeping story about what roots us, as it follows a Korean-American family that moves to a tiny Arkansas farm in search of their own American Dream.
MFF will honor film icon Sophia Loren with the 2020 Legacy Tribute Award just ahead of the premiere of her upcoming film THE LIFE AHEAD, her first film role in a decade. Directed by her son Edoardo Ponti – their third such collaboration – the film stars Loren as Madame Rosa, a Holocaust survivor who now makes a meager living raising a number of children of prostitutes with whom she once walked the streets. The story centers on the relationship she forms with a 12-year old Senegalese orphan who she takes in after he steals from her. The film will premiere on Netflix November 13. One of the most renowned and captivating actresses in cinema history, Loren broke into film at a very young age, starring in films that have made cinema history in Italy and around the world including Two Women, which earned her a Best Actress Academy Award in 1961; It Started in Naples; Black Orchid; A Special Day; Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow; Houseboat and Marriage Italian Style.
Now in its eighth year as a leading destination for the fall’s most acclaimed films, the festival will feature virtual film screenings and conversations as well as a select number of films as outdoor and drive-in screenings in Middleburg, VA – 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 6.
The Coca-Cola Company is the Middleburg Film Festival’s Presenting Sponsor. The Washington Post is the Founding Media Sponsor.