The Middleburg Film Festival announced additional programming today for its 11th anniversary edition including THE ZONE OF INTEREST as the Friday Centerpiece, AMERICAN FICTION as the Saturday Spotlight film and MAESTRO as the Closing Film. MFF also announced additional honorees and special guests attending the festival for various awards, conversations and special presentations including actor Christian Friedel (The Zone of Interest), Cord Jefferson (American Fiction), Sofia Coppola and Stacey Battat (Priscilla), Todd Haynes (May December), Celine Song (Past Lives), Kris Bowers (Origin & The Last Repair Shop), Matthew Heineman (American Symphony) and Kazu Hiro (Maestro).
Screening as the Friday Centerpiece film on October 20 is Jonathan Glazer’s critically acclaimed THE ZONE OF INTEREST from A24 which follows a German officer stationed at Auschwitz played by Christian Friedel and his wife played by Sandra Hüller who strive to build an idyllic life for their family just outside the borders of the concentration camp. The film was recently announced as the UK’s official selection for the Best International Feature Oscar. For his breakout performance in the film, Friedel will attend the Festival to receive the Breakthrough Actor Award.
The debut feature from writer/director Cord Jefferson, AMERICAN FICTION will screen as the Saturday Spotlight Film on October 21 and Jefferson will receive the Special Achievement in Filmmaking Award. Winner of the prestigious TIFF People’s Choice Award, AMERICAN FICTION stars Jeffrey Wright as a frustrated novelist who’s fed up with the establishment profiting from “Black” entertainment that relies on tired and offensive tropes. To prove his point, he uses a pen name to write an outlandish “Black” book of his own which propels him to the heart of the hypocrisy he claims to disdain. The film also stars Issa Rae, Sterling K. Brown, Tracee Ellis Ross and Skyler Wright. Jefferson is known for his work on acclaimed television series such as Succession, Master of None, The Good Place and The Watchmen for which he won an Emmy Award.
Netflix’s MAESTRO is set to close the four-day festival on Sunday, October 22. MAESTRO is the second feature from director Bradley Cooper who also stars as legendary stage composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein opposite Carey Mulligan as his wife Felicia Montealegre Cohn Bernstein. A love letter to life and art, MAESTRO is an emotionally epic portrayal of family and love. Attending on behalf of the film is two-time Academy Award winning special makeup effects artist Kazu Hiro (“Bombshell,” “The Darkest Hour”) who is responsible for Cooper’s physical transformation into Bernstein and four-time Academy Award nominated Producer Kristie Macosko Krieger. The Festival will present him with the Distinguished Makeup Designer Award for his remarkable contributions to the film.
Sofia Coppola, along with her longtime costume designer Stacey Battat will attend the Festival with their latest film, A24’s PRISCILLA, to receive the Variety Creative Collaborators Award in honor of their joint achievements also including their previous collaborations “The Bling Ring,” “The Beguiled” and “On the Rocks.” Based on Priscilla Presley’s autobiography “Elvis and Me” which Coppola adapted herself, PRISCILLA focuses on Priscilla’s life and her relationship with Elvis Presley, following her from her early years as a teenager to her arrival at Graceland.
Receiving the Visionary Director Award is acclaimed filmmaker Todd Haynes who is attending the Festival with his latest feature MAY DECEMBER. The film tells the story of a married couple (Julianne Moore and Charles Melton) who buckles under pressure when an actress (Natalie Portman) arrives to do research for a film about their notorious tabloid romance that gripped the nation twenty years prior. Haynes is known for his diverse career that includes experimental works, documentaries, television and critically acclaimed features including Poison, Far From Heaven, Carol, Wonderstruck, Dark Waters and The Velvet Underground.
Receiving the MFF Breakthrough Filmmaker Award is director, playwright and screenwriter Celine Song for her masterful transition from theater to film with her directorial debut and Sundance breakout hit PAST LIVES. This A24-released relationship drama, met with critical acclaim following its June release, is proudly showcased by MFF as one of the year’s best films. A conversation with Song will follow a screening of the film.
The inaugural Sheila Johnson Vanguard Award named after MFF founder and board chair will be presented to composer and filmmaker Kris Bowers in recognition of his outstanding achievements in music and film. Bowers has scored such films as Green Book and King Richard as well as numerous television series, among them Bridgerton, Mrs. America, Dear White People and When They See Us. Bowers scored Neon’s ORIGIN which reunites him with Duvernay with whom he collaborated on When They See Us. As a filmmaker, Bowers was Oscar-nominated for his 2020 short film “A Concerto is a Conversation” which he co-directed with Ben Proudfoot (The Queen of Basketball). The pair reteamed to direct the upcoming documentary short film THE LAST REPAIR SHOP which will also be screened at MFF.
“Celebrating Kris with this inaugural award is a heartfelt privilege. His presence within our festival family over the years has been a source of pride as we’ve witnessed his meteoric ascent as a composer and filmmaker,” said MFF Founder and Board Chair Sheila Johnson. “I’m so inspired by his work as are many young people, especially young people of color in our community who view him as a role model. He couldn’t be more deserving of every honor he receives,” she added.
The Documentary Spotlight Award will go to AMERICAN SYMPHONY and Academy Award-nominated and Emmy-winning director Matthew Heineman (Cartel Land) who will attend the Festival to present his film and accept the award. The deeply moving film follows Academy Award and Grammy-winning composer Jon Batiste who is at a career high while composing an original symphony at Carnegie Hall. But this trajectory is upended when his life partner – best-selling author Suleika Jaouad – learns that her long dormant cancer has returned in this portrait of two artists at a crossroads.
“We’re delighted that this year’s fantastic slate of films and guests represents such a wide range of voices and subjects, in keeping with the Festival’s mission of using the power of film to expand our understanding of the world and one another — and also spark thoughtful and lively conversations,” said MFF Executive Director Susan Koch.
Festival ticket packages and passes are currently for sale at www.middleburgfilm.org, and individual tickets will go on sale in early October.