Film lovers from around the world are arriving in Middleburg, Virginia for the official Thursday opening of the Middleburg Film Festival, Sheila Johnson’s brilliant idea and gift to the region.

“We cannot believe how the Festival is developing,” Johnson explained.  “We were frightened in our first year, hoping that people who loved film as much as we did would appreciate what we were trying to create.”

“This year, the Festival’s success is apparent everywhere.   The films are exceptional, the actors, directors, musicians, critics and leaders who are on the program are brilliant.  And, we have fantastic help from 165 volunteers. In our first year there were six.  I believe we’ve been able to bring the MFF to the highest level of quality for our sponsors and patrons.”

The Festival offers four days of fantastic films in a spectacular setting, only 30 minutes from Dulles International Airport and just one hour from Washington, D.C.

A carefully curated selection of narrative and documentary films screen in intimate theatre environments, followed by fascinating Q and A’s with world-renowned filmmakers, actors, and other special guests. The films include festival favorites, world premieres, first-class foreign films, and Academy Award contenders.

“I want to personally invite everyone to join me Oct. 20-23, 2016, to see some wonderful films in a truly spectacular setting,” Johnson told the Eccentric. “The Middleburg Film Festival is an exciting opportunity to celebrate two of my favorite things by bringing the best in independent film right here to the town I love.”

As both an avid filmgoer and film producer, Sheila understands the power of films.

“Movies have a rare and magical ability to inspire, to educate, to engage and entertain. They lift us up out of our everyday lives, help us see others’ points of view, and build new bridges of empathy and understanding.”

According to Johnson, the Festival showcases independent films selected for their exceptional craft and creativity. These visionary films push boundaries, challenge convention, and often try things no one else has dared to dream.

And where better to host a film festival than in Middleburg, Virginia, one of the most beautiful places on earth?

“Middleburg has been my home for nearly 20 years, Johnson noted.   “I’m honored to give people from all over the world one more reason to visit this very special region. And I’m delighted that the Middleburg community will have the opportunity to experience some truly extraordinary films together.

Included in the Festival are:

American Pastoral Award-winning actor Ewan McGregor’s directing debut is a crime drama based on Philip Roth’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel of the same name. Featuring an all-star cast including McGregor, Dakota Fanning, Academy Award winner Jennifer Connelly and Uzo Aduba (Orange is the New Black).

Set in the turbulent 1960’s, a man’s life starts to fall apart after his daughter’s political consciousness threatens to destroy his family…

La La Land, THE SATURDAY NIGHT CENTERPIECE, Academy Award nominee Damien Chazelle’s (Writer/Director, Whiplash) truly special film starring the perfectly paired and incredibly talented Emma Stone as Mia, and Ryan Gosling as Sebastian.

Both struggling artists, Sebastian, a jazz musician, and Mia, an aspiring actress, fall madly in love in the “City of Stars”. TICKETS SOLD OUT for both screenings. Rush (Wait) line for Sunday screening only.

Jackie, Natalie Portman’s homage to the grief-stricken First Lady in which the images of Jacqueline (“Jackie”) Bouvier Kennedy in her pink, blood-stained suit and pillbox hat are seared in our memory from that fateful day when her husband, the 35th President of the United States, was gunned down as she rode with him in an open car in Dallas, Texas. Natalie Portman gives a riveting performance as Jackie. With all eyes of a bereft nation upon her, we witness Jackie privately struggling with her grief.

Also must viewing is I AM NOT YOUR NEGRO

One of the best documentaries films of the year. In a span of five years, three important men were tragically assassinated: Medgar Evers on June 12, 1963, Malcolm X on February 21, 1965, and Martin Luther King Jr., on April 4, 1968. All of them were black. Writer James Baldwin was planning to write about them, but died before completing 30 pages. Director Raoul Peck’s powerful documentary envisions the book Baldwin never finished, using the writer’s original words.

THE EAGLE HUNTRESS

Aisholpan, a 13-year-old nomadic Mongolian girl, comes from a long line of gifted golden eagle hunters and will be at the Festival to discuss her film. A skill passed down through 12 generations of her Kazakh family, Aisholpan dreams of hunting with her own golden eagle — but it’s always been the domain of men. It takes great skill, strength, and endurance to train an eagle to attack and capture foxes in the harsh, unforgiving winter landscape.

LION – The OPENING NIGHT FILM

Searching for his older brother, a 5-year-old Indian boy named Saroo boards a train that takes him thousands of miles away from his home in Calcutta. Forced to survive as a street kid, Saroo is eventually placed in an orphanage and adopted by a loving Tasmanian couple (Nicole Kidman and David Wenham). He grows up continents away from his birthplace. Followed by conversation with VERY SPECIAL GUESTS ON OPENING NIGHT!

There shall also be music.

CONCERT HONORING FILM COMPOSER HENRY JACKMAN 

One of the festival’s most popular and anticipated events is the Symphony Orchestra Concert and Tribute to our Distinguished Film Composer Awardee. This year, MFF is delighted to honor film composer Henry Jackman. The Shenandoah Symphony Orchestra, under the direction of maestro Jan Wagner, will perform the world premiere of suites from films scored by Jackman.

Important Discussions:

KEYNOTE CONVERSATION WITH CHERYL BOONE ISAACS

MFF is delighted to welcome Cheryl Boone Isaacs, the President of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for this year’s keynote conversation. Boone Isaacs will discuss her role at the Academy, including recent and ongoing efforts to make Hollywood more inclusive for women and people of color.

POLITICS, PRESIDENTS, & THE MOVIES: A CONVERSATION WITH DAVID GERGEN

On the eve of the Presidential election, David Gergen talks with longtime NY Times film and literary critic Janet Maslin about his experience working in the White House for four presidents. He’ll compare the real-life Commanders-in-Chief to how they’re portrayed in popular films, such as All The President’s Men, Nixon, Frost/Nixon, and Lee Daniels’ The Butler.

WOMEN IN FILM: CHANGING THE NUMBERS

The statistics for women working behind the camera are dismal. Despite years of talking about the problem, little has changed. What are the solutions?

PANEL:

Angie Fielder (Producer, Opening night film, Lion)

Lauren Versel (Producer, Custody, The Last Five Years)

Bo Derek (Actress, Producer)

For more information and details, please visit http://middleburgfilm.org/