The Middleburg Film Festival announced the recipients of its annual awards today, which will be recognized with a series of live and in-person conversations and tributes over the course of the four-day festival running October 14-17. The honorees include filmmakers Kenneth Branagh (“Belfast”) and Paolo Sorrentino (“The Hand of God”), Actors Ann Dowd (“Mass”) and Dakota Johnson (“The Lost Daughter”), the ensemble cast of RED ROCKET, Cinematographer Ari Wegner (“The Power of the Dog”) and legendary composer/songwriter Charles Fox. Additionally, the Festival will feature a panel discussion with women film composers/songwriters including Kathryn Bostic, Amie Doherty, Lesley Barber and Diane Warren as well as a conversation with Hair & Makeup Artist Donald Mowat (“Dune”).
MFF will present the Director Spotlight Award to five-time Academy Award nominee Kenneth Branagh for his storied career and deeply personal film BELFAST which is screening in the Centerpiece slot on Saturday, October 16. Branagh will participate in a post screening Q&A following the Saturday evening screening and in a separate career-spanning conversation focusing on his work in front and behind the camera.
The Oscar winning Italian director of The Great Beauty and Youth, Paolo Sorrentino is attending MFF with his latest feature THE HAND OF GOD and will be recognized with the Festival’s International Spotlight Award, which will be presented by Ambassador of Italy to the United States Mariangela Zappia. The semi-autobiographical coming-of-age film is set in the director’s hometown of Naples in the 1980s and stars Filippo Scotti, who will also be in attendance, as a young man growing up much like Sorrentino did in the southern Italian city.
Ann Dowd whose impressive body of work now includes Fran Kranz’s MASS which will be screening at the Festival is being recognized with the Agnès Varda Trailblazing Film Artist Award. Her critically acclaimed performance is in the role of a grieving mother whose life is upended in the aftermath of a school shooting. Dowd, who has been acting on stage and screen for more than 30 years, is known for her Emmy-winning role as “Aunt Lydia” in Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale as well as her Emmy-nominated role in The Leftovers. Her many film roles include Compliance, Hereditary, Captain Fantastic, Garden State, Flags of Our Fathers and Philadelphia, to name a few.
MFF will present the Actor Spotlight Award to Dakota Johnson who is attending the Festival with Maggie Gyllenhaal’s feature directorial debut THE LOST DAUGHTER in which she stars alongside Olivia Colman, Jessie Buckley, Paul Mescal and Peter Sarsgaard. The drama follows a woman on a seaside vacation that takes a dark turn when her obsession with a young mother forces her to confront secrets from her past. After making her feature film debut in David Fincher’s The Social Network, Johnson’s remarkably prolific acting career has included the billion dollar Fifty Shades franchise, Black Mass, Luca Guadagnino’s A Bigger Splash and Suspiria, Bad Times at the El Royale, The Peanut Butter Falcon, Our Friend among many others.
The cast of Sean Baker’s dark comedy RED ROCKET, which is screening as the Friday Spotlight film is being recognized with the Ensemble Cast Spotlight Award. The film’s standout cast is led by Simon Rex who delivers a career defining performance as a hustler who returns to his small Texas hometown after a failed adult film career in L.A. He stars alongside Bree Elrod, Suzanna Son and Brittney Rodriguez. The four actors along with Baker will be in attendance.
MFF will honor Cinematographer Ari Wegner with the Distinguished Cinematographer Award for her exceptional commitment to her craft and work on the stunningly shot MFF Closing Night film THE POWER OF THE DOG from director Jane Campion. Wegner’s career spans both television and film and her unique style can be seen in Janicza Bravo’s Zola which was released earlier this year as well as Lady Macbeth, True History of the Kelly Gang and TV’s The Girlfriend Experience based on Steven Soderbergh’s 2009 film.
Legendary Oscar-nominated, Emmy and Grammy winning composer and songwriter Charles Fox is this year’s recipient of The Legacy Composer Award for his decades-long career spanning film, television, recorded music and theater. Fox has composed themes for such classic TV shows as The Love Boat, Happy Days, Wonder Women and Laverne and Shirley. His film scores include Barbarella, Foul Play, Victory at Entebbe and Nine to Five. The Songwriter Hall of Fame inductee has written mega hits including “Killing Me Softly With His Song,” “I’ve Got a Name” and “Ready to Take a Chance Again.” MFF will present a Tribute Concert and Conversation with Fox who will perform many of his notable scores and songs. He is also a Steinway artist.
Additionally, the popular panel discussions on the film awards season and film criticism – Coffee & Contenders and Talk Back to the Critics – are returning this year. It was also previously announced that KING RICHARD will open the 9th edition of the Festival.
Festival ticket packages and passes are currently for sale at www.middleburgfilm.org.
With health and safety being a top priority, MFF 2021 will require festival goers to be fully vaccinated and present proof of a negative COVID-19 test administered within 72 hours of arriving at the Festival. Additionally masks will be required for all indoor screenings and events.