AWFJ’s Eyes on Middleburg Film Festival 2022 — Sandie Angulo Chen reports

This past October, the Middleburg Film Festival celebrated its 10th anniversary with a program-filled long weekend. The four-day festival, founded by Sheila Johnson and run by Susan Koch, featured an impressive selection of 45 narrative and documentary feature films. Several AWFJ members, particularly those who live in the Washington D.C., Maryland, and Virginia area, were in attendance, including Virginia-based critics Mae Abdulaki, Leslie Comebale, Nell Minow, and Susan Wloszczyna; Maryland-based Sandie Angulo Chen; and Jazz Tangcay, who flew in from Los Angeles. This year, instead of discussing the films and performances, we decided to share what we consider to be some of our favorite moments from the 10th annual Middleburg Film Festival.

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Middleburg Film Festival 2022: Female Focus – Leslie Combemale reports

The Middleburg Film Festival marked its 10th year in operation this October, and as founder Sheila Johnson and director Susan Koch have done from the start, they made the celebration of women in film both in front of and behind the camera one of the major priorities of the fest. There were 16 female-helmed films represented in the fest out of the 44 shown, including several by women of color, and many of those films also have female heads of departments, which is, of course, important to advancing gender parity overall.

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AWFJ @ Middleburg Film Festival – Sandie Angulo Chen reports

The ninth year of the Middleburg Film Festival brought back the fest’s in-person programming in Virginia horse country. Founded by Sheila Johnson and run by executive director Susan Koch, the four-day festival continues to feature an impressive slate of diverse and thoughtfully-curated narrative and documentary feature films (34 this year).

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NOMADLAND – Review by Leslie Combemale

The film examines the phenomenon of travelers going across the country in search of work, through the lens of a widow named Fern (McDormand), who lives in her van. Other than co-star David Strathairn, who plays a fellow nomad, the secondary characters are played by real people on the nomad community. McDormand, Zhao, and crew members lived out of vans during production. The result is a film that is beautiful and sad and unique. It will blow you away. 

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BLITHE SPIRIT (Middleburg FF 2020) – Review by Leslie Combemale

A new film adaptation of Noel Coward’s famously ‘spirited’ 1941 play Blithe Spirit is coming to a (insert however the hell we’ll be seeing movies in December) near you, starring pretty pretties Isla Fisher, Dan Stevens, and Leslie Mann, and the Middleburg Film Festival offered a drive-in screening of this fluffy farce, this celebration of cynicism, on the fest’s opening night. Screenwriter Piers Ashworth reinvigorates the story with a more female-friendly, feminist bend, and one character who is decidedly more sympathetic, although the story still takes place in the 30s, with all the attendant style and panache.

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Middleburg Film Festival 2019 Wrap-Up – Sandie Angulo Chen reports

Now in its seventh year, the Middleburg Film Festival in bucolic Virginia horse country continues to feature a well-curated slate of top-notch narrative and documentary feature films from around the world. Washington D.C.-area AWFJ members in attendance included Nell Minow and Susan Wloszczyna, both of whom participated in the Talk Back to the Critics’ session, as well as Leslie Combemale and Sandie Angulo Chen. Between us, we saw at least 40 films, and we’ve picked our favorite women-focused films and performances from the festival for readers to put on their must-watch lists.

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SPOTLIGHT: November, 2014 – Sheila Johnson, Film Festival Founder, Entertainment Mogul

sheila johnson4croppedOur SPOTLIGHT is on Sheila Johnson, billionaire entrepreneur, co-founder of BET, backer of independent films and documentaries, philanthropist of note, and the force behind Middleburg Film Festival in Virginia – which celebrates its second year this month. Read on…

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