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Middleburg to launch star-studded film festival in October

Middleburg, film, Shelia JohnsonTimes-Mirror Photo/Crystal Owens Middleburg Town Council Member Bundles Murdock, Mayor Betsy Davis and Shelia Johnson, owner of the much-anticipated Salamander Inn & Spa, founder of Black Entertainment Television and president of the WNBA’s Washington Mystics prepare for the announcement of the Middleburg Film Festival at Boxwood Winery April 4.
World-renowned filmmakers, actors and film industry experts will call Middleburg home starting in October with the launch of the first Middleburg Film Festival.

The announcement came April 4 at Boxwood Winery in Middleburg by Shelia Johnson, owner of the much-anticipated Salamander Inn & Spa, founder of Black Entertainment Television and president of the WNBA's Washington Mystics.

The festival, set to launch Oct. 25-27, will feature the best in independent films.

Confirmed guests for the event include Director Lee Daniels ("Precious and "The Butler"); special correspondent Maureen Orth of Vanity Fair; former U.S. Sen. and CEO of the Motion Picture Association of America Chris Dodd; and Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell.

"We hope the Middleburg Film Festival will be distinguished by a carefully selected slate of films, the spectacular setting and insightful and thoughtful panels and conversations," said Middleburg Film Festival Executive Director Susan Koch.

Johnson, a member of the Sundance Institute, said it's been a dream for her to bring independent films to Middleburg since legendary actor Robert Redford visited the site for Salamander Resort & Spa years ago. Redford, she said, told her he believed Middleburg would be the perfect setting for a film festival.

"It's never left my mind and you know I said 'It's perfect," Johnson said.

Attendees of the festival will be able to screen 15 films that will be selected by a panel of judges. Venues for the films will include the soon-to-be-open Salamander Resort & Spa, Boxwood Estate Winery, the Hill School, the Middleburg Community Center, the historic Red Fox Inn and the Middleburg Country Inn. The line-up will also include Virginia filmmakers.

"Everyone is so excited about it. It's going to be fun for the whole community. It's just really going to be exciting for people to see these films that they would otherwise have to travel long distances to see," said Middleburg Mayor Betsy Davis.

Filmgoers will not only be able to view the movies, which will consist of documentaries, independent and educational films, but will have a chance to meet the actors and directors during discussions following the screenings. The three-day event will conclude with an Awards Brunch, recognizing the audience’s favorite films.

"We're going to be continuing to add names because we've been getting calls weekly about people who want to be at the showing …" Johnson said. "… And there's no doubt that this setting, Middleburg, is the perfect setting for a film festival."

Johnson said her hope is to make sure the movie "The Butler" will be one of the 15 films shown during the festival.

"The Butler" is a story about Eugene Allen, a butler who worked in the White House for 34 years, serving eight presidents, before he retired as head butler. Johnson worked as post production executive producer on the film, which is set to debut Oct. 18, starring A-list actors such as Forest Whitaker, Oprah Winfrey, Lenny Kravitz, John Cusack, Robin Williams and Cuba Gooding Jr.

The festival, Johnson said, is going to be about more than just watching movies and attending after-parties.

Johnson wants to bring an educational component to the festival, which will continue throughout the year.

Some proceeds from the festival will go toward the Piedmont Community Foundation.

For more information visit http://www.middleburgfilmfestival.org.


This sounds fantastic. Congrats to all! While I realize that film festivals are primarily networking events for those in the industry, I hope that the organizers block out at least some tickets for public consumption.

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